Monday, October 27, 2008

What Suffering Produces

No one likes to suffer, yet every living soul will experience suffering and pain in their lives. In our humanity we shrink back from the very thought of it. We see the world full of sufferings, and as humans with a fallen nature, we find ourselves blaming God when we go through suffering of any kind. Even those, who call themselves atheists, will in times of calamity blame God for the misfortunes they are experiencing in life.

It is the believer, the true child of God, who is given understanding from God through His Holy Scriptures as to the reasons for suffering. Satan will use suffering in our lives to blame God, to accuse God, and to reject God. We even go so far as to believe that suffering and pain is always the result of sin. In John 9:1-38 the disciples of Jesus asked this very question concerning a man who had been born blind. They asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Jesus was making it clear that suffering and pain is not always caused by sin. There is not always a direct one to one relationship between suffering and guilt. In fact, there are other reasons that the Scriptures provide: (1) righteousness, (2) obedience, and (3) growth just to mention a few. A non-believer does not understand this; he sees no purpose in it. A child of God knows that God is working in his life, in times of suffering and pain, to deepen his faith in his Master. The health and prosperity preaching of today would disagree with this. They even go so far as to say, “it is not the will of God for any of His people to suffer; in fact, if you are suffering, it is because of sin in your life.”

What does the Scripture say?

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” I Peter 4:19

3 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Roman 5:3-5

19 “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”- I Peter 2:19-21

Truth faith is confirmed by suffering, false faith is destroyed by it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Is A Godly Wife?

What does the Holy Scriptures say about such an important subject? One of the finest descriptions of a godly wife was given by a woman. It is found in Proverbs 31:10-31. Below are a list of seven of the qualities that a godly wife has:

1. A godly wife is strong and carries her strength with dignity. She is not afraid of the future.
Vs.17 – “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
Vs.25 – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”
2. A godly wife is not a busybody, she is wise and teaches kindness.
Vs.26 – “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
3. A godly wife is not lazy. She looks to the needs of her family and is not idle.
Vs.27 – “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
3. A godly wife is a good business woman, is industrious with her hands, and works hard for her family.
Vs.13-16 – “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”
4. A godly wife is trusted by her husband and will do him good. She will not bring shame to his name.
Vs.11-12 – “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”
5. A godly wife will be a mother whose children praise her, and her husband will praise her, too.
Vs.28 – “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”6. A godly wife realizes that outward charm and beauty are temporary; she focuses on pleasing the Lord in everything she does.
Vs.30 – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
7. A godly wife will be known for her godly example and Christian works.
Vs.31 – “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
The Christian woman of today is challenged by the world to be many things – most of which have nothing to do with the aforementioned list. She understands her role as wife and mother is the most challenging role to which God calls her. Only by God’s grace can a woman maintain the balance that is so necessary to fulfill such a high calling.

God be praised for all you women who put Christ first in your life. Your godly example and Christian witness is sorely needed in our world today. Bless you in your service to Him, in your love for your husband, and in your devotion to your family.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Seeking The Will of God

“The secret things belong to God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).

According to this Scripture, there is the secretive will of God and there is the revealed will of God. God does not hold us responsible for His secretive will, He will hold us responsible for His will declared in and through His Word. It is not what we don’t know that He will judge us by, it will be by what the Holy Spirit has made clear through His Holy Scriptures that God will hold us accountable.

In studying the Word of God, it is supremely important to “let Scripture interpret Scripture.” It is not our business to interject our own interpretation into a Bible passage when the interpretation is already there to be mined. This is why we are commanded to study the Word of God (II Tim.2:15); as we study the Word we will learn how to rightly divide it. There may be many different applications of a given passage which can be drawn from it, but there is only one biblical interpretation:

“knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
“for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:20-21).

There are several rules that will help in rightly dividing Holy Scripture:

1. The Holy Spirit will lead us to use passages with clearer light on a given subject to rightly interpret more obscure passages relating to the same subject.
2. The teachings of Jesus are greatly amplified upon in the writings of the Apostles: Paul, John and Peter. Using their letters as eyeglasses, a student of the Scriptures can glean much valuable insight into the Gospels.
3. The key to understanding the Old Testament books is found by utilizing the New Testament books as eyeglasses to understand how the Holy Spirit led the New Testament writers to understand the Old Testament Scriptures.
4. If a verse is difficult to understand by itself, put it back into the paragraph from which it came. If it still proves hard, then place the paragraph back into the chapter, and then finally into the whole letter itself. By doing so, the student will discover many of the treasures in the Scripture in question.
5. Additional treasures can be found when you take what you have learned in a specific passage, then compare it with the way the thought is used in other books of the Bible. By letting Scripture interpret Scripture, the student will glean much gold from such an in-depth study.

God’s revealed will is the Word of God. Jesus stated:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.
“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” – John 14:15, 24

The following is another set of guidelines that will help the Bible student to discover the will of God as it is expressed in the Scriptures:

1. Come to the Word of God with the purpose of blessing the Lord, thanking Him for His blessedness, and asking Him for His mercy:

“Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes!” – Psalm 119:12

“Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy, And teach me Your statutes.”
Psalm 119:124

2. Meditate and contemplate more on the Word of God than you do the cares of this world:

“I will meditate on Your precepts, And I will contemplate Your ways.” – Psalm 119:15

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes fruitful.”
Matthew 13:22

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – I John 2:17

3. Obey what you have already been given the grace to understand:

“Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.”
Psalm 119:33

“If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”- John 7:17

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.” – Psalm 111:10

4. Turn off the Television and CD player:

“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.”
Psalm 119:37

“Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.”
Psalm 119:133

5. Turn to God’s Word first, before you execute any of your decisions:

“I thought about my ways, And turned my feet to your testimonies.
“I made haste, and did not delay To keep Your commandments.” – Psalm 119:59-60

6. Believe God’s Word before you know it; He desires your best:

“Teach me good judgment and knowledge, For I believe Your commandments.”
Psalm 119:66

“I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes.”
Psalm 119:145

7. Know that even in hard times, God’s will is best:

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”
Psalm 119:71

“I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” – Psalm 119:75

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Shepherd of God

The pastoral scene of 2008 is a dismal reflection of the days in which we live. The bottom line is simple: no one wants to take responsibility. To what am I referring, you may ask. Do we not have excellent churches today that are great examples of success? We have more mega-churches in the US than ever before – is that not a sign of success? Oh, I believe it is a sign of success alright, but it is the wrong kind of success.

Too often is the term “successful church” equated with what could pass for a smooth running business model straight from an MBA course. There is little dissimilarity between the average church today and a secular business model: you have your boards and your committees, your functions and activities – a great deal of form with very little substance. Where did the 21st century church go wrong? I am persuaded that the cause of the secular shift in the ecclesiastical domain lies in the pulpit.

There is a dangerous shift in emphasis from the proclamation of the Word of God to the entertainment of the people in pew. This has led to a growing mentality, among attendees, that reflect more of an observatory attitude, than a participatory spirit. Too often is the case that a Pastor stands before an audience waiting to be entertained, rather than a congregation of believers waiting to be fed. And I believe that brings us to the crux of the matter: how and what is the flock (the people) of God being fed in today’s churches?

The proclamation of the Word of God is being replaced by a demand for more media in worship? Over the last quarter century there has been a great influx of drama, the singing of mantra-like choruses, and the increased use of “the big screen.” The preaching hour has been relegated to a fifteen or twenty minute monologue filled with anecdotes, one-liners and jokes. It is a rare thing to find any holy unction in the pulpit today; in fact, most people don’t even know what that is anymore – they have never heard it! Instead of hearing God’s Word preached by God’s man, the church is served up a multi-media presentation aimed at the titillation of the human senses. Consequently, the methodology of worship is focused upon the sensory sentimentality of man, rather than the promotion of the work of the Holy Spirit of God upon the heart of the worshipper. In the emerging church of today faith is tied to feeling, rather than to fact. The axiom “the Bible says it, that settles it” has been replaced with “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” In addressing “how” people are fed today, human subjectivism is encouraged at the cost of biblical absolutism. It is no longer “Thus saith the Lord,” but “How do you feel” that counts.

The Pastor of God’s people is not to be an entertainer or a promoter. He is to feed God’s people with the Word of God. God emphasizes this by the repetitive use of the word “shepherd” over against the word “pastor.” Only one time in the New Testament, do you have the Greek word “poimae” translated “Pastor” (Ephesians 4:11); the word “poimae” is more correctly translated “shepherd” in all other instances. A true shepherd of God’s flock will declare the oracles of God – nothing more, nothing less. When you study the language of the New Testament you will discover that the terms “shepherd” and “flock” have the same common root. To put it simply, a true shepherd will connect with the flock of God. Herein, lies one of the problems found in today’s churches; in too many cases, the man behind the pulpit is not a true shepherd of God. And if the man is not called of God to fulfill the two-fold call of the ministry: “prayer and ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4), then the man will naturally default to human conventions and sensory productions.

The shepherd of God is commissioned by God to feed His flock His Word. It is noteworthy to point out the three-fold emphasis of “feeding the flock” that Jesus demands of Peter in John 21:15-17. Why is there such an emphasis? “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). This focus on the Holy Scriptures is underlined in Paul’s letter to the young pastor, Timothy:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
“that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”
(II Timothy 3:16-17).

In the forty-two years I have been in the Lord’s ministry, I have seen His faithfulness to His Word; God’s shepherds need to display the same kind of faithfulness. The Scriptural mandate to shepherds is clear:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

The concern of the pastor should be the approval of God, not the approval of man. Strong churches are grown by the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Media productions of man will not sustain God’s people in hard times; feeding on the Word of God will develop strong believers – Christians who will be able to withstand the difficult times ahead. Pastors must be willing to pay the price of prayer and study in the Holy Scriptures for the sake of God’s people. Let us never forget that God will hold us accountable for the souls He has entrusted to us (Hebrews 13:17).

Let us renew our commitment to prayer and to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). God demands it, His people need it, and we must provide it. It is hard work, but a most satisfying one. Hear the words of a man who had a shepherd’s heart:

The closet is the best study.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Are You Really Celebrating in Halloween?

The origin of Halloween goes back over 2,000 years and is embedded in the Celtic religion practiced by the Druids. It was their belief that October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar, was a day when dead spirits walked the earth at night. Their belief included the pacification of evil spirits with gifts and treats with the hope that this would ensure good crops the following year. This practice evolved into the custom of trick-or-treating.

Satan loves the fact that Halloween is being celebrated. Why, you may ask. The following are some of the reasons:

1. Anything that will minimize the reality of the horror of Satan will be something that he will applaud. Satan does not want people to take his reality seriously. He stokes the fires of hell in preparation for souls who do not take him seriously. To believe that Satan is not real is idiocy.

2. Anything that minimizes evil is Satan’s delight! He especially loves it when parents allow their children to dress up as devils, witches, monsters and ghosts. These images are not just costumes, they are emblematic of the real thing! The Devil is the god of this world. And his world is truly filled with witches, warlocks, monsters and ghosts that thrive in his realm. Why do you think that the Scriptures are so dogmatic:

Exodus 22:18 “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Isaiah 19:3 em>>"Then the spirit of the Egyptians will be demoralized within them; And I will confound their strategy, So that they will resort to idols and ghosts of the dead, And to mediums and spiritists.”

We are emphatically told not to fool around with anything of Satan or any of his agents. To dress up, both adults and children, in outfits that make light of the evil in this world is foolish at best, and it is inviting evil into our community at worst.

1 Timothy 4:1“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,”

We must understand that we are in “the last days.” We are going to see more of evil – Satanic evil – than we have ever seen before. We are going to hear of more reports of spirits, ghosts and spiritists. Crime is on the increase, drug abuse is growing worse and worse. All these are the signs of ‘the last days”

While on the surface Halloween represents fun and treats; under the surface, Halloween makes our children and our adults insensitive to the evil that is in the world. Halloween teaches people that they don’t have to take Satan seriously.

The Holy Scriptures make it very clear: Satan hates humans because they are created in the image of God. Satan knows that his time is short – his ultimate end is everlasting torment in the lake of fire prepared by God for Satan and his demons. Satan’s goal is to take as many souls with him into hell as he possibly can.

Don’t let Satan trick you; Hell is no treat!