Friday, 9 November 2012

"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

During the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, many people experienced the power of His words and felt compelled to act upon His exhortations, however many such committments were based only on the flesh. No committment, however well intentioned will ever succeed if it is not powered by the Lord. One such example is of the man who said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61-62. At first glance this text might seem frighteningly difficult to face in lieu it's apparent sterness. But face it we must, and make no mistake, Jesus is definately speaking in absolute terms about the subject He is teaching.

     Knowing our propensity to lapse and falter, Jesus seems to be setting a standard for "fitness" to enter the kingdom of God that no man can ever hope to attain, and in one very important sense that is absolutely true. But who wouldn't want to say good bye to their family before they headed off on the mission field with Jesus? If however, that same person was made to understand the magnitude of God's choice in first saving them and then placing them in His service, it would be equally clear that such an insignificant concern would never prevent one from obeying his new Master fully. No one who has ever served in the military responds to his or her commanding officer with these words, "Yes sir, but first...". If it's important, then your commanding officer will tell you its important. This text and others like it are designed to prove the true nature of a persons standing before Christ as their supreme Lord and God. As rank is assessed, where does God's fall in your sense of the chain of command? Is there something more pressing that you need to attend to before you obey God?

     Unlike the service we might render to our country, the service of Christ goes much deeper. His requirements are much more stringent and He demands absolute allegiance. In fact it is actually saying that a man or woman cannot even enlist of their own choosing, but they must be chosen for service. Those who are not chosen, but rather latch on to Christ in their own strength quickly find out how ill prepared they are for real spiritual warfare. Those who are chosen are equipped by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do what they could otherwise never do. Those who are not chosen quickly exibit an ever shifting chain of command, usually with themselves at the top. As their duties increase, so do their excuses for being absent. With their lips they call him Lord, but in their feet, they deny Him. Like the five foolish virgins who began to follow Jesus, only later to discover that they had embarked on a journey that their flesh was incapable and unwilling to finish, the plowman of our text is also certain to fail. If you set out to follow the Lord Jesus in your own strength and you are not genuinely born again, sooner or later you will run out of steam and it will be evident to all, including yourself that you are not "fit for the kingdom of God". For the rich young man of Mark 10:17 it was sooner, for the offended disciples in John 6:60-66, it was sooner, but for the wicked wedding guest in Matt. 22:11, and the five foolish virgins in Matt. 25:11, they discovered that they were not "fit for the kingdom of God" later.

   So then, this text is designed to test the true nature of a person's conversion, not a christian's temporal failure in obeying their Master's command. We should observe first of all, that we are are not able to "fit" ourselves for the Kingdom of God. God must do it for us. Like the wedding guest in Matthew 22:11 who was not fitted with the proper "wedding attire" and stuck out like a sore thumb, the garments of true Christ wrought righteousness cannot be sewn together from any fabric of our own making. The loom for these garments is found in Heaven. Those wedding guests who were "fit" for the wedding were clothed in a righteousness not their own. A rigtheousness given to them by the King. The text concludes with the King confronting the defiant guest about his unacceptable clothes (self righteousness) and we read that the guest was "speechless". If you manage to resist the Holy Spirit right up to the end of your life without acknowledging His standard for righteousness, then you, like the unsaved wedding guest, will be likewise "speechless" before a holy God. The wicked guest was speechless because he was guilty, and he knew it. The guest knew that the King required a perfect righteousness, and even though his "righteousness" was not up to the heavenly standard, he never the less chose to wear a sin covering of his own making. Rather than go to God early and ask Him to pay for his sins, the wicked wedding guest instead tried to enter heaven through his own self righteousness. He was therefore not "fit" for the kingdom of God. It is wise then, before we jump to conclusions and assume that God is being unduly harsh toward poor sinners who are just trying to "do their best", that these folks first repudiated God's plan to "do His best" for them and demonstrated it by open defiance.

   Now that we understand somewhat better what it means to be made "fit" for the kingdom of God, lets look at another clause in the text. What are the spiritual implications of the phrase, "no one who puts his hand to the plow"? To help us get our minds around what it might mean to put our "hand to the plow", lets first take a look at a later text in Luke which parallels this same idea. In Luke 14:28-30 we read, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish". It is important to consider that if you choose the path of defiance, chief among those who will be mocking you in the end will be the Lord himself because, you will no doubt remember, it was in defiance that Cain worshipped the Lord with an unacceptable sacrifice, despite overwhelming evidence that he was unable to produce a righteousness which is acceptable to God. The man who finds mercy on the other hand, is the man who after "sitting down and counting the cost" discovers that he does not "have enough to complete it" and thus abandons his folly quickly and runs to Jesus who has more than enough, not only to start, but also complete his faith, and seeks to be set on a perfect foundation. Before a farmer ever puts his hand to a plow, many other considerations and preperations must be made first, so that he is able to rightly count on reaching the harvest. Putting one's hand to the plow is tantamount to saying, "I have thought this through and I am able begin and also to finish". However, with respect to the subject of eternal life, the unsaved man must never, in his own strength, put his hand to this plow...to do so would be madness. But on the other hand, if Christ, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, were to put your hand to this plow, then you would be certain of success. This is because Christ Jesus has the sufficiency to make you righteous before a holy God and the strength to carry you through to the end. You see, if Jesus is the one who puts your hand to the plow, then He will supply all your needs so that you will be able, with absolute certainty, to complete your course. It is this spiritual accounting process that is suppose to drive us to Christ. If we are good accountants, then we will surely find ourselves in private despair as we pour over the numbers, because it is then that we discover our self-righteous bankruptcy. Every person who has ever been born again has had to come to this point in self assessment. The only thing that seperates them from you is what they did next. This is what seperates the serene from the eternally sad. The man or woman who, upon discovering their bankruptcy, flees to Christ Jesus...that person gains eternal life.

   In conclusion, I would call as one final witness to these things, Mark's account of Jesus's dealings with the rich young ruler in chapter 10:23-31, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” Notice, notice, notice that Jesus says simply, "how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God"...He doesnt really single out just the monetarily rich as facing this great difficulty. For one simple reason, we are all "rich" in our own vanity. We are all "rich" in  our own imaginations about God's favorable approval of us. We are pretty confident that we know how this thing works. Do we really? We readily boast of our ability to appease an infinately holy God through our own self-produced good works, never once considering all that might entail from God's perspective. Indeed, the phrase for which this entire text hinges are "those who have wealth" or rather, those who THINK they have wealth. True and lasting wealth beyond all measure was standing right in front of him in the person of Jesus, who was offering to share His wealth with him. But the rich young ruler could not see it. He was rich in possessioins, but he was poor spiritual eyesight. If for example, you owned the entire world for a few short years and afterward you went to hell...would you have considered yourself rich on earth or poor? The answer is: POOR! Insanely POOR! But surely you are not of those who will not listen until they are in hell? Are we so foolish to think ourselves able to wipe our entire sin debt clean when we can't even remember the sins we committed last week?  Full and perfect payment for all your sins must be accomplished by Someone who has a full and perfect memory of them. Someone who can go all the way back to your birth and all the way forward to your death bed...yes, even the sins you have not committed yet. That Someone is God. Only God has perfect knowledge of all our sins, and therefore only God can pay that debt. Before you go on in this folly, ask youself this: Are you a better man than Cain? He thought he was capable of offering a better sacrifice to God than the one God had already prepared to offer to Himself. What was Cain thinking? Are you willing to gamble, like Cain with your own soul? Don't play the fool...listen to God and live. Let Jesus pay for your sins, and in His own divine power carry you through this life and present you to God blameless! Until men see clearly that their self-produced righteousnesses are like filthy rags with God and their spiritual spreadsheet spells bankruptcy, they will continue to test God's holy standard for salvation and take their eternal place among the insanely poor. 

Sunday, 22 November 2009

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

The Modern Church Growth Movement had its beginning somewhere, naturally it did not just evolve from nothing. Most place it's origin in mid 1800's New England and New York which paralleled the Second Great Awakening. It's father is said to be that of George Grandison Finney the famed Evangelist. Most of us have little direct knowledge of Finney. We know a great deal about his theology however, because we are the children of it. In fact, most of todays pastors and virtually all of yesterday's pastors have studied it in great detail because his Systematic Theology has been required reading in American bible colleges and seminaries for over a century now. For instance, many of us have no idea what the "anxious bench" is, but, if you had attended one of Finney's revival meetings, you would recognize it's form in a second...today we refer it an "alter call". Many evangelical churches have abandoned this practice due to deep concerns over its emotional appeal to make a "decision" for Christ, rather than helping the lost understand clearly all that is meant by redemption and what God has done in Christ. God said, "Come, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow." We are neither promoting a cold, lifeless intellectualism, nor a passionate, irrational emotionalism, both are equally cruel in their exercise, but rather, a careful, diligent and loving explanation of biblical facts that the Spirit of God can use to accomplish all His good pleasure. We ought to be directed and find godly instruction in texts like these, "Pay attention to yourself, and to your doctrine, for in so doing, you will preserve both yourself and those who hear you." and again we read, "Be diligent to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, correctly handling the Word of truth."

Because of the continued mindless loyalty to Finney's miscarriages of theology untold millions have experienced and continue to experience "false starts" and none of the promised changes they were sold. Where there is no true conversion, soon afterwards the soul runs out of emotional fuel and lapses into bitterness, apathy or greater unbelief. Or worse yet, they become twofold more the children of heresy than their fathers. When the "levening" effect of these doctrines take hold of the "survivors" many rise to new levels of devotion and promotion....hence the Modern Church Growth Generation. The following paragraph is taken from Phil Johnson's article, "Wolf in Sheeps Clothing: How Charles Finney's theology ravaged the evangelical movement".

We read, "Predictably, most of Finney's spiritual heirs lapsed into apostasy, Socinianism, mere moralism, cultlike perfectionism, and other related errors. In short, Finney's chief legacy was confusion and doctrinal compromise. Evangelical Christianity virtually disappeared from western New York in Finney's own lifetime. Despite Finney's accounts of glorious "revivals," most of the vast region of New England where he held his revival campaigns fell into a permanent spiritual coldness during Finney's lifetime and more than a hundred years later still has not emerged from that malaise. This is directly owing to the influence of Finney and others who were simultaneously promoting similar ideas.
    The Western half of New York became known as "the burnt-over district," because of the negative effects of the revivalist movement that culminated in Finney's work there. These facts are often obscured in the popular lore about Finney. But even Finney himself spoke of "a burnt district" [Memoirs, 78], and he lamented the absence of any lasting fruit from his evangelistic efforts"

Many of you have heard me talk about the ministry of Paul Washer. Paul is dear brother and ardent warrior for Christ against the heresies of the Modern Church Growth Movement. He is passionately devoted to defending the historic Gospel which was "once for all delivered to the saints" Paul's sermon, "The True Gospel" has the honor of being the most downloaded sermon in the history of SermonAudio. And it is not because he tries to tickle anyones ears! If you have not listened to it, you can find the video version on Youtube.com under the same name. I hope you take the time to do so...it will test your anchor chains and give you a renewed devotion to the only gospel that can save. Cathy Trainor said after she listened to it, "that was the best presentation of the Gospel I have ever heard." Paul's address to a youth rally in Atlanta is a must listen also.

I am also including the web links to Phil Johnson's compete article and also Michael Horton's article on Finney as well. For those of you who do not know Michael Horton, He is the host of the web broadcast "White Horse Inn" and a professor of Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. (The historic White Horse Inn was a pub in England where the doctrines of the Reformation fresh from Germany and France were first heard in the British Isles.) Combined both Johnson's and Horton's articles are no more than 15 minutes reading. Please take a half hour and reflect on these things and let them sharpen you as they have me.
Just click on the highlight web address or copy and paste it into your browser (eg. internet explorer, firefox, etc) and hit enter!

1. Wolf in Sheeps Clothing by Phil Johnson http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm

2. The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney by Michael Horton http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar81.htm



Sunday, 15 November 2009

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you, cleanse your hands you sinners, purfy your hearts you doubleminded" " James 4:8

The words of James could speak to the churches of God in our day like few can. Some baulk at how he could use the language he chose in addressing a born again audience. But as we mature in Christ we realize that James had no special knowledge of who was really saved and who was not; and something that was markedly different in early church theology, than that which held today is the belief that no one was ever considered truly born again unless their fruit could back it up. Like good watchmen, they waited and observed. They believed that "a city set on a hill could not be hidden." They were not prepared, as we are today, to "file" such oral professions in the "born again" folder; no, apart from the fruit of the Spirit clearly seen, you were just considered an empty adherent. You would have been challenged, told to "examine yourself to see if ye be in the faith", taught, prayed for...but never believed as to your words, if the fruit of the Spirit was not evident in your life. James was writing to a vast host of jews and gentiles throughout asia who would read his letter. We must also not forget that virtually all of the early churches began through the conversion of jewish people scattered throughout the Mediterranean. It was Paul's habit to begin his evangelizing in the synogogues...partly because they were the only people likely to have a copy of the scriptures and because of the the commandment of his Christ "to the Jew first". We have all wondered about the lamentable progress of the "church" in our generation both in sanctification and a right maturity. Could James's admonition and the church's paltry progress be linked? Why is it that most men, most families, most churches never seem to make much progress in sanctification or maturity in Christ. The acceptable standard for the Gentile church today is tantamount to graduating from the 12th grade when you are 40 or worse. In many respects the visible church is a reprehensible mess as a people and kingdom. Her leaders and shepherds are awash in vain philosophy and doctrines of demons or just outright unsaved. You couldn't feed an ant with the sermons they prepare (or buy) and their doctrine is as varied as snowflakes...scarcely two alike. It's armies are in disarray or altogether asleep. And Her people revel in self indulgence in broad daylight. We would do well to consider again that "judgement begins with the household of God" , but the fool has said in his heart, "oh, that toothless old text?".
As I have stated in the past, all idolators share one common thread, their hope of passing through the waters of judgement are wholly based upon the dream that God will not be the Soul the Scripture steadfastly warns us He is. For those who exchange this Word for a dream..."a certain, terrifying expectation of judgement" will haunt their ease. Troubled by the testimony of selfish pursuits and frustrated by unanswered prayer, they none-the-less press on. The bible calls them "clouds without water" and "hidden reefs" they fill the pews and pulpits in seemly endless churches. I remember watching the horror on mens faces when John MacArther would say that he questioned whether 10% of his congregation was truly born again. By the way, Grace Community church at that time boasted an attendance of 5,000 people on a sunday morning. It is an astonishing thing, when you consider the constant blast those tares must endure, as John opens up the Word each week and "goes easy on them" (I jest) as we all know he is so apt to do. So often good pastors face the heat of persecution alone when there should be ten thousand facing it with them. Modern "pastors" shutter at the thought of having ministries that could be characterized as even remotely negative. And since the Word is is so negative when talking about sin and evil...they surely cannot use the bible as their text! They dare not preach the whole counsels of God in the pulpit for fear they might offend so many, or in the case of tiny churches, so few...after all, we want them to stay where they can be "properly taught", who knows what doctrinal ills might befall them if they start visiting other churches, not to mention all of that giving going down-the-road. Here at least, we can be sure their giving is being used for "the Lord's work" and they are receiving a good wholesome diet of hallucinogenic drugs and sleeping pills. Paul was not kidding when He warned that "ravenous wolves would enter in among you not sparing the flock"...but who could have imagined a non confrontational, non offending ravenous wolf?!

Our sin is a much more consistent testimony to us than God's Word. It should not be, but we forget His Word, and our sin on the other hand is constantly before us. It levens us...it levens those around us. We would like to believe that we are prompted by the latter, but for most there is simply no evidence to prove it. We are constantly confronted with threat of being "deceived and being deceived". God is not the Head of His Church...we are. I speak as a man. We (weighed down by our loving this present world) saw the Heir coming to take possession of His vineyard and we killed Him. Not literally of course, He lived too long ago. Another generation actually committed that act...but "evangelical pharasee's" that rule in the church today have the same spirit. We are no different than the Pharasees of generations past. If we actually were, there would be irrefutable evidence! Oh yes, there will always be 7000 who have not "bowed the knee to Baal" (praise God) but would you make yourself out to be one of them? With no fruit to back it up, just empty talk while you make plans to pick out your new granite countertops or where you will spend your next vacation dollar?

Savvy souls know today what savvy souls knew in Jesus' day...we read about their heart toward Jesus as pastor: "If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation!" (John 11:48) Church goers and their leadership alike are deathly afraid of Jesus actually becoming their Pastor. The biblical Jesus after all is an extremist! He is extremely Holy...He is extremely God...He is extremely Right all the time...He is extremely Lord over all His affairs...and friend, that makes churches and their leadership VERY nervous. And don't think for one second this spirit can't exist in your own heart and your own church! Ah...but what do the children always cry when they are confronted by such an accusation?? Even this, " 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers we would not have taken part with them in the shedding the blood of the prophets', Thus (says Jesus) you witness against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.' " (Matt. 23:30-31) Then comes that dreadful sovereign decree, "Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers"! (Matt. 23:32) Are we so deceived that you actually think this is NOT going on in the in our own "synagogues" today (you can call them churches if you wish)? But what is the earnest prayer of the church and leadership that is lead by the Spirit of Christ? Even this, "To whom shall we go, Thou hast the words of eternal life"...and we read again, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me!" Do you think it is far fetched that God is not right now using this appointed time for the "filling up of the measure of our fathers?" while He saves His elect? Did Jesus say for no reason, "Let them both grow together"?"(Matt. 13:29) The tares are growing under His holy supervision right beside beleivers in the church! Not outside the church! Inside! Are you one of them Oh Man? And the "Rabbi's" of our day are telling the whole flock that they need not tremble or fear, do they not realize that the Lord of the Harvest has already said that two distinct groups are growing side by side? It is true the elect should not tremble or fear the angels when they come at the last day to separate the tares from the wheat, but the preaching of the Lord's true pastors should be such that the tares should have their faces aflame! They should never know one moments rest nor one settled thought in the presence of our Majesty's Words and Precepts! What has happened to us? What has happened to our preaching? How is it those whose hearts are not right with God, seeking only to have their ears tickled, can find peace and rest for their souls while yet unsaved in our churches?!?! My problem is, I can no longer find anyone to offend my ears! When John saw the "pastors" of his day coming he said, "You brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?! Bring for fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt. 3:7-8) Some refuse to speak in such terms or utter warnings at all because they argue, "what if we 'offend' or 'uproot' the wrong souls"? I would to God that were their problem. Now John no more knew who the elect were than the Apostle Paul, and yet he still spoke those dreadful words of warning to the leaders of his day regardless of whether or not they might be saved by the Lord at some later date. Paul was no different as he condemned the Judaizers of Galatia when he said, "I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" (Gal. 5:12) How did they preach the way they preached? Were they granted extra knowledge or insight by being a prophet and an apostle? The wicked man may say in his heart, "Have I found my excuse?" No you have not found your excuse. They did it the same way the Lord Jesus did it when he cursed the barren fig tree. He judged them based on their fruit!
And we must stop making divisions in our logic as though there were any difference in the Lord's mind between "bad" fruit and "no" fruit. They are both equally solid indications of evil. You are playing a dangerous game my friend if you allow yourself to treat them differently. Jesus did not curse that tree because it was not a fig tree...but because it was a fruit-less fig tree. It ought to have had fruit on it!! Hebrews chapter 6 says of the fruit-less soil, that it produced, not what was planted, but rather "thorns and briars". Some on the other hand are called bad trees and produce bad fruit also. John knew well the long trail of rotten fruit the "pastors" of his day left behind them. Paul also knew well the doctrine and the words of the Judaizers. Both John and Paul, like their Master, "knew them by their fruit". The word "know" implies certainty when judging righteous judgement. We indeed must have evidence of what we condemn (as to a man's works and the present condition of his soul; or else how do we determine who to witness to and who to encourage?). But our problem today is that, both bad fruit and no fruit are in abundance everywhere you look and still these souls go on at peace in their own vanity and resting in their delusions.

The Lord Jesus saw to it that no wicked fig tree was left resting in its complacency on His watch. How the zeal for His Father's house did consume Him...not just in the church but in the field also! Wouldn't it be something if a gravestone was placed by the door of every church and written on it the words, "Ananias and Sapphira did not lie in peace here" The Holy Spirit was on watch that day...and oh how He ended the "revival" too, we read, "None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem" (Acts 5:13) There might be some who, like Peter, might challange the Holy Spirit for His wisdom that day, "Far be it from you Lord". The Osteens , Hybels, Schullers, Grahams and Warrens of our present day Sanhedrin could be heard echoing those infamous words, "Why all this waste?" Many thousands more could be saved if...But Jesus reveals to us that Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and because he kept the bag! The biblical truth is viewed as too rigid, and as I have said before, the gospel gate must be widened, thus those who are lost because of a refusal to widened the gate appear as a "waste". The tares, it could be said, were getting a little too cozy and when they do, it always comes from a modified "gospel" designed to smell a little more rosie (forgive the pun). Is Christ Jesus's worth and beauty enough? If you believe that it is, as I do, why are you even tempted to modify the gospel so that you might "save" more? We must be grounded by the reality that there is no greater Evangelist than God. No one exhibits more zeal and deliberate purpose in building His Church. And no one has paid a greater price for Her redemption. We must follow the Lord in our evangelism...He alone is the one who makes babies.

Oh for the day that preachers would leave the security of their pulpits and plastered walls and go out again into the highways and byways and preach this message! Paul and John never let the tares they encountered in their earthly ministries have a moments peace. It is not that they went "tare hunting"...no, they were effective by their child like adherence to the true Gospel. They knew well the meaning of that psalm, "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me!" God's rigidly expectation of careful and whole hearted reliance on His Gospel is not a burden, but a saving grace as we are all wanting of a truly God like love. And good shepherds, like their Great Shepherd seek to please God in this work. There was no "cushioned pew" found for tares in church of the Living God then...because the scriptures provide no comfort outside of true conversion. The pricks and thorns are built in, Jesus in fact stated to Paul before his conversion, "It is a hard thing to kick against the thorns". The answer is not "hey, lets just remove the thorns"...the answer is: Stop kicking against them! How should the words of David ring so loudly to us now, "Serve the Lord with fear, rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry with you and you perish in the way, for is wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him". (Ps. 2:11-12)

Sunday, 9 August 2009

"I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth."

Hi Everyone!
~A rainbow never fails to bring a sense of peace and serenity to the heart of man. It is because this beautiful phenomenon, above all the single acts of God's creation, exists for no other reason than to communicate His everlasting assurance that all living things will be kept safe from His wrath as it was unleashed in a flood. All things in God's creation demonstrate His character, we know this from Romans 1:20, which says, "For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So that they are without excuse". However, the rainbow has not existed since the creation of the world...it did not come into existence till much later. It is a special token designed to remind mankind of two of God's attributes in particular; His wrath and His faithfulness. Most men, and christians alike, fail to remember that God put a bow in the sky to remind them that He is a God of justice and does exhibit wrath. He does not want man to forget what He did to the ancient world because of their wickedness. He never says in that text that He will not show His wrath and justice again, but that it will not be by a flood of waters. I wonder if when men look out over the wonders of the Grand Canyon or the vast Sahara Desert if they see before them the scars of the utter wreckage that God left upon the earth because of man's behavior. Do Paleontologists even stop to consider the fact that their whole career consists in "pouring over" the massive animal grave yards of the earth that God deposited in His fury? This is in striking contrast to God's dealings with the wicked Ninevites and their livestock when He told Jonah, "And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six hundred thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" We can see that God, depending on His sovereign choice and purposes, has dealt with men according to either His mercy or justice. In December of 2007, National Geographic News reported that the largest "dinosaur graveyard" in Europe had been discovered in Spain while excavating a road bed for a new high speed rail link. Then in 2008 the Los Angeles Times reported that another dinosaur graveyard had been unearthed in Southeastern Utah...one of many there. Finally, in 2009 it was announced that a "massive" dinosaur graveyard had been found in China. For those of you who do not follow paleontology and its "ground breaking" discoveries...there are thousands of such animal "graveyards" which mark a world wide cataclysm scientists would prefer explain through a meteor impact rather than a biblical flood. Who are you inclined to believe. What is the motive behind your inclination?
The bibles tells us that prior to God's destruction of all mankind in the flood, except for eight souls, that "The thoughts and intents of mans heart were only evil continually." Does this sound like anyone you know? Does this sound like any nations you know? Lets bring this a little closer to home. Does anyone even know how many children have been murdered in the United States alone through abortion since Roe v. Wade? Did you also know that because of the murder of just one man, Adam's son Abel, the justice of God came upon his brother Cain? God said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground!" What do you suppose the voice, of the blood of all those murdered children, is crying out to God from the ground? And shall will we escape His fury who commit such atrocities...and what of the all the other nations of the earth which together practice this murder so freely? Not even the ancient world was doing this before the Lord God destroyed them utterly. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy in 2 Tim 3:1-5, "Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having an appearance of godliness, but denying its power." What a perfectly accurate and timely indictment against mankind in his present condition. Who has not heard someone say to them in the last year, at how alarmed they are at the ever increasing evil around them. Children are usually the bellwether of any society and exhibit the degradation of the society that produced them. It should be noted that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he was warning him about those who would be found in the churches! Can there be a greater bellwether than the churches of a society? Exhibiting the degradation of the spiritual condition of the societies which populate them? James explains why God does not execute justice immediately upon the earth and why men who are not "rich" toward God are allowed to continue on in their sins, we read in James 5:5, "You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter". Now every cattle rancher knows that you never slaughter a cow when it is lean, you wait till its fat. Now if you were a cow, and by continuing in your sin, you made yourself more and more obvious to the slaughterer, wouldn't you at least try and stay lean? The bible tells us in another place, "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Eccl.8:11. Jesus said, "Come unto me all of you who are weak and heavy laden" There's that allusion to weight again! We can see the sinner, fattened up by the sins of his or her life, and struggling under the weight of their own mass! Laden down with the fat of every kind of sin and misdeed. But instead of hearing the call of the slaughterer, a voice of tender mercy...beaconing men to come to Him that He might give them rest. How many times have you done something wrong and have not be caught? Do you remember the progression? We do not like to think about our own hearts as having been "fully set" in us "to do evil". We must find ways to ease our consciences in order to make life livable. No man is exempt from this malignant practice. We do not see our sin the way God sees it. Our definition of sin must after all either approve or excuse us or else we will live in a state of perpetual condemnation, our very own consciences being chief witness against us. The point is, that the reality of our guilt is never-the-less unchanged, we have only deceived ourselves by telling our hearts, "well, I really didn't mean to! What is waiting for us is not God's approval and understanding. It will be His agreement with our own consciences as they read back, verbatim, our entire sordid history of evil thoughts and deeds, our guilt that followed, and all of the approvals or excuses we employed to get ourselves off the hook. We never even consider that over time, our own consciences become seared and no longer even function! They have been offended so many times by the same sin repeated over and over again. We wake up one morning and honestly cannot tell if we are either improving as moral beings or if our conscience has become like an old worn out song. We are mystified as we wonder to ourselves why that song no longer invokes the same feelings it once did! We all can remember sitting around the table with friends sharing fond memories of when we were children, when arrows of guilt and shame once pierced our hearts and we ran to God for help never to do those things again or lose our sensitivity to the evil in them. NO...none of us can ever remember sitting around a table like that, talking about such things, because no one ever would! We hide our guilt and shame, except when we are caught red handed and have no choice. Just observe a child when they are caught being naughty...and thats when it began for us to! And we dare to question God's integrity on the subject of our sin? or dismiss Him as being overly harsh? The truth is God is amazingly long-suffering and patient with men, while man on the other hand is horribly lenient with himself and his fellow sinners, but they don't even hesitate when showing disgust at the times when God does finally act upon evil.
Was Noah and the seven other souls that escaped any different than the masses of humanity who perished around them? Not in the slightest. Noah was a sinner guilty of every kind of sin and misdeed and so were those who escaped with him. So what was the difference? Christ Alone! Christ was their true ark, who carried them safely through the waters of God's wrath. The wooden boat was symbolic of a greater vessel of salvation. But some will say, Christ was not born yet, how could Christ have been a help to Noah and those with him so many thousands of years before He came to earth? It is a critical error to think that the believers in the Old Testament had no knowledge of a Christ (greek for "Anointed One"; hebrew translates as Messiah) who would come and sacrafice Himself to save us from the wrath of God. In Genesis 3:15 after mans fall into sin, God mentions Christ for the first time in the Bible while condemning Satan and giving hope to Adam and Eve and many of her children, we read, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel." Here we see unequivocally that not all of the decedents of Eve are considered by God as "her offspring" although they physically originated from her. God says to Eve and Satan, "your offspring" will be in fierce opposition to one another. But we are told that one of her children (Jesus) will engage an offspring of Satan directly one day (Satan when He possessed Judas Iscariot most likely) and, "bruise your head", but all Satan would do to Him would be to "bruise his heel" because Jesus was raised from the dead. One of the best texts in the bible (although there are many allusions to them, i.e. the sheep and the goats) about the existence of the two distinct "offsprings" mentioned in Genesis is in John 8:37-44. For the sake of space I will not quote it all here, but I will leave you with some verses that ought to shake us loose from any delusions about Gods wrath coming upon "the children of promise". Jesus says, "I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from you father. They answered him, Abraham is our father. If you were Abraham's children you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works of your father did.....You are of your father the devil, and you will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him, When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." How many times have you heard men say, "We are all a childen of God". That is the furthest thing from the truth and the volume of evil that is in the world is proof! The true children of God either love Jesus and obeyed His gospel or will love them when they learn about His sacrifice for them. The children of Satan will rebel against Jesus and defy Him to their dying breath because they have another father and wish to do what pleases him. Who is your father? Despite what you say, it is ultimately determined by your obedience and surrender to the Gospel.


Monday, 8 June 2009

"My Sheep know My voice and they will not follow another"

Hi Everyone,
~Thank you all for your prayers and virtual contacts. It is a tremendous help to have some of the technology we have, when used for His glory. My primary work or occupation at this time is "immersion". Spending time with my thai friends and associates as I listen and talk to them. The challenges facing the Gospel here in Thailand are old and well established...but they are no less conquerable than when Jesus first came unto His own. Remaining faithful in the work and remembering the words of Christ when He made the apostles aware of the fact that they were entering into the labors of many saints who proceeded them. There is definitely an aspect to God's labors that include immediate fruit and there are labors that do not reach harvest for centuries. Not many in any generation are privileged to witness the kind of mass harvest of souls that the apostles saw...but are we to be any less faithful? any less diligent? We know all too well what happened to that foolish servant who went and buried His Master's talent in the ground. Since we do not know the sovereign decrees of God, we must do as the Holy Spirit directs us to do in Ecclesiastes 11:4-6...we read, "He who observes the wind will now sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not withhold your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or rather both alike will be good."
~We are told that "the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit, they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually appraised." Those of us who are born again do understand, and when our Master in heaven speaks, we know His voice and we follow it. It is the Holy Spirit whom He has made to dwell inside of us that leads us into all truth and it is by His power alone that we do the works of God, after all, "unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it". Do any of us want to be counted among those who proclaim at their end, "Lord, in your name have we not done many marvelous works!" What are the operative words in that dreadful account? They are the words: "have we not done". Friends, we must be careful how we build upon that cherished Cornerstone...it is better to do our trembling now as we build, than to find ourselves indicted as "workers of iniquity" and trembling then!
~I was telling a friend today how that God graciously gave us the Lord and the Apostles as examples in evangelism, soul building, church planting, sound teaching...and so often we are found out of the way employing weak and beggarly elements to accomplish the work of the High and Mighty God. The weapons and instruments of our warfare are divinely powerful! There are no strongholds that can prevail against them. As strong as the gates of Hell are, not even they can prevail against His Church...His true Church that is. We ought to exhort one another to return to the ancient boundaries which were established by God and are blessed by God.
~We ought to follow the example Jesus left us, like little children, obediently keeping our Lords charge till He returns. The Gospel of Jesus is sweet to those who are being saved! It cannot be made any sweeter! In scripture it is likened to the fragrance of life, totally unique in the world and without compare! It's only when the "workers of iniquity" decry the assertion of Jesus when He declared so long ago "He will put His sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left". They busy themselves re-asserting the old lie that God is a little off on this, and that new research has shown He actually does desire to save the goats (except during the flood and a few other minor exceptions). God has soured the milk unto them...and are we to make it sweet!? that we might win the more!?? Here is where the deep trouble starts...because you cannot save the goats unless you change the Gospel; you see, the biblical Gospel works perfect if all you ever hope to reach are His sheep, but alas, there are some who privately hope to reach the goats too! It's a scary place to find oneself...secretly desiring the salvation of the goats. What do you suppose the Master will do to that servant who deliberately "takes from the children and gives it to the dogs"?
~Men do not stop to consider the grotesque alterations which must be made to the Gospel if they secretly plan to accommodate all mankind. They are grieved by the design of the biblical gate! They protest, It is too "narrow" and too "difficult"...they simply will not all make it through! It must be made wider and more conforming for those who are having difficulties. "Workers of iniquity" see the biblical Gospel as a restrictive, antiquated and bothersome obstacle to real church growth. When the "workers of iniquity" go fishing for goats to fill the pews of their "many wonderful works" and they are not having any luck...they simple change lures. The "workers of iniquity" have concluded that Jesus is simply not attractive enough on His own to catch all mankind and therefore they do not hesitate to use other bait. Good workmen on the other hand, see the biblical Gospel as a God ordained miracle of unfathomable grace, while at the same time an indelible shield of protection against the tares of the world. They would never lean on their own understanding when it comes to designing & building an effective Gospel gate, they leave those affairs the One who is all wise. Never-the-less, the Great Seal of the Church stands firm..."Jesus Christ knows those that are His, and let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from evil". Just as a reminder, in case we ever do get turned around, the steps to Heaven always lead up!
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark

Friday, 15 May 2009

"I will make you fishers of men"

Hi Everyone,
As you have either heard or probably guessed, I have not had internet for some time now. I moved into my new apartment in Nonthaburi and the only company that offers high speed internet is TOT, the National Phone Company of Thailand. To make a long story short, they are a massive third world bureaucracy that still uses hand written ledger books to keep track of all Thailand's accounts and the linemen use bamboo ladders to run the service!! (Actually the ladders are very strong and naturally insulated against electrical shock) Well, it should not be long now...or so they say. I am currently using a church's wifi to put a blog up because I felt it couldn't wait any longer...my friends have waited long enough! JK.
It has been an interesting month. I am getting more familiar with my town and have no trouble getting around and shopping at the various markets. A friend bought me a bicycle so I now have transportation and exercise at the same time. I have lost nearly 25 lbs since arriving here...I am calling it the "Bangkok Diet", and it should be ready for publication by fall. Colleagues are telling me it will be a best seller and that I will be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I don't dare tell them it's due to my occasional dysentery from the local water. So if the book fails, I am going to bottle the water instead. But we'll make that our little secret! Oh, Thai lessons are coming along well...starting to read and write with some proficiency.
I have had occasion to visit the south coast along the Gulf of Thailand. The west coast is where the tsunami hit. Most of the Thais vacation on the gulf side so it is a great place to witness their culture in an unmixed setting verses famous Phuket where all of the foreigners frequent. It was especially nice to see the local fishing villages so active...but then again, they always are! The Thai's love their seafood. The area we visited specialized mostly in dragnet fishing and crabbing. The larger boats on the waterfront have a very asian feel to their design. One morning I was able to see my first asian sunrise which was a treat. We also visited a Buddist temple that was built into a mountain. The caves were the result of limestone erosion and it even provided natural ventilation 100 feet above our heads. Wild monkeys roam the area by the hundreds and many have become almost human. As you might imagine, they have become quite fond of beer nuts, watermelon, cheese curls, and whatever else people can scrounge. It is easy to identify the dominant males...they're the ones that are 40 lbs over weight because they beat the living day-lights out of the little monkeys if they try to take so much as a pumpkin seed away from from them. The half starved little monkeys call it the "Why Can't He Share The Love Diet". At the very least, it was an observation in the evolution of selfishness!

"He will chat with you all soon" TOT, (UPDATE: I have internet now~!)
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark

Friday, 17 April 2009

"I testify concerning the Jews, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge"

From the fall of Man to the present, mankind seems to know instinctively that he owes his life and well being to someone larger than himself. This instinct needs little prompting in causing men to seek a god who bestows such favor and blessing in this life. No man is immune from life's difficulties and trials and eventually even death overtakes us all. It is precisely our impotence that most often forces us to our knees and causes us to seek whoever might be listening and then to offer some sacrifice in exchange for help. If we could fix life's problems ourselves or hire men to do it for us, we would! Oh, but the hands of men are weak and feeble! And who but a close circle of family and friends can be said to love us with any depth or regularity?? It is for good reason that man has learned not to depend on the "arm of the flesh" for life's most pressing issues. To whom ever and where ever man goes for help, he goes because he lacks the might to fix it himself, or else he would. Even if we were to hire the most skilled surgeon in the world, would we still not pray that God would guide his hands?
     What is the criteria for measuring a god? In which god should we trust? What is the process for examining whether or not a god has answered you and granted you your requests? How can we be certain it wasn't just dumb luck? How do we measure the strength of a god? Do men ever really inquire of their gods before deciding to serve them? Questions like: How old are you...how far back do you go? How vast is your knowledge...is it infinite? Are there limits to your strength? What do you require of me!? Dare we ask him if there other gods higher than he? One must exercise great caution when choosing a god or gods who will ultimately be in charge of their temporal and eternal well being.
    Christianity is the only religion in the world where God is the one who chooses those who will be His worshippers! Jesus told his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you!" and again He told them, "Many are called, but few are chosen." Jesus also said in another place, "No man can come unto me, unless my Father, who is in heaven, draws him first." We would think it was absurd if a child told one of it's playmates that they chose their parents. We all agree that it is a sovereign act of parental choice to bring children into this world, never the other way around. Is the living God any different? Can human parents not tell the difference between their own children and someone else's? Can God not distinguish His own children also? Jesus told a group of Pharisees, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I came from God...you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires." Are all men really the children of God...or do many belong to someone else? Why did Jesus say, that in the judgement, when He is seated on His throne, that "I will separate My sheep from the goats"?  Why are we so surprised at this...didn't He expressly state that, "I lay down my life for my sheep"? Who is a God like this?...who chooses His children before they are born and then upholds that choice at the final judgement? Does this sound like a God who's favor can be bought with offerings from this world? Can forgiveness of sin really be obtained through such empty trinkets? The bible says of Him, "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness of it" and in another place we read, "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills". What can we possibly offer to a God who already owns everything?? If men would just pause for one moment, and consider this point alone, how much closer to the kingdom of heaven they would be!  And when the scripture says to men that "salvation is of the Lord" and that "it is the gift of God" they scoff! "Surely I must do something!" is their objection. But I would ask them this one question, What did you require of your own children before you brought them into this world? And what did you make them pay you, before you granted them life? Consequently, they shall be brought as witnesses and plead God's case!
      Micah knew well the futility of "earning" Gods favor by offering sacrafices of earthly origin. He said this, "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my loins for the sin of my soul?" But what does the bible reveal about how his chosen ones will express their zeal toward God, and how does this true knowledge instruct them to draw near? We read, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" This offering is of heavenly origin...not earthly! A salvation who's Author is God himself. He is the one who planned it and gives it to whomever he chooses. We read, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" and again we read, "All that the Father gives to me shall come to me, and he that comes to Me I will in no way cast out."  Not one part of it is left to us! From our Conception, to our Royal Coronation in heaven, He alone is our Savior!
     
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark 
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