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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ignorance & Arrogance (An Old and Repeated Theme)

This is a theme which the Lord brings to me from time to time to remind me what I am and what we as humans tend to be.  In actuality we know so very little that we don't even know what we don't know.  Yet, our tendency is to think that we DO know.  But beyond the ignorance there is a frightful arrogance.  We think we know so much.  We tend to be so sure of ourselves.  We make judgements and conclusion based upon what we see, hear, touch and taste.  We do not know, what we do not know, and are quite sure about what we do know, so ... we form conclusions and are quite sure.  We will even claim that others are wrong ... and be SURE of it! Yet all the while, often, we do not have a clue!

All the while, we know that we are right.  We claim that we are right and we put down and reject all other views.  Yes ... this is arrogance! It never seems to occur to us that others may have a valid view or that others might have information or experience we know nothing of. This often builds into a critical spirit through which we look down on others and criticize others.

All of this is nothing more than human pride which is a part of our fallen state.  And, it is never more clear and more ugly than when it comes to sin.  We magnify the sin of others and minimize our own sin.  We life ourselves up and put others low.  We become puffed up with self righteousness never noticing that the meek and humble attributes which Christ exalted and manifested are no where to be seen in us.

The Lord reminds me of this because I need it.  I need to be ever mindful of who and what I truly am in the eyes of God.  I need to AGREE with him, about ME.  Thus, I can rest in Him, rely on Him and walk through Him.

Now here is the sticky wicket ... the only thing we can be sure of ... is the Word of God. We know that it is truth!  But even in that ,we must be careful about our observations, interpretations and applications.  Unfortunately, some take what I am saying to draw a conclusion that we can never be sure of anything. But in reality, they really do not believe that.  No, they like it when we can not be sure of God's truth because then we are not accountable to it. But, they remain sure of themselves and many of their own opinions, etc. Yes, we can be sure of the Word of God.  But, this never negates humility, meekness, selflessness and sacrificial love.

Phil. 2:3 says it well, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."   You see, this verse makes it clear that the reason why we have strife, the reason we do things for vainglory is because we do NOT see others, or esteem them, as better than ourselves.  No, we see ourselves as better.  So, this justifies us and gives us the right to have strife, to fight, to have conflict, to not pursue unity and reconciliation.  This gives us the right to exalt ourselves and lift ourselves up and put others down.

Oh God, forgive us!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Be Sure to Obey - Don't Be Fooled

Moses in Exodus chapter 4 is being sent of God to do the great work of freeing his people from the bondage of Egypt.  Moses is struggling deeply with his faith.  God give him miraculous sings to ensure his struggling servant that the God of heaven is with him and will make the way (vs. 1-4). Moses still struggles and says he cannot speak well enough (vs. 8).  God gives him Aaron and assures Moses that He himself, God, will be with him.  So Moses finally returns to Egypt in vs. 20.

But in verses 21-26 we see something very interesting.  I am no sure of all that is happening here but this is clear, Moses had not circumcised his son yet. Moses had disobeyed God in one of the most serious and greatest covenants God had ever made with man.

What strikes me about this is that Moses was hearing from God and getting leadings from God and seeing the miracles of God, yet he was in disobedience!  God was angry!

Often times when I am hearing from God and seeing God move, I tend to rest in the fact that things are right with God. Oh how crucial it is for me, for all of us, to remember our nature and our make-up.  It is so important to know that we are prone to wonder and given to sin.  We must keep the identifying of sin and confessing / repenting of it, as priorities in our lives.  Many a man has fallen deep into destructive sin while being soothed by the fact that "God is working and blessing".

After Moses got right with God, with the help of his dear wife and his friend Aaron, THEN he and the people of Israel believed and worshipped!  And after that Moses was ready to go and obey God and deal with Pharaoh.

Our GREATEST strength is power of HOLINESS!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Science is Awesome!

The great debate last night between Bill Nye and Ken Ham got me thinking and praying about this whole issue of science, origins and the Scriptures. This subject both thrills me and breaks my heart.  Creation science has always been a love of mine and I absolutely believe that ALL creation clearly does declare the Glory of God.

As some of you might know, my collegiate training was in evolutionary biology.  I LOVE science! I have always enjoyed and loved science.  It astounds me that so many in our world see such a conflict between science and faith.  Where there is a conflict, I find it comes from two fundamental points.

First, our terms.  The educational system in our culture today, to include the popular scientific community, has defined the terms which are used and dictates how these terms will be used.  But the second point is really the foundational one.  There is, and always has been, a hatred for the concept of God.  Because if we accept God we must accept who He is, what He is, and all He has done and said.  So because of that, my second point is one of presuppositions.  You see, all schools of thoughts have an idea of our origin.  And, these ideas, influence everything we think.  But most importantly, they influence the way we interpret scientific date and observation.

For example, the old age of the earth is the presupposition of the secularists.  And yes, a younger earth is indeed the presupposition of the Biblical scientists.

But by and large, because of the power of the secular scientific community, they are able to present their presuppositions or theories with NO scientific data at all.  While, the creation scientists are held to a higher standard.  They must use data to back their claims.  And frankly, this is how it should be!

Let me give you one example, Bill Nye began with the presupposition that the reason why showing that Creation Science is not a viable scientific view is because IF we believe this we as a nation will cease to produce good technology because our view of natural science will be wrong.  Now, at face value that seems a very weak argument at best.

Then Ken Ham clearly proved that our view of origin not only does not do this but then gave all manner of examples of current and past world-renowned scientists and creators who are responsible for some of the worlds greatest technology.  Yet, I believe Bill Nye is still not convinced.

The Biblical believer must hold to TRUTH rather than imagination.  The bottom line is what is often missed in this whole discussion.  The past, much of which can not be tested in the laboratory does require faith.  All views of origins require some degree of this. Creationists believe we MUST push to know and understand our origin in order to properly interpret the present.  Secularists are fine with not knowing the past and simply imposing what they see in the present upon their view of the past.

A right view of science greatly increases of love for, and worship of, Almighty God.  Please, do not avoid science but rather pursue it ... for His glory!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Putting God in a Box

As I continue reading through Genesis, I see the wonderful and fascinating stories of father's "blessing" their children and roles and positions of the first born as well as the rest.  We see in the Old Testament, and in the Hebrew culture a real priority and honor given to the first born (for example read Geneses 49:3)  This is not a man-made custom for God certain honors this as well.

We as humans tend to love clear cut rules.  They help us know where we stand.  Even when we do not want to follow them we often are comforted by knowing at least what they are and what is expected.  Yet, from the beginning our Great God has shown us over and over again that He is not subject to rules, for He is the rule maker!

Occasionally in the Scriptures, for example, God chose to bless the younger over the older. This always caused problems ... not for God but for his people. You see, we tend to put God in a box ... even if it is His own box.  We cannot and must not do that.  God is GOD!  He is supreme and He is sovereign!  He is not subject to our rules, ideas and agendas.

So mark it down dear ones.  Principles are helpful and guidelines are wonderful but walking by faith always comes down to communion with our Lord and seeking and knowing His will for us.  Thank God for the Book!  But we must remember that He is not "a" book.  He is the LIVING Word and He extends even beyond the written Word.

The good news is that if we 'seek' ... we will 'find'!  If we 'knock' He will 'open', etc.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Getting Our Soul Under Control

My hat is off to my dear friend and fellow servant, Pastor Dexter Taylor for communicating some wonderful truth yesterday to our church family.  The point he made that spoke so loudly to my heart is from Psalm 131.

In this Psalm of 'degree' or 'ascent', which the children of Israel sang as they walked up to Jerusalem to worship, David uses a fascinating term.  He speaks of 'quieting himself' and then clarifies what he means by this by describing this quieting as being like 'a child that is weaned of his mother'.

This term speaks of a child who is old enough and mature enough to no longer be controlled by his appetite.  You know what a child is like who is not yet weaned.  They live and breathe by the demands of their stomach.  Their stomach being comforted and their hunger being met is the most important thing to their life.

A child who is weaned, has moved beyond that.  Being 'freed' from this driving appetite enables one to focus on many more things.  And, this term speaks of a level of 'self' control (or in the spiritual sense ... 'Spirit control') that means we control our desires rather than living under the bondage of their control.

In this Psalm, in verse 2, David even speaks of our "soul" being under control.  The soul, being the mind, the emotions and the will, being put under the control of the Holy Spirit, or God's will, is such an essential key to the victorious Christian life.  Obviously, it is easy to see how having all the aspects of our soul being under God's control has an enormous impact on how we live.

A central theme to this Psalm is "humility." This is aspect of the message of this Psalm is far less obvious, in my view.  Humility is basically set in contrast to having your self, or soul, under control.  Now, there is much which can be said here and a wonderful study which reveals these truths, but in other words, those who are not humble are not under control and those who are not under control are not humble.  Think about it.  This is really quite simple.  We naturally are self oriented people. We all struggle with pride.  The 'old man' is a selfish man.  We think, feel and desire in a self-focussed manner.  Much like the baby who needs to be weaned in order to be set free from the desires of their flesh, we must be set free from self-centered thinking, emotions and desires in order to be set FREE to do all Christ has for us.

So very simply, the crucified life is the key to humility and freedom!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Taking Thoughts Captive

In Genesis 39 we see the familiar story of Joseph being tempted by Potiphar's wife.  Now, we do not know much about what kind of temptation Joseph was feeling.  We do know that Joseph had been in prison for many years from his youth and thus had been without female companionship. We also know that Potiphar was a man of means and thus would customarily choose a beautiful wife and that she would have the means to try to keep herself beautiful.  But, the Bible does not speak to this.

Regardless of how intense the temptation of Joseph was, we see him practicing the wonderful Biblical discipline of bringing his thoughts captive, or as I have called it "rehearsing truth" in response to temptation.  When we are tempted, our greatest problem is that the temptation often strikes at our flesh and bypasses our thoughts.  Whether this temptation is one of lust, anger, discouragement, etc. we begin to 'feel' so strongly that we often do not think, or think correctly.  Have you ever rationalized your sin 'in your mind' only to see later that it really had no 'rationale' at all?

But notice the progression.  It seems that it all began with her thought and then followed by her look (vs. 7).  She then spoke.  Verse 10 is probably the most interesting aspect of this whole story.  It explains that this attempted seduction went on "day by day".  We do not have details of her seduction and thus we do not know how much time passed in this interaction. But certainly there must have been a progression.  One can only imagine all the 'tricks' Potiphar's wife must have played to get through to this Godly young man.

Things had escalated enough to where it seems from our text that David is in the arms, or at least hands, of another man's wife because she has her hands on his garment firmly enough to disrobe him (vs. 12).   (It is a little hard for me to see how a women's grip would be so strong that she would maintain hold a grasp of his garments while he is fleeing.  So, it could be that she had already begun to remove, unfasten or loosen his clothing.)  She has clearly asked him to be immoral with her more than once (vs. 7 &12).

We do not know what is going through Joseph's mind.  He could be experiencing everything from fear to desire, or a combination of both.  As the days go by and the temptation seemingly increases, only the Lord knows what manner of wrestlings he is facing.  What we do read is a seemingly immediate rehearsal of truth.  We see that he refused (vs. 8) and immediately begins to remind his master's wife (and maybe himself) of how blessed he is and of what is right.  He speaks of the trust his master has put in him.  He speaks of what an honor and privilege has been given to him.  He infers (at least) his sense of responsibility to his master.  He speaks of how thankful and blessed he is (vs. 9) and speaks of 'wicked' it would be to do this unrighteous thing.

One of the elements of the Armor of God is the helmet of salvation.  This no doubt means many things.  But one thing seems certain, our mind is best protected by the renewed thoughts of a transformed life.  As we think saving thoughts, or think as a redeemed one thinks, we keep our mind in a state of truth which directs our hearts toward righteousness.  Our Enemy and our flesh both constantly pull us toward unrighteousness so the disciplined thought life of the Redeemed is a crucial part of our 'walking worthy of our calling'.  It appears that Joseph was a thankful man IN SPITE of the terrible circumstances he had faced and the incredible injustices which had been done to him.  Do his words in the midst of temptation sound like that of a man who feels sorry for himself?  Does he speak like a victim?  Does he sound bitter? No!  He sounds like one who has forgiven and chooses to focus on the good which his God has given him instead of bad which some have done to him.

This is KEY friends!  It establishes the pre-disposition of our mind and heart.  We HAVE the 'mind of Christ' but we must choose to use it!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Playing the Harlot

I was reading this morning in Genesis 39 where Tamar "played the harlot".  It is an interesting phrase.  The Bible elsewhere describes the "attire of a harlot."  Today, it is not customary to discuss these things because our modern culture believes that women (and men for that matter) ought to be able to wear anything they want.  Our culture is obsessed with sexuality and sensuality.  So many of our "celebrities" jockey for position to see who can be the most daring, the most revealing or the most outrageous.  Narcissism and hedonism rule and reign.

There is such a double standard in our media, they play our culture like a fiddle.  The same "culture experts" write things like, "if you got it ... show it off" and exalt older women who have been able to (through whatever artificial means) maintain a youthful appearance and then they rebuke older ones at times for dressing in a more revealing way (like the younger ones) and criticize the younger ones if they dress too old (or too modest).  And the amazing thing is that most women in our culture stand for this and take this kind of cultural abuse!  They follow the "masters" lead like sheep to the slaughter.

There was a day when a lady reached 40 or 45, and had conceived children, that the pressure was off and she could relax and not fear looking her age.  She had earned the right to not have to continually display herself to "get a man" or "attract attention".  After all, she has devoted husband and loving children.  Grey hair was lifted up and a sign of honor and older women were treated with some dignity and respect.  But today, the promoters of youth, do everything they can to reduce women to nothing more than 'a body'.  And, they shame them into anything other than an all-out pursuit of fitting into their High School clothes and looking like they were back in college.  All the while, our culture experiences a void of older, mature, dignified, classy, respectful and honorable women who can serve as role models and example to the younger ones.

(Now back to our text) The terms "playing the harlot" or the "attire of the harlot" simply refer to one who acts in a way, or dresses in a way, that communicates that they are available.  I heard a friend tell me this week that they were in a clothing store and a mother sent a little girl into her dressing room to try on her skin tight "skinny jeans". When the young girl came out her mother (with great enthusiasm) told her how "hot" she looked and that she would "drive all the boys crazy." Is this really where our culture has gone?  Is this truly what happens when a culture spends 40 years (or so) removing everything of Godliness, holiness, morality and dignity from what they teach in our government schools (and frankly in many of our 'christian' schools) and chooses to focus more on the tabloids more than the tablets of God?

Interestingly, the only attire that Tamar displayed that indicated she was a harlot was the 'covering' of her face with a veil.  You see in that day, being a harlot was shameful.  Today, it is emulated.  In truth, harlots of that day dressed more modestly than the average Middle School girl today.  Harlots in that day showed less flesh than the average 'church-going' woman today.

But in short, advertising our self as available, for the taking, was what was seen as acting like a harlot.  Oh, that we might reconsider what we are doing to our little girls when we dress them in their skinny little low riding jeans, their tight little midriff tops, teach them to paint their face with make up, wear garments which draw attention to (and enhance) certain body parts and encourage them to consider surgery as a viable option for looking better one day so they can "feel better about themselves".  We are teaching them that they are not good enough the way they were born.  They are not pretty enough as they are.  And unlike their male counterparts, it is culturally necessary for them to learn all the tricks of the trade to make themselves "look better".

Now friends, I am not speaking against looking pretty or beautiful.  I am not even speaking against make-up and 'dressing up'.  I am speaking out against the re-definition of what beauty truly is so that no woman (or so few) ever measure up and are made to feel ugly, unattractive and unworthy.

My wife, at 48 years of age, is more beautiful than she has ever been.  Now, I realize that the world may call me crazy for saying that. You see neither of us are the same size or shape we were when we got married.  But friends, size and shape do NOT and NEVER will define beauty!  No, my dearly beloved now wears and displays the attire of a woman who has spent twenty eight years loving the most unworthy man on earth.  She has served, loved, encouraged, supported and cared for my dear son and me in a very BEAUTIFUL way.  She has sought God.  She has pursued holiness.  She has denied her self and loved others.  And frankly, through it all ... she LOOKS gorgeous!

Men, if you agree with me that this is FAR more beautiful than any airbrushed, surgically enhanced 'body' than join me in telling your wife today how ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL she is!