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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What wolves?

Posted by Gary on March 22, 2014

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

When one surveys the landscape of American Christianity today primarily through discussion and comments on social media, one is left wondering if anyone believes the warning Jesus gave us in Matthew 7:15. You can sample such a discussion on Dan Gaffney’s Facebook page here.

What Jesus intended us to hear cannot be mistaken. As always, Jesus speaks clearly and frankly. Jesus has warned us that that there are false prophets and that these prophets are wolves (who by the way, eat sheep). So deceptive are these false prophets, they actually appear to be one of the sheep they are determined to devour.

If we took Jesus seriously, we would weigh carefully the teaching and example of every person who claims to be Christ’s messenger using the infallible measuring rod for such examination, the Word of God.

But what we find increasingly is that people, yes, I am afraid many Christians included, have no willingness or intention of examining, weighing and passing judgment on those who seek to influence the destiny of their eternal soul or the souls of  others.

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Stay off Hollywood’s ark…

Posted by Gary on February 13, 2014

James 4:4-5 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

Oh joy, Hollywood’s much anticipated “Noah” starring Russell Crowe has been released. You can read details about director Darren Aronofsky’s film starring Russell Crowe here.

The Hollywood Reporter article highlights the attempt of Paramount Pictures to “woo” faith-based viewers who can be “noisy” when Biblical films stray from the Biblical account. Yes without shame, we Christians believe it is an evil thing to add to or take away from what God has revealed to us in His Word (Revelation 22:18-19).

I do not understand why Christians long so for Hollywood’s attention in the form of Biblical films. We are aware aren’t we that neither God’s glory or love of the truth motivates Hollywood to portray people from the Bible or Biblical narratives?

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Selective hearing?

Posted by Gary on January 6, 2012

Jeremiah 42:5-6 “Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. “Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God.”

Jeremiah 43:1-2  “But as soon as Jeremiah, whom the LORD their God had sent, had finished telling all the people all the words of the LORD their God– that is, all these words–Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘You are not to enter Egypt to reside there’…”

Think about the great people of faith the Bible tells us about, the people that I am sure we all say we want to be like. We say we would love to have the closeness with God that they did. What brought these people close to God? Was it a primrose path that God had cleared of every difficulty and challenge? Were they close to God because God always granted them their own way or spoke to them what they always wanted to hear?”

Let’s consider God’s message to some of these people:

Abraham: Leave your family and by the way, I’ll tell you where you are going later. Send your son Ishmael away. Lay your son Isaac on an alter and offer him as a sacrifice to Me.

Hagar: Submit to Sarah.

Isaiah: Walk around naked and barefoot for three years.

Moses: Return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. You will not enter the Promised Land.

Hosea: Marry a prostitute.

Mary: Bear the shame of a pregnancy before marriage; risk the loss of your betrothed.

Paul: Suffering and persecution await you.

Jesus: No, the cup will not be taken away.

May I ask you, Does the God you believe in ever say anything unpleasant to you?” Do you want to know God and obey Him badly enough to receive from Him the word you did not want to hear?

The god who only ever tells you what you want to hear is not the real God but an idol created by your own sinful heart. May God give us His grace to listen to what He would say to us, pleasant or unpleasant. To have God we must be willing to hear both.

True of you?

Posted by Gary on November 27, 2010

Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Ask most people if they believe the Bible is true and my guess is most would say yes. Do you believe it is true in everything it says? Wouldn’t it have to be if it has been inspired by God?

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Yes, that’s the book for me

Posted by Gary on November 1, 2010

1 Peter 1:23 “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”

MP9004001381_thumb9For most people yesterday was important because it was Halloween but for those of us who have been born again through the living and enduring Word of God yesterday was Reformation Sunday and our focus on this day is not death and evil (for what else do fallen creatures have to focus on or want to focus on?) but for us, life, eternal life which God has given us through His Word.

The verse quoted at the head of this post makes clear that salvation comes through hearing, understanding and believing the Word of God. Without the word there is no salvation. Are you reading the Bible?

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Dashing our thinking

Posted by Gary on February 19, 2010

Romans 9:19 “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

When approaching the Word of God we are all immediately challenged, our fallen nature leaves us determined to think what we want to think as opposed to letting God tell us what to think. Yes, me too.

Nowhere is this more the case than in the issue of predestination. While predestination is referenced either by word specifically or in concept throughout Scripture, the defining section of God’s Word on predestination is Romans 9.

I had my first real study exposure to Romans 9 while attending Circleville Bible College a staunchly Wesleyan/Arminian college. In my class on Romans I was taught the classic Arminian interpretation of the passage which boiled down is that God chooses us because He knows that we are going to choose Him. According to Arminianism, predestination is not God’s prerogative or initiating action but a response, a reaction to our action.

This thinking I am afraid is born of our thinking. To our fallen, finite minds it could never be fair that God would predestine some people to salvation while leaving others to perish. The great emphasis in Arminianism is human will, we choose and God responds to our choice.

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Have you met the author?

Posted by Gary on July 25, 2009

Bible One Side Blurred Very often I will hear people say that they cannot understand the Bible and find reading it very difficult and profitless. Immediately it is vital that we understand something about the Bible, it is unlike any other book, the author of the Bible is God Himself:

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2 Timothy 3:16-17  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

The Bible is unlike any other book also in this fact, I must personally know the author to understand His book. I enjoy reading about the Civil War but I need not have met Shelby Foote to understand what he has written about that conflict. I can go to a bookstore and pick any other book and no personal relationship is required to understand the author’s intent.

But when it comes to the Bible, I am on different ground. Understanding the Bible requires God imparting the Holy Spirit (who is the author of the Bible) into my heart and mind for me to understand. Without the Spirit who I cannot have apart from a relationship with God, I will never, can never, understand the Bible:

John 14:16-17  "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

John 16:13  "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

Do you want to understand the Bible? You must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. How does that happen? By acknowledging that your sin has caused a separation between you and the Holy God who made you. Then believe that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to receive the punishment your sin deserves for you. When a person acknowledges their sin and looks to Christ in simple faith (not attempted works and effort to earn forgiveness), that person is forgiven and God send’s His Spirit to dwell in them. When the Spirit comes He brings understanding of the Bible He authored.

The Bible is spiritual in the utmost sense, it is authored by the Spirit of God. In our sin we are separated from these truths and the author of them:

Romans 8:5 “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”

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George W. Bush’s statement of faith?

Posted by Gary on December 10, 2008

What do we do with George W. Bush? As time goes on I am less and less certain about exactly what this man is. I am grateful for some of the moral stands he has made in the course of his presidency but I have real questions about his faith. I know, who am I to question anyone’s faith? I question my own at times so why can’t I question yours?

From a news story about Bush’s recent ABC “Nightline” interview:

Asked about creation and evolution, Bush said, "I think you can have both. I think evolution can _ you’re getting me way out of my lane here. I’m just a simple president. But it’s, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don’t think it’s incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution."

Interviewer Cynthia McFadden asked Bush if the Bible was literally true.

"You know. Probably not … No, I’m not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament for example is … has got … You know, the important lesson is ‘God sent a son,’" Bush said.

If the Bible isn’t literally true than how are you certain and on what basis do you declare that God sent His Son (Bush said “a” son)? For what reason did God send Him? If the Bible isn’t literally true then we cannot state that it was to atone for sin. By the way, is there even such a thing as sin? If the Bible isn’t literally true is there a heaven and hell? What good are prophecies?

George, is this really where you are? I would rather George Bush (or any man) tell me that he is an atheist who denies God then for a man to declare publicly that he is a Christian and then deny the literal truth of God’s Word. This is the worst position a man can be in.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Third diocese splits from Episcopal church

Posted by Gary on November 8, 2008

1 Corinthians 11:19 “…for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

A third diocese recently split from the Episcopal church over, “the Bible, gay relationships and other issues” according to this story. It is encouraging to see faithfulness to God’s truth in a day that is marked by such unfaithfulness. A fourth diocese will take a similar vote in one week.

I wonder

Posted by Gary on March 13, 2007

Matthew 9:27-31 “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: “See that no one knows about this!” But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.”

In this passage Jesus, after healing these two blind men gives them a stern warning not to tell others what He did for them, as we see, they did just the opposite. I have often wondered as I have read this account what these men will find God thinks of their actions on the Judgment Day? Humanly we look at what they did and we tell ourselves, “They were so excited they couldn’t help it” or “They meant well” or “It resulted in more people hearing about Jesus”. Here we are doing what we so often do, make ourselves the center of our actions instead of God.

This passage brings us to a very simple yet vital question; does God mean things when He says them? Did Jesus mean it when He sternly warned them not to tell anyone about the healing? We are a people who often say things we don’t mean or at least don’t intend to follow through on. We must not think that God is like us. This passage tells us that Jesus warned these men “sternly”, isn’t a warning from the Son of God serious enough? Yet, the Bible qualifies an already serious word, “warned”, and tells us it was stern. Did Jesus mean it? Are we going to accuse the Savior of false humility? (Jesus really wanted them to go tell people but just didn’t want it to appear that He wanted them to). Where would you say you stand in your summation here, are you sympathetic toward these men or do you consider them disobedient?

It is interesting that Jesus will tell people to do the opposite when He wants them to as we find in the case of the demoniac of the Gerasenes:

Mark 5:18-20 “As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.”

When God gives us an instruction, He means what He says. He is not interested in our good intentions or rationalizations. Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:1-8) and Saul (1 Samuel 15) are two great examples of this.

We would do well to always take God at His simple Word, do what He says to do and refrain from that which He forbids us, emotions and our own thinking must not be allowed to lead us in the opposite direction of God’s expressed will.