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Friday, February 23, 2018

Made a mess of things?

Posted by Gary on February 29, 2012

Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

This post is for people who have realized that they have made a mess of  their lives and perhaps the lives of others. The Bible tells us that “man is born for trouble as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7) and so it is, we move from trouble to trouble to trouble. Because of the fall, we are prone to sin, prone to do the wrong thing, prone to do the foolish thing, prone to do the very things we know will make us unhappy and miserable.

Sin does more harm than we ever imagine before committing it. One of the devil’s great deceptions is that he doesn’t allow us to see where our disobedience will ultimately lead or the harm it will do to us spiritually, to our lives, to our families and friends. Broken marriages, diseased bodies, lost trust, lost jobs, these are just a few of the items in the pile of mess which is our lives. By the way, if you think this is all morbid and you are doing just fine, let me remind you that you’re dying.

By God’s grace, a person finally comes to the place where they begin to see the damage they have done through their actions (or lack thereof). Sometimes the realization of the mess can be overwhelming. At such times it is not uncommon for people to lose hope, to become convinced that nothing can be done to repair what they have broken. Some sadly choose to end their lives only to find that they have not escaped despair but in most cases, have entered a far more terrible, eternal, despair.

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Posted by Gary on December 4, 2010

If you are to have salvation and spend eternity with God, you must humble yourself and believe that salvation is His work; that you and I contribute nothing to salvation and must receive it as a gift through faith. A great many religious people will never enter the gates of heaven for their religion is their pride, they offend God by refusing to believe what He has said. God saves those who acknowledge they can do nothing to save themselves, that Christ has done all for them and they are forgiven simply by believing.

“But” you insist, “this sounds to good to be true”. “The Gospel” means “The Good News”. Can a salvation that is partially God’s work and partially yours be good news? How do you know when you have done enough? If you must perform enough good works to get to heaven then perhaps too many bad works will cause you to forfeit heaven. What a treadmill you are on and all the while offending God by refusing to believe His good news and pridefully insisting that you have goodness in yourself that can earn His forgiveness.

Will you be forever proud? Will you never humble yourself? Will you continue to point to something you have done (baptism, giving, church attendance) when God declares that “by the works of the law no flesh will be justified””:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

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Anything you say dear

Posted by Gary on October 8, 2010

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I have been thinking of late about the common statement/approach of parents that they don’t want to “shove religion down their children’s throats”. The approach of many parents is to leave it to their children as to whether they will go to church, spend time in the Bible and live the Christian faith. The thinking is, if they don’t want it, I don’t want to force it on them.

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Are you nice?

Posted by Gary on September 24, 2010

Ezekiel 33:1-11  “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  2 “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,  4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. 5 ‘He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. 6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’

7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.  8 “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.  9 “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life. 

10 “Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?”‘  11 “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”

The religion of our day is the religion of “Nice”. Never say that anything or anyone is wrong. Never call things sin, never warn, never speak of hell, assure everyone they are safe, every road leads to heaven. The only sin in the religion of nice is to say that something is wrong, to call sin what the Bible calls sin, to warn, to speak of hell and to insist that there is only one road that leads to life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Religious freedom, mosques and the first commandment

Posted by Gary on August 20, 2010

(I cannot remember a time previously in which I have struggled to put my thoughts on an issue together as I have in writing out the following. Many Christians if not careful will misunderstand what I am saying but if read carefully and thoughtfully I trust my meaning and the truth will be seen. America is on a crash course with the justice of God. We have willingly allowed religious freedom to mean the freedom to worship gods who do not exist and no nation which has known the truth as we have and turns from it can hope to escape God’s judgment and it may well be that Islam is the tool that God is using to punish us for our idolatry)

The world both secular and Christian is abuzz concerning the construction of a Muslim mosque within two blocks of the Twin Towers which were destroyed along with 3000 American lives on September 11, 2001.

Before continuing let me say clearly and emphatically that I do not want to see a mosque built anywhere. I also do not want to see a Hindu temple, Jewish synagogue, Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall or psychic/tarot card reading center built either. None of these beliefs acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord as He claims to be and practicing them will lead to the damnation of those who reject Him. The time is getting short and one must be clear about what truth is and isn’t. If you don’t like my narrowness then your problem is ultimately with Jesus my Savior who said of Himself:

John 14:6 “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.”

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Atheism's logical end

Posted by Gary on April 8, 2008

Atheism has no other answer to suffering than suicide or in atheism’s attempt to be “merciful”, to kill others who suffer.

God warned our first parents Adam and Eve that they would certainly die if they separated themselves from Him (through disobedience) which they did and with their disobedience they brought suffering and death into this world. Adam and Eve did not physically die on the day they disobeyed, physical death would come through an extended process but they did die spiritually that day, they could no longer bear God’s presence and now hid from the Creator who in love made them.

This spiritual death that sin has worked in us brings with it a force of a sinful life that rushes toward death. Most primarily, man now is determined to live life without God. Oh yes, if you listen to man’s mouth, he speaks of God all the time and claims to believe in Him but the proof is in the pudding, what we do in regard to the life that bears God’s image is one of the greatest revealers of whether we know God or not and will submit to Him or not.

Know this, much of what is called belief in God today is nothing but practical atheism with a coat of religious paint brushed over it. How does one know whether or not they believe in God? One way we know is what our response is to this statement of God’s:

Deuteronomy 32:39  “See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life…”

If I believe in God then I am a person who understands that God is the One who creates life. The philosophy that I have a right to decide whether or not another person who has been conceived can live or die is nothing but atheism in its fullest arrogance. God is the One who is forming that child in the womb and would you dare lay a hand or severing scalpel on him?

Now come to the end of life, yes, we grieve for those who suffer but faith in God brings one to the place that they understand that God has a purpose in our suffering. Remember, we cannot blame God for our suffering, we brought it on ourselves but God in His great power and kindness takes our suffering and uses it, He gives it a purpose and is able to even use if for our good and the good of others.

What must we ultimately say of those who support abortion and euthanasia? They do not believe in a living, real God, for abortion and euthanasia are not compatible with belief in a God who is in control of all things (life and death especially) and who is able to bring about good from suffering.

Look closely at Euthanasia, it is man in his utter desperation and atheism. Human suffering humbles us all, all we have power to do with it is to lock our self in a garage and start the engine, or in the case of others, give them the lethal injection or remove their feeding tube. These are acts of people who do not believe that God is in control of or has a purpose for what we suffer and in defiance (not mercy) they end their own life or the life of others.

For a sober look at where man is in this regard just read these recent articles about a suicide machine and proposed legislation. Fallen man, your only answer to your suffering is to kill isn’t it? When will you see how powerless and hopeless you are?

Humanism is the religion of our day. Read the philosophy and legislation that comes with the death movement and it is filled with the term “self-determination” which as they mean it is totally incompatible with the Christian faith. If Job believed in this self-determination he would have hung himself but being a man of faith in a real God, he humbled himself under his suffering and believed that God was worth following no matter what life may bring Him and God did not leave his faith un-rewarded:

James 5:11  “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

Our sinful darkness will not be seen for what it is so sin with its deceiving power tells us that we are being merciful and loving as we remove people’s feeding tubes and put them on the two week path to death. Listen clearly to atheism now as it insists that people who are starved to death do not suffer, they are not aware we are told (why they then give them pain medication is a mystery, didn’t you tell us that they can’t perceive anything?).

Here is the position of atheistic man, he believes that we are nothing more than what can be detected on a monitor, if a monitor cannot detect life, than it must not be there. You don’t believe that we have a soul or spirit do you fallen man? You don’t believe that people with a soul and spirit would still perceive what is happening and would wonder why this horrendous thing is being done to them.

Faith knows nothing of this self-determination, faith submits and believes God to be in control and wise in what He does and allows. Does God have a purpose for people who are disabled like Lauren Richardson? He does. Listen to the voice of atheism, “There can be no recovery” really? Those who believe in God believe that nothing is too difficult for the Lord and that even if He does not heal, that He is working good even through suffering. And by the way, should we trust the diagnosis of a being who has no other answer but to kill himself when faced with suffering?

Ask God for the courage to look around you at what is happening in our day. Man’s atheism is erecting a machine of death that none of us understand the reach and power of (this of course is because the devil is the real builder of it). We are self-determining ourselves to the grave and to hell. How grateful we are to be among those God has rescued from sin and death. How we need to pray for those who are lost in the hopelessness of atheism and its child, death. Lord, save us from ourselves.

The martyrdom of Polycarp

Posted by Gary on February 12, 2008

Revelation 12:11  “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

My sermon preparation for this past Sunday led me to the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom. If you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, take a moment to read this and may He grant us the same love for Him and faith. If you do not belong to Christ, consider what a wonderful Savior Christ must be that men would rather lose their lives than turn away from Him:

8:2 And he was met by Herod the captain of police and his father Nicetes, who also removed him to their carriage and tried to prevail upon him, seating themselves by his side and saying, “Why, what harm is there in saying, Caesar is Lord, and offering incense,” with more to this effect, “and saving yourself?” But he at first gave them no answer. When however they persisted, he said, “I am not going to do what you counsel me.”

9:2 When then he was brought before him, the proconsul asked whether he were the man. And on his confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a denial saying, “Have respect to your age,” and other things in accordance therewith, as it is their habit to say, “Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, ‘Away with the atheists.'” Then Polycarp with solemn countenance looked upon the whole multitude of lawless heathen that were in the stadium, and waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he said, “Away with the atheists.”

9:3 But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, “Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile the Christ,” Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years have I been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

10:1 But on his persisting again and saying, “Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered, “If you suppose vainly that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and feign that you are ignorant who I am, hear you plainly: I am a Christian.

11:1 Whereupon the proconsul said: “I have wild beasts here and I will throw you to them, except you repent.” But he said, “Call for them, for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change from that which is improper to righteousness.”

11:2 Then he said to him again, “If you despise the wild beasts, I will cause you to be consumed by fire, unless you repent.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten that fire which burns for a season and after a little while is quenched: for you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.”

12:1 Saying these things and more besides, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his countenance was filled with grace, so that not only did it not drop in dismay at the things which were said to him, but on the contrary the proconsul was astounded and sent his own herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium, “Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian.”

13:3 Immediately then the instruments that were prepared for the pile were placed about him. As they were going likewise to nail him to the stake, he said: “Leave me as I am; for He that has granted me to endure the fire will grant me also to remain at the pyre unmoved, even without the security which you seek from the nails.”

14:1 So they did not nail him, but tied him. Then he, placing his hands behind him and being bound to the stake, like a noble ram out of a great flock for an offering, a burnt sacrifice made ready and acceptable to God, looking up to heaven said: “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of Your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers and of all creation and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in Your presence;

14:2 I bless You because You have granted me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of Your Christ unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among these in Your presence this day, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as You did prepare and reveal it beforehand, and have accomplished it, You that art the faithful and true God.

14:3 For this cause, yea and for all things, I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through Whom, with Him and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and ever and for the ages to come. Amen.”

15:1 When he had offered up the Amen and finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire.

(Excerpted from: The letter of the Smyrnaeans or the Martyrdom of Polycarp)

Persevering is prevailing-the strange victories of faith

Posted by Gary on December 12, 2006

Hebrews 11:32-40  "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,  33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,  34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;  36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.  37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated  38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.  39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect."

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a dear sister who is facing some very difficult times. Her situation is one in which humanly speaking there will probably not be a dramatic change (ill health of a loved one). As we talked this sister said that this particular trial was hard because she is someone who wants to win and succeed over troubles and as mentioned, it isn’t likely (God of course can do as He pleases) that her particular problem with be turned around.

A few days before our conversation I read Hebrews 11 and the passage listed above. As I read, I was struck by the obvious difference in the way faith prevails, bringing about a certain end in one case and another end in other cases.

The Hebrews writer tells us that by faith some conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, quenched the mouths of lions, from weakness were made strong, some even received back their dead by resurrection. None of us I’m sure have trouble seeing these as instances of victory for faith.

However, the Hebrews writer doesn’t end his list of faith’s victories there, how else has and does faith prevail? Experiencing torture (not escaping it), not accepting release (not being miraculously set free), being subjected to mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment. Does this sound like victory to you? We’re not done yet:

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground."

I fear that in times of weariness and fear that we tell ourselves that faith means the situation being transformed, the life spared, the illness healed, the saw escaped; but this is not what the Bible says. According to God’s Word the one who is sawn in two has prevailed as much (and perhaps even more so) than the one who is delivered from his persecutors. Those who seem to be in defeat (wandering in deserts and mountains in sheepskins) are as much victors as those who put foreign armies to flight.

For the Christian, persevering  is prevailing. It was my privilege to remind my friend that her faith in God and love for Him is victory even though her circumstance remains unchanged. God is able to transform your situation and if it is best to do so in His eyes He will. But, if God chooses to leave your circumstances unchanged you can still be a victor by trusting Him in the midst of your difficulty. Faith always prevails, God chooses how.

1 Peter 5:10-11 "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen."