Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 6

Casting Out Fear

Over the past several weeks I’ve been preaching about our relationship with God. I started with a song called Slow Fade. The song is about how we lose our strength bit by bit, as we succumb to our fleshly desires and slowly fade into darkness. How easy it is to just give in to the world and do what everyone else does. Apathy follows, and we begin to just “go through the motions” of being Godly, of being Christian, of believing in God. So easy, so much easier then being what God wants us to be.

Read Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT): “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

So we have to seek the narrow gate, we have to wait upon the Lord, we have to bind ourselves to Him so that nothing can separate us from the love that is Christ Jesus. The song, “Slow Fade,” starts with the line, “Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.” Is it coincidence that a song about fading away from God, uses strings to bind us to darkness, when God wants us to weave our lives together with Him with the strength of a woven rope?

I ended last week with, so when are we going to learn to rely on His strength all the time? How, or what, is it that allows us to rely on His strength all the time? Or maybe a better question would be: What is it that prevents us from relying on His strength all the time? The answer: fear. Homework for this week was to read 1 John 4, paying special attention to 17-19.

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

The definition of the word fear is as follows.

  • A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
  • A state or condition marked by this feeling: living in fear.
  • A feeling of disquiet or apprehension: a fear of looking foolish.
  • Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power.
  • A reason for dread or apprehension: Being alone is my greatest fear.

Agitation, anxiety, disquiet, apprehension, dread. Anybody feel these things on occasion? Before a test perhaps? Before a game? When your mom says, “clean your room?” How about when you have to pray before a meal, or when you’re confronted with a decision about how to act? Godly or worldly? Narrow gate or wide?

Why is it that we are so afraid of what others think, why do we allow the darkness to pull the strings, why do we “Go through the Motions?”

Because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of what others think, we’re afraid of what might happen, we’re afraid of so many things. There’s a song by Matt Redman called “You Never Let Go” that speaks about God, fear, love and why we should never be afraid.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won't turn back
I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

What a fantastic song. Matt pulls together scripture to teach us what fear is, and what casts fear out. We are all familiar with Psalm 23, and we read 1 John 4 this week and this morning. Turn to 2 Timothy 1:7-9 (NLT).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

God promises us that we never have to fear, that we can build our relationship up with Him by waiting on Him to deliver us. Remember that waiting on God does not mean to simply sit like a couch potato and think that God is going to move the couch to where we need to be. Waiting on God is an active pursuit of binding ourselves with Him in so many ways.

Fear is what makes us give in to the second glance, the slow fade. Fear is what makes us go through the motions, without ever really meaning anything. Fear is what drives us to walk away from God when we should be walking toward Him. God’s love is perfect, casting out fear and allowing us to wait on the Lord, strengthening our relationship and binding ourselves to Him with a cord that cannot be broken.

So my final questions to everyone are: Do we want to allow darkness to bind us and fall to the second glance? Do we want to spend our lives going through the motions? Do we want to give in to our fear of rejection and fear of the world to follow the wide path that leads to hell? Or do we want to claim the spirit of love that God so graciously gave us, the spirit of power that God wants us to have? How long are we going to sit and do nothing, when we could be waiting on the Lord, strengthening the rope that binds us to Him instead of to the darkness? How long until we fall into the love that is Christ Jesus, knowing that through Him we can do all things, knowing that nothing can separate us from His Love.

Fear or Love…the choice is ours.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 5

Strength In God Part 2

We talked about Strength in God last week. I ended with how we seem to get closer to God in times of trouble and stress; we rely on Him so much to get us through the hard times. Then we seem to walk away from Him in the good times, forgetting that He can do the same things in the easy times as He does in the hard times. How easy is it for us to limp along in our own strength when there is no trouble? David understands this concept. He lives this concept. I asked everyone to read and meditate on 2 Samuel 22. David’s Song of Praise. I hope everyone read it at least once.

David’s Song of Praise. David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave he flew, soaring blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were confused. Then at the command of the Lord, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence. To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them. O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory; your help in the gutter like dirt. You gave me victory over my accusers. You preserved me as the ruler over nations; people I don’t even know now serve me. Foreign nations cringe before me;as soon as they hear of me, they submit. They all lose their courage and come trembling from their strongholds. The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted! He is the God who pays back those who harm me;he brings down the nations under me and delivers me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies; you save me from violent opponents. For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever.

2 Samuel 22

David is giving everything to God, every bit of strength, every bit of glory, every bit of existence. Knowing that it is God and not himself that accomplishes everything. I wish I had a faith like that. I briefly mentioned that there was another person in scripture that gave God everything and walked in a strength that I can only dream to achieve. That person is Paul. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 (NLT).

Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again — I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Now that’s a resume! How many of us have been beaten for Christ? Whipped? Stoned? Shipwrecked? How many of us have lost a job for Christ? Maybe a friend? Such a little bit of sacrifice, yet we so often feel that we are being persecuted for our belief in Christ … how little we really are.

There are times in our lives that we feel embarrassed about our relationship with Christ. This is a statement, not a question. How many times do we NOT say what we should? How many times do we keep silent when we know we should be speaking for Christ? How many times do we fail to pray aloud, or give glory to God, or pray for someone who is hurt, or sad, or spiritually broken? We see it, I know each and every person in this room knows the Holy Spirit and hears Him clearly on many occasions, yet we are too afraid of what men think to do what He asks us.

So how does Paul do it? How does Paul have the faith, the strength to do what he does?

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21

What is it that gives Paul his incredible strength? His incredible faith in Christ? I know that I struggle and I’m only faced with things like: Should I say God bless you to the cashier at the grocery store, or should I pray out loud for lunch, or maybe a really hard day is when I have to pray for an injured player on the football field. Compared to Paul, I live an idyllic life. Paul has a strength I can only hope for, that I can look to attain, but have as yet, not even come close.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13

But where does the strength he talks about come from? Paul says, “I am strong in my weakness.” We read the last few verses of 1 Corinthians 11. Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:1-10.

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Corinthians 12:1-10

How is it that Paul is strong in his weakness? I talked about how we seem to rely on God when we are in the most trouble, or the most pain, or the most fear. This is what Paul is talking about. Being strong in our need, because it is then and only then that we really begin to rely on God for everything. When we can do it ourselves, when we can accomplish everything without help, we do not seek God, we do not rely on Him for our strength. HOWEVER, when we are weak, when we are suffering, when we are in need, we cry out to Him and ask Him to hold us up, strengthen us. So when are we going to learn to rely on His strength all the time? How, or what, is it that allows us to rely on His strength all the time? Or maybe a better question would be: What is it that prevents us from relying on His strength all the time? The answer: fear. We are going to continue this next week. Homework for this week is to read 1 John 4, pay special attention to 17-19.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 4

Strength In God Part 1

Remember last week we talked about waiting on God. I ended with, “Now, I think that we can wait, or hope or expect for a long time, but if we do not have strength, if our lives aren’t bound up with God, woven in and inseparable from God, then waiting might be a bit pointless.”

So we must learn to wait on the Lord, we must learn to build our ropes; we must learn to strengthen the cords that attach us to God.

Some of the strands that should be in our rope:

  • Keep your focus on God.
  • Read the Bible daily.
  • Pray daily.
  • Love your enemy.
  • Attend church regularly.
  • Learn from Christian friends.
  • Tell others about your faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Obey God’s laws.

What we talked about gives new meaning to the verses in Deuteronomy, Luke, and Mark.

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” And Christ says in Mark 12:30, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

So the question of the day is this: Is it our strength … our physical strength referred to in these passages? Is it our spiritual strength? Or is it the strength we get from being woven in with God? The strength that can’t be broken?

The dictionary has many definitions for the word, strength.

  1. The state, property, or quality of being strong.
  2. The power to resist attack; impregnability.
  3. The power to resist strain or stress; durability.
  4. The ability to maintain a moral or intellectual position firmly.
  5. Capacity or potential for effective action: a show of strength.
    1. The number of people constituting a normal or ideal organization: The police force has been at half strength since the budget cuts.
    2. Military capability in terms of personnel and material: an army of fearsome strength.
    3. A source of power or force.
    4. One that is regarded as the embodiment of protective or supportive power; a support or mainstay.
    5. An attribute or quality of particular worth or utility; an asset.
  6. Degree of intensity, force, effectiveness, or potency in terms of a particular property, as:
    1. Degree of concentration, distillation, or saturation; potency.
    2. Operative effectiveness or potency.
    3. Intensity, as of sound or light.
    4. Intensity or vehemence, as of emotion or language.
  7. Effective or binding force; efficacy: the strength of an argument.

I don’t think that any of these definitions really cover what God says we can have in Him, if we wait on Him, if we rely on Him, if we believe in Him.

There are many people in scripture that depended on God for strength. Samson, who lost his strength when he followed his flesh, called upon God for literal strength and pulled an entire building down on his own head, killing 3,000 Philistines. Job called on God for strength to endure the trials Satan had put him through, never once cursing God as Satan hoped, and his wife encouraged, and his friends thought he would. However, the 2 people I think depended the most on God’s strength, leaned on Him through their lives and did things through Him that would and could never be done without Him are David and Paul.David leaned on God for some amazing things through his life. Last week we read Psalm 37. This week we are going to examine some of the other passages about David’s strength in God. David’s first act in Scripture is covered in the 17th chapter of 1 Samuel (NLT).

1 The Philistines now mustered their army for battle and camped between Socoh in Judah and Azekah at Ephes-dammim. 2 Saul countered by gathering his Israelite troops near the valley of Elah. 3 So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them. 4 Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet. 6 He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. 7 The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons — Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea — had already joined Saul’s army to fight the Philistines. 14 David was the youngest son. David’s three oldest brothers stayed with Saul’s army, 15 but David went back and forth so he could help his father with the sheep in Bethlehem. 16 For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army. 17 One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket” 19 David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines. 20 So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. 21 Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel. 24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. 25 “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!” 26 David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.” 28 But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!” 29 “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” 30 He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. 31 Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him. 32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” 33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” 34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!” 38 Then Saul gave David his own armor — a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. 41 Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. 43 “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. 44 “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled. 45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies — the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” 48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. 51 Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Then the Israelite army returned and plundered the deserted Philistine camp. 54 (David took the Philistine’s head to Jerusalem, but he stored the man’s armor in his own tent.) 55 As Saul watched David go out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?” “I really don’t know,” Abner declared. 56 “Well, find out who he is!” the king told him. 57 As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. 58 “Tell me about your father, young man,” Saul said. And David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.”

Talk about relying on God for strength. David does this his entire life, and more importantly, he understands that it is God who allows him to accomplish so much. Turn to Psalm 27  (KJV).

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Can any of us think of a time when we could use God’s strength, a time when we need to rely on God to do something for us, through us, that we can never accomplish on our own?

I can give an easy example … preaching. There is no way that I could do this without God. There is no way I could get up here and speak these words without His intervention, and guidance, and love. He gives me the strength, the knowledge, the words. He does it all; I merely speak the words He tells me.

That is an easy example. There was a time in my life that I needed Him so desperately, that I was so dependent on Him, that there was no way I could even lift a foot to get out of bed without His support. When Kyleigh was born, and she would not eat or better yet, when she could not eat. That was probably the hardest time of my life, but once I fell in God’s lap, and leaned on Him for strength, it was almost like I wasn’t a part of my own life, I just kind of floated through that time, letting God speak through me, walking the way God wanted me to walk and doing what He wanted me to do.

It is funny, but we seem to get closer to God in times of trouble and stress, we rely on Him so much to get us through the hard times, then we kind of walk away from Him in the good times, forgetting that He can do the same things in the easy times as He does in the hard times. How easy is it for us to limp along in our own strength when there is no trouble? David understands this concept. He lives this concept. Turn to 2 Samuel 22.

This chapter is referred to as David’s Song of Praise. We are not going to read this, it’s our homework for the week. Read this passage and pray over it … meditate on it, and we’re going to continue next week.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 3

Wait Upon the Lord

God wants to be known, He wants to be recognized, He wants to have a relationship with us. Why? Because He Loves us.

I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Revelation 3:19-22

So with all this evidence, with all the visible signs that every single person on the planet can see and know, why is it that we still just go through the motions? How can we change our hearts so that we consistently follow God’s laws?

Answer: stop fighting, give in, submit to God, knowing that He loves you. How easy and how wonderful if we could just fall into His lap and know that He was going to take care of everything.

Read Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Ok, so now we have this peace … this unbelievable peace that God grants to those who believe and pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. I’ve actually even accepted God’s peace a couple of times, but then something happens, something disturbs me peace, something breaks through and pulls me away from that peace that God gives me and I end up angry, or depressed, or confused. So what do we do now?

Read Psalms 27:13-14 (KJV): “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

So first we have peace…now we wait.

Webster defines the word wait as follows: “to stay in a place or remain inactive or in anticipation until something expected takes place.”

Good definition, stay inactive, in anticipation until something expected takes place. What do we expect when we wait upon the Lord? Scripture has a number of references to waiting upon the Lord. We sing about it all the time.

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

I’ve done some studying on the word “wait” used in this verse. Steven Wickstrom wrote an article that says the following:

The word, wait, is the Hebrew word, “qavah.” The word, “qavah,” has two definitions or meanings. It has both a literal and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning of the word is “to bind together like a cord.” First let me explain what “to bind together like a cord” does NOT mean. It does not mean to tie a cord around a bundle of sticks to keep them together. Instead, picture in your mind the process of making a rope (cord) by twisting or weaving (binding) small strings together to form the rope. The more strands that are twisted or woven together in a rope, the greater is its strength. Ah, there’s that word strength again. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “[…] a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Now I’ve made rope before, to make a rope, for it to have any strength, you have to weave lots of little pieces of string together, twisting and weaving, over and over and adding more strands to gain strength. Once you weave it together, you have to twist it and pull it hard enough that the strands begin to knot up, otherwise, it all just unravels once you let go. How can we twist and weave God into our lives? How many strands do we need to have in our rope to give us the strength to meet every challenge?

Steven goes on to say:

The literal definition of “qavah” implies strength through numbers. The more strands in your rope, the greater its strength. Just as a rope’s strength comes from being made of many strands, so our strength comes through being united with Christ. The “rope” of our lives gains strength by being twisted or woven or bound together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The figurative definition of the word “qavah” is “to wait, to hope, to expect.”

John Oswalt, an OT scholar, notes that “waiting on the Lord” implies two things.

  1. Complete dependence on God
  2. A willingness to allow Him to decide the terms

Oswalt writes,

to wait on him is to admit that we have no other help, either in ourselves or in another … [it is] to declare our confidence in his eventual action on our behalf. Thus waiting is not merely killing time but a life of confident expectation.

Oswalt, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, p. 74

Now, I think that we can wait, or hope or expect for a long time, but if we do not have strength, if our lives aren’t bound up with God, woven in and inseparable from God, then waiting might be a bit pointless. Some of the verses in scripture that tell us to wait upon the Lord, and how to do so:

  • Psalms 130:5 (KJV): “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his Word do I hope.” (Stay in His Word)
  • Proverbs 20:22 (KJV): “Say not thou, I will recompense” [repay evil for] “evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.” (Don’t get angry, or seek revenge.)
  • Psalm 123:2: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” (Expect God to have mercy and love.)
  • Isaiah 8:17: “And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.” (Pray, seek, listen.)
  • Isaiah 30:18: “And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”
  • Jeremiah 14:22: “Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.” (Know that God is God, and He can do all things.)

So many people use the figurative definition when they try and talk about “waiting” on the Lord, and that’s fine, we should wait, hope and expect. However, I think He means more then just the figurative; I think God wants us to understand the literal meaning of the word “gavah” and how we can apply it to our lives.

I went to a breakfast last Saturday, the guest speaker was the new (relatively) Bishop of SC for the Episcopalian Church. He said a couple of interesting things, one of them was this: Winston Churchhill had a saying, “Play for more than you can afford to lose, it’s the only way you really know the game.”

For us to “really” learn to wait on the Lord, I think we have to play for more then we can afford to lose. Job waited on the Lord, knowing that God was the only one that could save him. Moses waited on the Lord … who else or what other power could ever have delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, or kept them alive and whole as a nation for 40 years in the wilderness? David waited on the Lord his entire life. Depending on God to deliver him from impossible situations.

Psalm 37, a psalm of David.
Don't worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart's desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don't worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper —
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
Soon the wicked will disappear.
Though you look for them, they will be gone.
The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the godly;
they snarl at them in defiance.
But the Lord just laughs,
for he sees their day of judgment coming.
The wicked draw their swords
and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed,
to slaughter those who do right.
But their swords will stab their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
It is better to be godly and have little
than to be evil and rich.
For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
but the Lord takes care of the godly.
Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
They will not be disgraced in hard times;
even in famine they will have more than enough.
But the wicked will die.
The Lord's enemies are like flowers in a field —
they will disappear like smoke.
The wicked borrow and never repay,
but the godly are generous givers.
Those the Lord blesses will possess the land,
but those he curses will die.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.
The godly always give generous loans to others,
and their children are a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good,
and you will live in the land forever.
For the Lord loves justice,
and he will never abandon the godly.
He will keep them safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will die.
The godly will possess the land and will live there forever.
The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong.
They have made God's law their own,
so they will never slip from his path.
The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
looking for an excuse to kill them.
But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
You will see the wicked destroyed.
I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing
like a tree in its native soil.
But when I looked again, they were gone!
Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
Look at those who are honest and good,
for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future.
The Lord rescues the godly;
he is their fortress in times of trouble.
The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

So we must learn to wait on the Lord, we must learn to build our ropes, we must learn to strengthen the cords that attach us to God.

Some of the strands that should be in our rope:

  • Keep your focus on God.
  • Read the Bible daily.
  • Pray daily.
  • Love your enemy.
  • Attend church regularly.
  • Learn from Christian friends.
  • Tell others about your faith in Jesus Christ.

Can you think of other strands?

In conclusion – if we have love in our hearts, if we love our friends, our family, then we’d better start talking. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we’d better start talking. If we can’t stand the thought of anybody spending eternity in hell, we’d better start talking.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 2

Through the Motions

We’ve probably all heard the song by Matthew West called “The Motions.” The lyrics are this:

But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough

Help me fight through the nothingness of life
I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day without
Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?"

What if we are just going through the motions? What if our hearts aren’t where they’re supposed to be? What if what’s on the inside … in our hearts and minds, doesn’t match the face we show on the outside? How many times have I asked myself, “why am I doing this? Is God really real? Is it worth the struggle?” Anybody else have questions like that once in a while?

So how do we know that God exists?

Read Romans 1:19-20: They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Let’s examine some facts that every human can know and see. Marilyn Adamson, a self-proclaimed atheist (now a Christian) wrote the following after she converted:

Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter. Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.

Water…colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water).You’ll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:

It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.

Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.

Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.

Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.

Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.

Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.

The human brain…simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.

The human brain processes more than a million messages a second.7 Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.

The eye…can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages — simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain — the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”

The universe has not always existed. It had a start…what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.

Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

Much of life may seem uncertain, but look at what we can count on day after day: gravity remains consistent, a hot cup of coffee left on a counter will get cold, the earth rotates in the same 24 hours, and the speed of light doesn’t change — on earth or in galaxies far from us.

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?

The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”

Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.

All instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It’s made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billions of these letters in every human cell!!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.

Why is this so amazing? One has to ask….how did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person’s body should develop.

Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

So why do atheists fight against believers so much and so hard? What is it that makes them want to prove us wrong? Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, and former atheist, wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.” C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

Atheists fight us so much because they know in their hearts that they are wrong, and if they could just convince us, then maybe, just maybe, they can get on with their lives without guilt.

Not going to happen. God wants to be known, He wants to be recognized, He wants to have a relationship with us. Why? Because He Loves us.

Read Revelation 3:19-22. “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

Write this down: www.reasons.org. Great website, dedicated to giving scientific reasons about why God exists.

So with all this evidence, with all the visible signs that every single person on the planet can see and know, why is it that we still just go through the motions? How can we change our hearts so that we consistently follow God’s laws?

Answer: stop fighting, give in, submit to God, knowing that He loves you. How easy and how wonderful if we could just fall into His lap and know that He was going to take care of everything.

Read Phillipians 4:6-7 (NIV). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 1

Slow Fade

Slow Fade By Casting Crowns

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

Slow Fade

Does anybody here, other then me, have a problem that they know about, but they continue to fight? Anybody have a problem with lying? Procrastination? Poor work habits? Lust? Laziness? Gluttony? The list goes on. We fight against these strongholds on a regular basis, sometimes giving in … ok, often giving in, we continue to try and stand strong without relying on the one thing we can always count on. How often do we know that something is wrong, something that we do over and over and yet continue to do and how often do we fall short of the mark that God has set for us?

I want us to listen to this song and I’m going to talk about what it has said to me, and what it should say to all of us.

Be careful little eyes what you see It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.

Read 1 John 2:15-16 (KJV) “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life … these are the things that bind us, that keep us from God, that lead us to darkness. So what can we do about it? How do we avoid the darkness that ties our hands? It’s all around us, every single day. Women in skimpy clothing, men jogging shirtless, television, MTV, covers of magazines. Everywhere we look temptation rears it’s ugly head. How do we fight it, how do we have a chance against everything that the world has to offer, against that “second glance that ties our hands?”

Read Romans 13:13-14 (NLT) “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Read 1 John 2:15-16 (NLT) “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

Think about this: God says we belong to the day and we don’t belong to this world, so why should this world have so much that we crave, why should we give in to those things the world says we should? The next line of the song:

Be careful little feet where you go for it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

Everything that we do affects those around us, especially when we have children. This line makes me want to cry, because I can imagine the damage that we do to others when we fall into the darkness. And it’s not just our children, it’s our co-workers, our friends, our students, the kids on our team.

Alex came home the other day and told me that his coach had used profanity toward him … he had told his coach that he couldn’t play because his pinky hurt. His coach said “you gotta be blanking me!” Needless to say, I was a bit upset. Not that the coach was upset because Alex couldn’t play, though that annoyed me a little, but because the coach had so much darkness that he would fall to the level of using profanity to a 12 year old. Coaches have SO much influence on the children they deal with and it can be used for good or for evil. I know that sound cliche, but it’s true. Anyway, I called the head coach (it wasn’t the head coach that said it) and confronted him on it. His excuse was that “that’s who he is on the field, he can’t help it.” I told him that was ridiculous, the guys a teacher and he wouldn’t dare use that type of language in the classroom, he’d lose his job. Then he said, “well, I hear that kind of language from the boys in the locker room all the time.” I almost laughed. I told him, “of course you do, how would you expect your team to not curse, when they hear it from their coaches every single day, they want to be just like you, they look up to you, they strive to be you. We have the same problem at the high school, for the first few days. None of the coaches on my staff use profanity, and we don’t tolerate it from the athletes. When they see that the coaches don’t use it, and they get in trouble for it on the field or off the field, they begin to change the way they speak. I’ve seen it every year I’ve coached. The first few days, I can stand outside the locker room and hear the profanity flying, after a week I can stand outside the locker room and maybe once in a while hear a swear word. It’s the standard I hold everyone to, because it’s the standard God holds me to.”

Everything we do, everything we say, everything we are…someone is watching us and someone is sure to follow.

Read 1 Timothy 4:16 (NLT) “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”

Read James 3:1-2 (NLT) “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

Be careful little ears what you hear. When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near.

Come on man, let’s do it, what’s wrong with just this once? One time isn’t going to hurt you, live a little, take a chance. Anybody ever given in to peer pressure? Cursed because everyone else is doing it? Looked at something or watched a movie that we knew we shouldn’t, but everyone else was so we did? I’ve heard so many times to guard our eyes and our lips and our hearts. But let’s look at how our ears affect us. Think about the popular songs of today, violence, sex, stealing, lawlessness, all embedded in the songs that so many people listen to. How hard is it to avoid temptation when we can hear it in our ipods and on our televisions every minute of every day. “Be careful little ears what you hear.” For what you hear will certainly affect what you think and how you act.

Be careful little lips what you say. For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray.

How many of us make promises we don’t keep? I know I do, how many time have I disappointed my wife because I’ve said “I’ll be home in an hour” …but I’m not. How many times do we have to say we’re going to do something and we don’t before someone’s heart grows cold. I’ve been late so many times, when I say I’ll be back in two hours nobody even believes me. And for good reason, something always seems to come up, something always needs to be done…just one more thing, just a few more minutes. There’s always an excuse, and it’s always wrong. Christ says: “let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no”

Do we want to be like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:17 (NLT) “You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say ‘Yes’ when they really mean No’?”

I don’t want to be that person anymore, I want to be the kind of person that keeps his word, not because of pride, which would be an easy trap to fall into, but because that’s the kind of person God wants me to be.

Everything in this song has been leading up to the next few lines, which hit me so hard every time I hear them:

The journey from your mind to your hands. Is shorter than you’re thinking.

What we think is how we act, how we act is who we are and who everyone else sees us to be.

  • Psalm 77:12 “They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
  • Psalm 119:97 [ Mem ] “Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long.”
  • Psalm 119:148 “I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:34 “Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.”
  • Philippians 4:8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
  • Colossians 3:2 “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Be careful if you think you stand. You just might be sinking

Do we think we’re in control, or is it darkness that has tied our hands? Is God the controller in our lives, or the world? Be careful.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

When we fall, it’s not all at once, “it’s the second glance that ties the hands and darkness pulls the strings.” How often do we look twice? How often do we think twice about doing things we know we shouldn’t? How easy is it to just give in this once?

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Stand firm, trust in the Lord, read scripture every day do not give in to the temptations that are all around us every single minute of every day. Some scripture verses to help us:

Read Matthew 26:41 (NLT) “41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Read James 1:13-16 (NLT) “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.”

Read Romans 12:2 (NLT) “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Read Ephesians 5:8-11 (NLT) “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

And most importantly, Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV) “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”

The War of Holiness Part 5

God, Man, and Society Part 3

Today, we continue in our study of the structure of the relationships of God, Man and Society. Our present focus is on Romans 13:1-7 and in our last message (July 5), we came to some understandings about power and authority, in a general sense, from the Greek words of the New Testament. We have come to see that, for Christians, it is necessary that we understand, with wisdom, the character, functions and claims of civil government, that we understand the God-intended relationships of God, man and society. And we saw the statement by Paul, in verses 1 and 2, of the duty of obedience to civil rule.

Now, our focus for today is to understand the grounds on which rest the duty of civil obedience. In Romans 13, Paul gives us two grounds.

1. Governments Derive Their Power from God

Government of civil society is a divine institution, originating in, and sanctioned by the will of God — v.1 – “There is no power but of God.” Recall Acts 17:28, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” All things and powers are from God, even of wild animals and even of Satan. Colossians 1:17, “In Him” (KJV: “By Him”) “all things consist.” Thus, it is certainly clear that through God kings and rulers and leaders are permitted to occupy their thrones and seats of power in civil government: there is a divine providence in the affairs of men by which, for example, Pharaoh was raised up, by which God gave the kingdom to Jeroboam, by which Cyrus was raised up. Jesus summed it up to Pilate in John 19:11, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

If Paul teaches civil obedience merely to powers that be, without address to the issue of holy authority, then Paul’s own teaching would be understood that any evil conqueror, even the devil himself, could plead the divine sanction of obedience and enforce a pre-eminent, but unholy, authority. Such an interpretation is a monstrous conclusion which is self-condemned because it removes the holiness of authority from the raw power of the machinery of government and the machinations of Machiavellian rulers and politicians.

What Paul is teaching here is the duty of obedience to the institution of government, and explains that there is no authority properly exercised by government over men except by that which God has established. Paul proceeded in his teaching in Romans 13, to define with specificity, distinction and brevity, the sort of “power” to which obedience is salutary and required.

2. Authorities are Appointed by God.

“The authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (KJV: “The powers that be are ordained of God.”) 

The general error in interpretation of this clause is to take for granted that this phrase, “the powers that be,” “the authorities that exist,” subjects mankind to all and any existing governments. The same arguments made as to the first ground above apply equally here. Also, for example, note Hosea 8:4, in which there is reference to the establishment of an independent government by the ten tribes under Jeroboam: “They set up kings, but not by Me; they made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.” Daniel referred to what some understand as the Roman Empire (because Rome is near the sea and is built on seven hills or mountains) as a “beast,” not as “she who must be obeyed,” Daniel 7:19: “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast which is different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet.” In Revelation 13:1, the Apostle John, likewise, described the beast, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” Any pestilence so described is to be avoided and shunned, and quickly, and so it cannot be argued that any such government is ordained by God. Like with Jeroboam, God neither made nor acknowledged such a government.

God by His will has called into existence national organization as a government and, in so doing, has set up the proper ends of such governments, by giving them supreme laws which they are called to observe and obey, and set its limits. This is not different as a ministry than the ministry of reconciliation, which God ordained in Christ, willing it into existence, prescribing its duties, its functions, its goals and its limitations.

No other interpretation can be given to Paul’s words which are consistent with due reverence for God, the Holy One of Israel, the Just, upon whose shoulders in Jesus rests the Government! Power not derived from God, not from him, not acknowledged by Him is always illegitimate.

Paul’s teaching demonstrates that it is not beneath the dignity of the Christian to be subject to civil government. Rather than offending Christ, such subjection honors Christ, for it is yieldedness to a divine institution, and cannot be safely withheld.

However, there is a distinction between the institution of government, as noted at the beginning, and the king, ruler, leader or judge in whose hands at the moment lie the reins of power. We shall look into this next time!

Let us pray that, by God’s anointing, we would have our knowledge increased, our understanding blessed with a Godly glow, and our wisdom tutored to God’s glory, that we might come to the fullness of maturity in understanding our part in the relationships of God, Man and Society as we live and breath and act and speak in a continual War of Holiness.

The War of Holiness Part 4

God, Man, and Society Part 2

Overview from last week: God put man to live in social situations, requiring social organization, and God has an interest in man, and his relationship to God, and man’s individual relationships to each other, and man and society’s relationships to each other.

God has a particular interest in nations [Genesis 12:2: “I will make you” (Abraham) “a great nation” . . . . (the Nation of Israel); Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage . . . .”; Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . “].

The Tea Parties of yesterday and recently are in the spirit of the hearts and actions of the colonists that lead to The American Revolution. The Tea Parties are an initial means of peaceful assembly and humble petition for the redress of wrongs by our government. The American Revolution was initiated by our Declaration of Independence from England, demonstrates Man’s belief that God is interested in the relationships of men and society with each other. Take note of these excerpts from the Declaration of Independence (READ). If we were to remain eternally subject to England as our governing authority, until and unless God changed things, then there was no proper American Revolution, because revolution is the opposite of subjection.

As Rev. Willson put the question, which lays on the table before us, in his 1853 work on Romans 13, “Can it be, for a moment, believed, that God has made man a social being – placed him in society, and thus necessitated, by the very laws of the human constitution, the establishment of civil rule, and that he has, after all, set no bounds to the authority; no hedge about the claims of civil rulers? That, after all, He has left this whole matter to be lawfully managed, not by law, even His law, not by rule, but merely according to human caprice, or; what is worse, human ambition, self-seeking, pride, and violence?” We need to grasp that it is not how we answer this question that is so important, but how God answers this question that is so important – and in the light of how God answers this question we may be informed as to our proper answer.

After all, we know, at least in our flesh, that we do not want to be the milk-toasted collaborators, facilitators and followers of Hitlerian fascism and nationalism, nor, at the other extreme, do we want the anarchy of being or coping with Modern Man in the World of the Joker, as we discussed last week.

We will find God’s answer in Scripture, and it will center on Romans 13, but will expand, as any understanding and application of Scripture must, to incorporate the being, the nature and the character of God, who created us in His image, but gave us — for His Glory – the right and power of choice in obedience. So our analysis of this question in Scripture will depend on contextual analysis of Romans 13, and related Scriptures, but also on God’s Godliness.

Let’s get into it a bit, here on the screen is Romans 13: 1-7; let’s read it and I will leave it up on the screen, in verse parts, for discussion and meditation.

Now, let’s see what questions this passage requires us to think about:

  1. The duty of man in general of obedience to civil authority: verse 1
  2. General considerations enforcing this obedience: verses 1 and 2
  3. The design of the appointment of rulers, or of the institution of government: verse 3
  4. The application of these principles to the case of both good and bad citizens: verse 4
  5. The principal of obedience to civil rule: verse 5
  6. A more specific statement of the duties owing to civil government, as previously described: verses 6 and 7.

Let’s look at the first part of verse 1: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” (Note, King James refers to the “Higher Powers.”)

  1. The Greek work here used for “powers” or “authorities” is EXOUSIA, which in Greek denotes any species of authorized power: paternal, ecclesiastical, magisterial. In verse 1 it clearly is in reference to the magisterial, or civil government powers. There is a distinction of importance in the Greek. This word, EXOUSIA, is also used in Matthew 21:23, where Jesus was interrogated by the chief priests and the elders, as to the authority by which He preached and acted, using the word EXOUSIA again. In Acts 3 and Acts 4, we are told of Peter and John healing the lame man at the Temple, then speaking to the people, and were accosted by the priests, the captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees. In verses 8-13, of Chapter 4, Peter explained that the healing was done by a greater power and authority than themselves: “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by whom this man (the healed, formerly lame man) stands here before you whole . . . . when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” This passage serve to elucidate, to explain, a distinction between a power or ability emanating from our own will, or from the will of a higher power or authority. You see, there is another Greek word, DUNAMIS, which refers to an institution endued with the ability and the authority to execute its own will. Clearly, EXOUSIA, as used in Matthew 21:23 and in Romans 13:1, refers to something different, to an institution endued with the right to enact and administer law by some authority other than its own, mere will.
  2. The Greek word HUPERECHO, rendered in English as “higher,” properly signifies prominence or eminence, excellent or excelling. We see this same Greek root work in other NT verses (Philippians 2:3, “Let each esteem others better” (HUPERECHO) “than themselves.”; Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth” (HUPERECHO) “all understanding”; Philippians 3:8, “For the excellency” (STA TO HUPERECHO) “of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
  3. Putting the words together, “Higher Powers” means powers possessing a due measure of the qualifications required for the rightful exercise of the power of civil rule. There is an inherent majesty, an inherent moral excellence and character expressed in lawful governmental power, which puts its subjects in a healthy state of awe. Note that Paul is referring to the institution of government, not to particular magistrates by whom the authority of the institution of government is exercised – he does not get to “rulers” until verse 3 – he is referring in verse 1, if you will, to government in the abstract, the institution of civil rule as ordained by God for the benefit of man and society.
  4. Subjection to the institution of civil government is what God ordained, and that by all men. This is intended to be a happy, free and voluntary subjection, as evidenced by Paul’s use of the word, HUPOTASSO), denoting an orderly and due submission, both genuine and hearty. Paul defines the subjection more fully, that we might understand it better in verses 5 and 7: “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake . . . . render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” This is as distinguished from the forced obedience to the strongman’s demand of money, property or rape, because there is no possibility of escape or of successful resistance. But here, Paul is only dealing with the duty of subjection to the institution of civil government.
  5. The context of God and Godliness in which this duty of genuine and hearty subjection, by every soul, to the institution of civil government applies is, as in all things, necessarily limited by the paramount claims of the law of God. Only an atheist – a Modern Man living in the World of The Joker – can argue that the law of the land can legitimately set aside, weaken or nullify the authority of the law of God. Remember, there is a God above all, as we are reminded in Philippians 2: 20-11, “. . . at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” If obedience and subjection are thus limited to bowing before the mere Name of Jesus and confessing that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, for the BEST government, surely it cannot be argued, except by the atheist or the Modern Man of the World of the Joker, that subjection to a government exercising unholy powers should go beyond such bowing and confession. You see, this is the important thing; subjection – yieldedness – to the civil government institution can only be given by the Christian subject-citizen when it can be done without SIN. If cannot be done without SIN, then every Christian subject-citizen must follow the example of Daniel and Christ, and many other believers, and suffer rather than sin. We are the church; Christ is our head (Ephesians 5: 23-24), and to Him alone do we belong and to Him alone are we subject. We have one master – Christ, and are bid to disobey any command that calls us into sin, even if we invoke suffering as our wages. The church and its members – us – owe no allegiance to any Head other than Christ. For any institution of civil government to claim supremacy over the church, the Bride of Christ, is a presumptuous and unwarranted usurpation of God and His Godliness. Are you beginning to see that you cannot understand and apply Scripture in a vacuum in which God and His Godliness are absent, in which obedience to the institution of civil government calls us from purity into sin?

Conclusions for the Day

  1. Christians, like our Founding Fathers, should come to an understanding, and take a strong interest in the subject of civil government. It is not too far away nor too spoiled and unholy for the attention of Christians. Such study is necessary for understanding our duty of obedience and subjection to the higher powers. Independence Day celebrations should cause each family to pull out a copy of the Declaration of Independence and read it and talk about it at table, and to consider how to bring back the proper Christian understanding of God, man and society;
  2. Ministers should explain the doctrine of the Word of God on this subject. But alas, as in Hitler’s Germany, the German Church abandoned the pulpit on this issue and stood meekly by, encouraging the two-world view and approved, if not embraced, the slaughter of the Jews and the reckless and evil invasions of Europe and Russia, and the axis of evil of Germany-Italy-Japan, in their quest to own and divide the spoils of the earth and its nations, God’s earth and nations. Nations have ambassadors; we are ambassadors of Christ, and after our own circles of family and friends, we are first ambassadors to our own nations, and as ambassadors we have some reminder messages to deliver to the people and leadership of our nation. In so doing, we should keep closely in obedience to Scripture and the fullness of the Godhead, to bring forth glory to Christ in all things.

The War of Holiness Part 3

God, Man, and Society Part 1


In the Great Commandment of Matthew 22, we are taught to understand the importance of man’s relationship to God, and man’s relationship to man, and that man’s relationship to man is important to God, is prescribed by God and that we are called to relate to our fellow man, individually as neighbors, and corporately as society, according to certain specific principles laid down by God in His Word.

Many in history have understood this, and many in history have gotten confused, misguided and mistaken. Such errors have led many into obscure cults, self-imposed segregation from society, and at times an overwhelming (?) self-absorption.

I know of no one, today, who remains unconcerned about our world, nation, economy, personal security. Such concerns, regardless of beliefs, are together the universal common denominator of mankind, in our society and elsewhere. However, what people everywhere are struggling with is the question of what to do about such concerns. Among many of the leaders of our great nation are men and women who are Christian believers, we have large churches led by Christian believers, we have Christian people, or at least who profess such beliefs, in policy-making positions here and in numerous — not all – nations around the globe. Yet, it is undeniable that the voices of these Christian policy makers are dim in the address of such concerns from a policy perspective. As these voices dim, since power abhors a vacuum, we face the reality that so-called progressive thought is mounting a direct assault on Christianity. And we wonder why progressive thought threatens Christianity. It is because progressive thought embraces a virtually-unlimited governmental power and a no-holds-barred morality. Making the State larger, more intrusive in the lives of people, and making it more powerful as against the lives and rights and privileges of its citizens, requires a severe re-reading of the Word of God, indeed the redefinition of God Himself. But we know that our God, our Jesus, is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will not be remade, He will not be redefined. He will not be put in the box of those in power who think they are truly in control. They are not truly in control. Christianity itself puts limits on government and establishes moral boundaries. Consequently, we have the grim reality that, through the work of malicious, or misguided, or double-minded policy-makers, the light of Christ is dimming in the world, and in the policies of the governments of the world and our own nation. This is more than sad; it is sin in the world, the nation, the church and individual lives. It is the foundation today for a heart cry from II Chronicles 7:14, not just for our nation’s land, but for the land of the world!

One of the painful and deeply misguided teachings in the church for centuries has been what is called the “two-kingdom” analysis of God, man and society. It was first taught by St. Augustine (circa 400 AD), who taught that the church was the spiritual City of God, to be distinguished from the material City of Man. This teaching carried through the church for centuries, and even found favor with Martin Luther (circa 1525 AD). With attribution to Gary DeMar, in the Foreword to the republication in 2009 of The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government, an exposition of Romans 13: 1-7, “Two-kingdon social theory teaches that ‘heavenly things’ are directed exclusively by God’s redemptive grace through Spiritual Revelation while ‘earthly things’ are formulated by God’s common grace through Natural Revelation. In this ideal but naïve world, believers and unbelievers, because they are created in the image of God, can work together to construct society using common-ground features found in Natural Revelation and guided by reason. As long as most people believed in God, such a world was theoretically possible since Natural Revelation was interpreted, either consciously or unconsciously, by Special Revelation, the Bible.”

This at least theoretical compatibility of the two kingdoms perished in 1859, the nasty by-product of Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species, as evolution killed Special Revelation, the privilege of common grace, Natural Revelation, and the belief that there is a common humanity created in the image of God. Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled nihilist, living beyond “good and evil” (the title of Nietzsche’s first book, published in 1886).

As Francis Shaeffer has described it, nature – that which is known through reason – began to “eat up grace,” which is known through Spiritual, or Special, Revelation. Following Darwin’s lead, many leading theologians and Christian publishers by the end of WWII began to dismiss the possibility of Special or Spiritual Revelation in a material and evolving cosmos. Darwin unleashed modern day aetheistic science and created Modern Man in its image. Schaeffer has described Modern Man, not made in the image of God and not privileged by Special, or Spiritual Revelation: “If the unsaved man was consistent he would be an atheist in religion, an irrationalist in philosophy (including a complete uncertainty concerning ‘natural laws’), and completely a-moral in the widest sense.” The modern atheist and principal antagonist to the principle of Intelligent Design of the Universe, Richard Dawkins, asserts that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” In reality, Darwin, Richard Dawkins and other like-minded souls have rendered irrelevant the two-kingdom approach to God, man and society. This means we have experienced in my lifetime a real shift in worldview thinking.

Let us consider, again with attribution to Pastor DeMar as noted above, two examples, the Joker from Batman and Adolf Hitler:

  1. The Joker from Batman (The film, The Dark Knight, 2008): Bruce Wayne (Christopher Bale) tells Alfred (Michael Cain) that criminals are “not complicated,” we just need to find out what The Joker wants. You see, in a world where there is general agreement of an acknowledged universal moral order, the actions of criminals always made sense. Even criminals knew they were wrong. The Joker is different, now. He operates from a different point of view, even an anti-point of view. Alfred tells Bruce that “some men just want to watch the world burn.” When Batman tried to beat the Joker into telling his plans, the Joker cackled with glee at the pain and taunted Batman: “you have nothing to frighten me with.” You see, the Joker lives in a world that (thank you Nietzsche and Darwin) is beyond good and evil. He does not, cannot, fear God; rather he denies the existence of God. Why should the Joker fear that which he does not believe exists? There cannot be a two-kingdom approach to God, man and society for Modern Man who lives – in America and elsewhere – in the Joker’s world.
  2. Adolph Hitler: Hitler used the two-kingdom approach to Christian analysis of God, man and society to his great political advantage. As explained by Richard Demarest in 1982, in his study of General Revelation, “A Majority within the state church (known as the ‘German Christians’) unwittingly or otherwise embraced the new national religion, founded not on the Word of God but on the divine will allegedly embedded in the natural order. Emerging from this fatal exchange came a semi-Christian natural religion (some would say a new paganism) in which the church became a servile instrument of Nazi policy . . . .!” In other words, Hitler knew he could get away with a lot of his oppressive policies because a majority of German Christians did not believe that it was permissible, in God’s view, to bring the Bible to bear in realms they considered to be outside the reach of its limited jurisdiction. Politics was considered to be official neutral territory – a sort of religiously demilitarized zone. They held to these principles of Augustine and Luther, and the “theologians” and accepted a complete misreading of Romans 13: 1-7; and related Scripture, to conclude that those who happened to be in political power were God’s ministers, regardless of the good or evil of their policies, and that such political ministers, and such governmental policies, were off-limits, beyond the limited jurisdiction of God and the church, to call any of them into accountability.

As explained by Richard V. Pierard, “German Lutherans made a strong bifurcation between the realm of public and private concerns . . . . Religion was the domain of the inner personal life, while the institutional and external, the public, so to speak, belonged to the worldly power. Redemption was exclusively the province of the church, while the law, determinative for external conduct of human affairs, was solely the province of the state. Religion was a private matter that concerned itself with the personal and moral development of the individual. The external order – nature, scientific knowledge, statecraft – operated on the basis of its own internal logic and discernable laws.” (1978).

In the Hitlerian experience, while Christians might oppose Nazi policies on a personal level, they were conditioned by the public education system, the government, and even the German Church itself, to believe that not only were they impotent, but that they were specifically instructed by the Bible to avoid any effort to alter or oppose the policies of the government.

From the Hitlerian experience, the progressives in America have been emboldened. We hear the steady cry now of separation of church and state, and are told that this so-called constitutional provision requires the silence and paralysis of the church in its voice, vote and feet on all social and political – so-called “external” issues, and that – in a great perversion of the Bible and the Constitution, only those progressive pastors and churches who are supportive of the politically powerful and their anti-Chritian point of view, may speak freely from the pulpit!

Where the Christian culture has gone wrong – and allowed the world and the nation to go wrong with it – is it getting stuck in salvation and in not choosing to believe that Jesus is – and should be – Lord of all life. Schaeffer figured it out; Paul McQuire ( a syndicated talk show host from California) who has thus quoted Schaeffer figured it out; Gary DeMar figured it out, and it is time for everyone to figure it out. In our church we have been preaching growth, maturity, obedience, self-discipline because we figured it out. In all of life it is the Lord’s way, by His grace and power and authority, or no way.

Yes, in the relationship of God, man and society, we have Matthew 22:21 (Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”) and we have Romans 13 (in part, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. . . . “) In America, if we have a Caesar it is our Constitution, and that is based on the inalienable rights with which we have been endowed by our Creator God. And our Constitution recognizes its limits and assures the right of the voting people to

  1. express their grievances and to assemble for such purposes;
  2. vote out corrupt and oath-breaking officials;
  3. change existing laws – bad policy – through the legislative process.

As we will see in days and messages to come, there is no proper two-kingdom approach to the relationship of God, man and society; there is only a one-kingdom approach and God will ultimately make it so in the New Jerusalem, but we should be mindful, meantime, of our responsibility to treat every word and act as an act of war in the War of Holiness, and to try to make II Chronicles 7:14 the heart cry of every citizen of the world!

End Note 1: II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The War of Holiness Part 2

On June 7, we received Part I of this message, The War of Holiness. We were reminded that God has called us, (2 Tim 1: 8-10) with a holy calling, to holiness in Christ Jesus, and it is our responses to this call which divides, and has always divided, the world. This division of the world, on a public and a private scale is warring, war-like, and a real war – The War of Holiness!

In brief review, Hebrews 7:26 provides God’s definition of holiness, a description of Jesus as High Priest, of whom it was there said, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners . . . .” The definition of holiness: “harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” The War of Holiness is over our choices. In accepting God’s holy calling, we are challenged by the worldly and satanic forces of personality, persuasion, manipulation, money and physical force, and we are challenged throughout our lives:

  1. to make an initial choice to accept the Holy Calling of God;
  2. to know and understand this Holy Calling of God;
  3. to make, continually and continuing, holy choices in the decisions of our lives, knowing that every breath, every word, every deed, every plan, is an act of war, one way or the other, in the way of holiness.

And 2 Tim 1:8-10 calls us, in this Holy Calling, not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, and to share in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, for his purpose and by the grace given us in Christ Jesus.

On this occasion to celebrate fathers, Father’s Day, I am reminded of this War of Holiness, this holy calling by God, because God has called us men to be priests, prophets and kings over our families and households; he has called us to be the leaders of our families and households, and this War of Holiness challenges men at every turn and place. God’s holy calling is for men

  1. to nurture the faith to accept the calling, that initial choice;
  2. to execute the self-discipline to study, read, meditate, pray and communicate with God, so as to know and understand this Holy Calling;
  3. to muster the will and the courage, in faith, to make, continually, and continuing, holy choices in the decisions of our lives, and as affecting the lives of our families and our households.

Let’s talk about manly leadership in these three areas.

First, God’s Holy Calling goes back a ways: It is described in Leviticus 20:26 (“And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.”), speaking of the Hebrew descendants of Abraham. And the rest of mankind is given the opportunity, by faith, to be grafted into that bloodstock by the ministry of reconciliation in the Blood of Jesus (see Romans 11:13-20). And to Jew and Gentile alike, this Holy Calling (Romans 12:1) is to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, as our reasonable service to Him. In accepting this Holy Calling, we hear the cry of Jesus as He started His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:17), “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand;” we remember the invitation of Jesus (John 3:16-18 and Revelation 20:6), that because of God’s love, those who believe in Jesus shall have everlasting life; and that we shall reign and rule with Christ.

Second, in knowing and understanding this Holy Calling of God, we have to really grasp the magnitude of the Blood of Jesus: Colossians 1: 21-23 (“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – and if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard . . . .”). Men struggle with their weaknesses and their strengths, their passions and their lazinesses: the manifestations are in failures to love and honor God by obedience to His commands, and by failure of our families by failing to make or to sustain commitment, addictions, selfishness, criminality, violence and abuse, unforgiveness, refusing to be accountable or to accept responsibility, and even by simple failures like coarse language, humor. That struggle, that battle, alienates us from God and from our families and makes us God’s enemies in our minds, as we try to justify such failures and foolishness. That struggle is the War of Holiness! In this struggle, we need accountability, with our families, with other men, with our church members, and with the Holy Spirit. In Hebrews 3: 12-14, the importance of that accountability is clarified, so that we hold on to our salvation (just like it mentioned in Colossians 1:21-23: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end . . . (and not rebel).” In the great consistency of the Holy Scripture, this message is sealed in Revelation 22:11, “. . . he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”

Third, in living our lives, men, we learn from God how to live them and we just have to choose to do it right: to love God with all that we are (and thereby to obey Him) and to love our families more than ourselves (and there by to serve them). God has shown us this way to live, to win the War of Holiness, in two special scriptures, one in Ephesians and one in Colossians. In Ephesians, 5:25-28, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife, loves himself.” And in Colosssians 3:12-17, “Therefore as the elect of God, holy and believed, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (sounds like the Sermon on the Mount and the fruit of the Spirit!!); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another . . . but above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called, in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do, in word or deed” (all Acts of War in the War of Holiness), “do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Today, I am speaking to fathers, especially, and to young men who, God willing, shall become fathers, and to mothers, and wives, and young women who seek to become mothers. To the women not married, know what you are looking for, what God has planned for you in a husband and father. To the men not married, know what God has planned for you in being a husband and father.

I speak to all of you on this Father’s Day 2009: God has called you to the bond of perfection – love – which produces obedience to God’s will, and service to those around us, especially our families, our wives and children! You understand the Holy Calling now, and you need to continue to study it and talk to the Holy Spirit, and read the Word, and pray, and talk to your family and your accountability partners, and accept correction from any of these worthy sources (that is what accountability is for – repentance). In your repentance, as a way of life, choose to fit your life, continually and courageously, into the definition of holiness, in the model of Jesus Christ, as one who is “harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” If you’re going to be a Christian, you’ve got to act like Christ – Amen?!