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ISSUES AND CONCERNS

 

Jude’s Admonition

Most people prefer to focus on those things they deem positive. We who believe in Jesus Christ are really no different. We, too, prefer discussing positive things, like how God showers His blessings upon us and how we enjoy hearing about the good being done by our fellow Christians.

      On the other hand, circumstances sometimes materialize which demand we detour around the positive in order to confront negative issues that arise within the Church; especially now, as liberal lunacy has seemingly gone ballistic!

      The infant Church experienced division brought about by false teachers who tinkered with the truth, leaving much of it out, while interjecting their own biased preferences and views for a variety of vain, selfish, and old law-related reasons.

      During the early days of the Church, these false teachers became such a threat that Jude, believed by most to be the brother of James, was compelled by the Holy Spirit to issue strong warnings concerning such false teachers in his Epistle.

      Those truly called to the ministry today often find themselves in similar situations. Not wanting to dwell on anything negative, for fear of being considered unchristian, many sidestep confronting those who distort the Gospel, either by omitting critical parts of it, or through the promulgating of falsehoods…some done purposely and others done due simply to their ignorance concerning the truth. After all, who wants to be accused of criticizing others who claim the name of the Lord?

      But Jude’s Epistle remains an authoritative example of the need for occasional “negative” preaching and teaching, as God’s people need to be alerted to and warned about dangerous and misleading heresies that arise, whether in the days of the early Church or today. Not only does Jude make his own declarations in this regard, he also refers to similar warnings by the apostles. Peter, Paul, and John made such things abundantly clear as well.

      Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 3,4)

      These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (Jude 19)

The dedicated, faithful, and learned teachers of God’s Word will always assist others in distinguishing truth from error, regardless of the possibility of being labeled negative by some. When considered seriously in the light of God’s Word, such actions are, in and of themselves, most positive.

 

Discerning Debate or War of Words?

 

I can’t remember a time when the religious and scientific communities weren’t at each other’s throats over the origin of things. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about enough of the seemingly endless argument between the two groups, regarding how and when all things came into being, and where mankind originated.


     Radical left-wing thinking looks at all forms of life and deems such life to be the result of billions of years of evolution, from which man crawled up out of the mire, eventually created a rocket ship and went to the moon; yet sees no intelligent design in this, as that would require acceptance of an intelligent designer. In fact, such thinkers claim there is no God. 


The FOOL says in his heart,“There is no God…” (Psalm 53:1)


     Quite frankly, the biblical account of creation and the various scientific theories have much in common; but when either is taken to extremes, both become questionable in the minds of most who are subjected to the ensuing ranting and raving concerning those extremes. Let’s look at a pair of prime examples:


     A young mother of four children, who was eleven weeks pregnant, suffered severe complications of pulmonary hypertension, while being cared for at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. A senior administrator of that hospital, Sister Margaret McBride, authorized a legal abortion, after first consulting with the young mother’s doctor, her family, and the local ethics committee. Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who stated, “The mother’s life can’t be preferred over the child’s,” excommunicated Sister McBride.


     Most men, who would intentionally allow a mother to die and orphan her four small children, would be considered heartless monsters. Such irresponsible irrationality should not go without serious challenge and a demand for accountability. The cleric’s decision would hardly be in sync with that of King Solomon, when his God-given wisdom was functioning at its peak.


     On the flip side of this extremist coin we encounter a highly respected, science-driven, university professor, claiming “the only species of great apes that can’t survive without artificial assistance is the species known as humans (homo sapiens).” In other words, we’re not merely apes, we’re “great” apes.


     No wonder skeptics of both religion and science abound. With loose cannons like these in positions capable of influencing others, is it any wonder people scoff at both camps?


     The Holy Bible tells us God created both male and female human beings; i.e., man. Science says humans developed from earlier species of animals. The Bible declares we were created in the image and likeness of God, indicating we possessed God-given intelligence from the beginning, and also indicating God is not a fish, reptile, animal, bird or insect. Science asserts it took eons for our predecessor animal forms to “develop” the level of intelligence required to achieve the astounding feats mankind had amassed to the present. Of course science can’t explain how those former animals were able to accomplish that. Science simply proclaims that’s the way it must have been.


     The Bible tells us God made the heavens and the earth. It does not divulge precisely how God went about it. Scripture informs us God spoke these things into existence. 


     Science suggests everything began as the result of a cataclysmic explosion. Evolving from this enormous “bang” in the middle of space, (where nothing existed, yet blew up and eventually resulted in everything that does exist) were planets, moons, stars, suns, water, air, plants, and all forms of life on land, in the air, and under the seas. From species weighing more than 60-tons, to microscopic organisms invisible to the naked eye, and from gigantic plants tipping the scales at an estimated 1,500 tons, to weightless three-leaf clovers. No Creator…just a big bang with all things proceeding from there.


     Scientists take the position that allowing religion to be immune from criticism is unwarranted and dangerous. They are, for the most part, referring to Christianity. Science wants religion to be held accountable when certain of its proponents become harmful through fanatical ideas and acts, yet turns defensive when “scientifically” produced medications often maim and kill those who use them with “side effects” immune from legal enforcement. Where is genuine reason in the midst of this mutual bickering?


      Science scoffs at the Christian’s belief in God as the great Creator, and instead asks us to accept the “scientific” premise we evolved from ooze, pollywogs, monkeys, and great apes. If we did, in fact, evolve from those things, why do they still exist today? Why are they still here? Why aren’t their offspring “evolving” into humans?


     Their theories remind me of the old children’s poem: “Once I was a tadpole, then I learned to swim and became a bullfrog with my tail tucked in. Soon I was a monkey, hanging from a tree, and today I am a doctor with a Ph.D.”


Science laughs at the Bible’s account of the parting of the Red Sea, and would instead have us believe the Egyptian army, it’s horses, chariots and weaponry were all destroyed in twelve inches of water and washed ashore at the Sea of Reeds.


     Over the years, this sort of nonsense has convinced me that extremism only compounds the problem and solves nothing. I know in my heart that only a Supreme Being with unfathomable power and intelligence, an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God could have designed and created all that exists. Who or what else could possibly keep the ever-expanding universe under control, planets in their orbits, invent gravity, and prepare a place for the souls of the faithful?


     God is love. God is Spirit. The cross of Christ and his resurrection cannot be measured in laboratories filled with bubbling test tubes. Such things are only discerned in the hearts and minds of God’s most precious creation…mankind itself.


     There is distinct order to God’s design. This is why bananas don’t grow on rose bushes, why lions have manes rather than wings, and why sharks have fins and not fur. It’s also why contemporary apes remain apes, rather than eventually becoming leaders of the free world.


     Science has its place…research, discovery and service-related production. Religion, on the other hand, is mostly man’s creation. God, however, has nothing to do with “religion.” God is…God! God did not create or develop religion; man did. Thus, we have many religions, sects, denominations, etc. There is, however, one God, one Creator, and one Savior. His deeds are recorded. We know much of the what, but not the how.


     Since we are not all likeminded, we debate that which we don’t really understand. It won’t be until we fully understand unity does not necessarily mean like-mindedness, that we’ll be able to respect one another’s opinions. There is much truth in science, but all truth rests with God.


     Let’s learn to live with that…   

 

 

 

Taking the Gloves Off
By Jim Roberts

 

The questions fired at me by this large group of high school students took me completely by surprise. I had simply asked them what they would like to discuss in Sunday school. There had been talk about their lack of residual tolerance concerning the usual topical material provided by typical church-related publishers, and as their new teacher, I was curious as to what they deemed worthy of their attention.

Here is a sampling of their questions, indicating the areas of their curiosity. They wanted to know how the Bible responds to questions like:

  • Is it a sin for me to hate my father for beating up my mother all the time?

  • What’s the difference between adultery and fornication?

  • Just how wrong is premarital sex, anyway?

  • Is divorce ever justified?

  • How can I be assured of having a good marriage?

  • What about the gay and lesbian issue; should men be marrying men and women marrying women?

  • Why do I sin, seek forgiveness, and then commit the same sin over and over again?

  • Is the Bible always right? Does it contradict itself?

  • Can I “fall from grace” and actually lose my salvation?

  • There are so many churches; which is the one Christ built?

  • How can a Christian be meek and humble, and strong and bold at the same time?

  • Are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses cultists?

  • What happens to people who never hear the Gospel? What about little babies? How can they believe in Jesus if they’ve never heard of him? Are they doomed?

  • John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Who gets baptized with fire? Is my baptism in water of no account?

  • What is meant by “many are called but few are chosen?” How do I know which I am, called or chosen?

  • Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

  • Why are some people healed and others are not?

  • Is predestination true or false?

  • What’s the difference between an atheist, an agnostic, and an apostate? The dictionary is about as clear as mud!

  • In the 18th Chapter of 1 Samuel, we read that an evil spirit came from God. How can anything evil come from God?

  • Can a Christian be demon possessed?

  • Am I an inferior Christian if I can’t speak in tongues?

 

As a result of this initial rookie session with these youngsters (42 in all), I had them put their questions in writing, assuring them we would not rest until we had dealt with every question from a biblical viewpoint. There were a total of 139 questions turned in the following Sunday. Due to a number of duplications, we ended up with 87 questions with which to deal. I prepared an entire Sunday school year of curricula wherein the Bible responded to every question. After our congregation’s senior pastor and education committee reviewed my material, I was given the green light to use it. While there was some concern about the sexual orientation and marital issues being better handled at home with the parents, the eventual consensus was if these inquisitive teenagers were receiving this information at home, they wouldn’t be asking such questions at church.

“Better they hear answers from God’s word than from somebody at school or on the street,” was the committee’s reasoning.

The resulting series was entitled, THE ANVIL YEARS. It became the most popular curricula I ever used and it served well for seven years, until I moved on to become a leader in Adult classes.

I learned something significant from my time with these high school students; that publishing houses are spinning out material in which the youngsters of today have no interest. I learned that we need to stop underestimating our youth, and to feed them information from God’s word that deals directly with what confronts them on a daily basis; e.g., drugs, gangs, sex, peer pressure, broken relationships, problems at home, divorcing parents, other religious beliefs, and eternal security in Jesus Christ.

Let’s take the gloves off, set Mary and her little lamb aside, put David and Goliath back on the bookshelf, and give these young people what they need to help them cope in today’s world.  

The Idle Christian

 

Dwight L. Moody was once confronted by a group of complaining church people who said, “We don’t much care for your way of doing things.”

Moody thought about that for a moment and then replied, ”I don’t much care for it either, but I prefer it your way of not doing things!”

One of the more controversial passages of Scripture in the Bible is found in James 2:14-26, wherein James discusses the inseparable connection between faith and deeds.

I find it quite odd, even strangely humorous, that many professed Christians tout James’ handling of our trials and temptations; faithful prayer; patience and suffering; submission to God; boasting; wisdom; control of our speech and favoritism, yet spurn and disregard his commentary on faith and deeds. It’s as if they choose to believe that the Holy Spirit inspired James to write what we find in James 1:1 through James 3:18, with the exception of James 2:14-26 as mentioned above. In other words, by their actions, they insist that of the 108 verses contained in the Epistle of James, 13 of those verses are of no account.

Why do you suppose they uphold that view? Could it be that those 13 verses step on too many toes? Perhaps it’s because they don’t really understand those 13 verses. It is said that Martin Luther himself had trouble with that passage of Scripture; not because he didn’t believe the passage, but because of his concern that it could be misinterpreted by some who might think deeds (works) were a means of securing or maintaining their salvation.

James is not talking about salvation in this instance; he’s referring to letting our lights shine before men, as Jesus taught us to do, through good works for the glory of God. As has been said so many times, and rightfully so, “A sermon seen is far more convincing than a sermon heard.” A more contemporary or familiar version may be, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Let’s look at this dialectic passage of Scripture for ourselves and get to the bottom of what the Holy Spirit has inspired James to convey to us.

What use is it my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26 NASB)

What Christian in their right mind can stomach the words “faith” and “dead” in the same sentence or statement? It seems to go against the grain, doesn’t it? Paul tells us we are justified by faith (Romans 3:28; 5:1), so what in the world is James talking about; is he contradicting Paul? Has the Holy Spirit inspired these two apostles to disagree in the printed word for all time? Absolutely not! Paul tells us we are justified by faith APART FROM THE WORKS OF THE LAW. (Romans 3:28) James is saying our justification and our faith is evident by what we do.

Perhaps it would be helpful to know there are twelve usages in Greek for the word “dead;” 9 are nouns and 3 are verbs. The Greek meaning for “dead,” as it appears in James 2:17 is “inactive.” This Greek term has 2 Greek synonyms, which mean “dormant” and “idle.” Thus, James is saying that faith without being manifested in accompanying deeds is inactive, dormant, idle…dead.

Paul writes: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Does James disagree? Not at all. Like Paul, James is writing to believers who are already saved. Look at the very next verse in Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (2:10), wherein he writes: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

As Christians, as those who have been saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus, let us not allow our faith to become inactive, dormant or idle. On the contrary, let’s ensure that our light shines for all to see; not simply by what we say, but also by what we do, knowing full well that apart from Christ, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)

 

Bride or Groom?

As one living in an overwhelmingly family-oriented suburb of Los Angeles, I am being inundated with the protesting aftermath staged by those who opposed Proposition 8 during our recent election. Like the majority of voters in our state, my community favored the passage of that particular Proposition. In other words, we believe a bride should be female and a groom should be male. Yes, as old-fashioned and as outdated as may appear to some, we firmly stand on the principle that “marriage” should be the sacred coupling of one man with one woman, and because we believe this, we are accused by contemporary liberals of promulgating “hate.”

What has happened to the clear logic and childlike faith that played such a vital role in making America great? How did civil rights and special rights get so mixed-up? Why is a portion of our society becoming so determined to openly mock God? Protest marches advocating men marrying men and women marrying women? Have we lost our minds?

We coddle criminals, citing their rights, while often disregarding the rights of victims. We tolerate the wholesale slaughter of helpless babies, mostly in the wake of irresponsible sexual promiscuity, while being appalled by someone who mistreats their dog. We support our local Sheriff by having a fit every time one of the bad guys gets bopped in the head with a peace officer’s baton, and with the same breath complain that crime is running amok. We stand in grocery checkout lines laughing at and ridiculing tabloid headlines, yet take seriously the columns in our newspapers that print much of the same nonsense. We elect public servants based on their appearance and their ability to skillfully articulate what we want to hear, rather than their proven ability to lead. So, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that many of us desire to sing, “Here Comes the Groom!”

How long will Almighty God put up with us? Sodom and Gomorrah are used as examples and a solemn warning to anyone who rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:14-15). Those cities were saturated with sexual perversion including sodomy, homosexuality, and adultery. Violation of God’s law was rampant. The total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is historic fact. Mankind cannot mock God and retain a free pass at the same time. Whoever thinks otherwise is self-deceived, as we inevitably reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

Same sex marriage is at odds with God’s established order of things. Those who march in support of same sex marriage march against God. Bringing this to their attention is not “hate.” On the contrary, it is precisely the opposite.

            

One Way

While serving on jury duty recently, I couldn’t help overhearing two young ladies expressing their view concerning the subject of “religion.” I use the term “view” in the singular because they agreed with one another and therefore had expressed but one view.

They believed, as so many do, that all religions are based upon faith in the same Supreme Being, and if there is a heaven, people will get there regardless of the belief system with which they identify. In other words, by living a good life, doing the right things, and demonstrating consistent, disciplined faith in a Supreme Being (their words), a person will attain an after-life, provided such a life actually exists after death.

I would guess these two young women were successfully employed professionals. They were dressed accordingly and they were both quite articulate, indicating a high probability of having received the benefit of a fine education. However, it was clearly evident their knowledge of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was extremely limited.

Behind their rhetoric was the premise that all religions basically teach the same things, but simply do so in different ways. They couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about and why Christians, Moslems, Buddhists and others never seem to see eye-to-eye on things. “After all,” said one of these ladies, “they all worship the same Supreme Being, don’t they?”

As I listened, it became more than apparent these ladies were not only uninformed about the Gospel, they knew nothing about religions in general. They were obviously relying on conjecture and built-in opinion.

A number of years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker which could be seen displayed on the back of many vehicles. It read, “One Way.” Perhaps you recall seeing it on the streets and highways of your city and state. It was certainly prevalent here in California. It’s meaning was clear. It meant that the only way to life eternal (heaven) is through Jesus Christ.

All religions are not the same…not at all. They teach many things in opposition to one another. Christianity is the ONLY faith that recognizes Jesus Christ as the one God who became man and died for the sins of the world, then rose from the dead on the third day. Christianity is the ONLY faith that proclaims salvation through trust in this same Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as portrayed by Islam, even Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science and certain other religions, sects or cults, is NOT the same Jesus who is revealed to us in the Bible. In those belief systems salvation is attained by works and not by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.

While various religions may seem to be the same, as was assumed by those two ladies in the jury room, their central teachings are far apart. Once one has looked carefully at what these religions teach, it becomes blatantly obvious that the God of the Christians (the God revealed in the Bible) and the God of the Moslems, Buddhists, etc., is not the same.

To this one might say, “Yes, but you’re relying on the Bible as your sole evidence or proof. How do you KNOW the Bible is true and how do you KNOW Christianity is based on truth; can you prove it?”

The Bible is the only book comprised of records written by numerous inspired writers representing various backgrounds and walks of life, over a span of sixteen centuries, and yet is unified so perfectly in its central theme and message. When, in the light of history and archaeological discovery, one thoughtfully examines the facts, it is very difficult to defend having an intellectual problem with the Bible’s content. It then comes down to a matter of faith. There are those who take the position, “Despite the proof, I don’t believe!”

To that I can only add, “Despite your unbelief, there is still only ‘One Way.’”

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

   

Inward Outlook

 

John Wooden once said, “The moment your past is more exciting than your future, you start to die.” I know what he meant and I agree with him.

Pondering those words, I ask myself, “Is my past more exciting than my future?” Perhaps it depends on my definition of “excitement.” Combining input from several dictionaries indicates that excitement is the result of emotional arousal or stimulation; the awakening or stirring-up of feelings. Yes, that would be my definition as well.

With that definition in mind, like most of us, I’ve known the rush and the thrill of excitement many times and in many ways throughout my life. I recall events that occurred during my youth, my years in the United States Army, corporate life, and serving our Lord in a direct way through the Church. I also remember with tremendous satisfaction the excitement of meeting and courting my fantastic wife, Sandy, the births of our three children and later our grandchildren. Those are tough acts to follow.

“Now that I’m retired,” I ask myself, “what kind of excitement could possibly await me in the future to match that of the past?” Well, let’s examine that question for a few moments and see if we can produce an answer, shall we?

I retired nearly eight years ago at the age of sixty-five. Since that time I have done some consulting work, tutored elementary school children in reading, continued to help out in our family’s congregation, written three of my four books, served on the board of directors of a senior-living organization, and played taxi driver for myriad purposes.

Technically, however, those things are also in the past. What exciting things await me, and others like me, in the future? At my age, isn’t the future simply a foregone conclusion? Won’t it just consist of a continued loss of hair, reduction of hearing, ebbing away of keen sight, and an acceleration of aches and pains, culminating in bodily deterioration and eventual death?

This, I believe, is where one’s overall outlook on life comes into play, and it requires an inward view. I’m convinced this is where a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, has a marked advantage over a non-believer. You see, my “future” is eternal; it has no end. Oh, I’ll experience a physical death all right, but because Christ lives, I will live also. (John 14:19)

I think of the most beautiful things I have ever seen…my wife, my children, my family and friends, the rising and setting sun from thirty-one thousand feet above the earth’s surface, snow-capped Alps, the vast expanse of the seas, green valleys, sprawling prairies, magnificent cities on two continents, Alaskan glaciers and crowded forests.

I recall the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard…the laughter of little children at play, wind whistling through tall pines, the wondrous tones of inspiring music, a trickling brook, crashing waves at the seashore, rain on the roof, and the endless array of songs from a mocking bird.

Wild imaginings of all kinds of things, places, adventures and events have filled my heart from childhood to this very day; yet I sometimes wonder, “Is there anything like this left in my future? Is my glass half empty or is it half full?”

Then the words of Jesus and the apostle Paul echo in my mind and “excite” me to the depths of my soul. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36a - NASB) He said, “…I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2b – NASB)

Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah, writes, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 – NASB))

As one who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ since childhood, my future is going to be filled with awesome things I have never seen, beautiful sounds I have never heard, and indescribable events I’m not even capable of imagining; not even in the deepest corners of my mind. To top it off, it’s going to last forever.

Is that going to be exciting? You bet it is!  

Facing Giants


Upon hearing the term “giant” in a biblical context, most people evoke visions of young David, the shepherd boy who felled the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath, using only a slingshot.

By our contemporary mode of measurement, Goliath was a towering 9’ 2” in height. Protected by his soldier’s armor, helmet, and shield, and equipped with a sword and spear to match his enormous frame, Goliath was indeed an intimidating and fearful sight to behold. Despite this, and regardless of the fact everyone in King Saul’s army was afraid to meet Goliath in one-on-one, mortal combat to the death, young David not only ran alone to meet the giant, he defiantly taunted Goliath shouting, “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.” (1 Samuel 17:46)

That is precisely what David did; he flattened Goliath by slinging and burying a stone in Goliath’s forehead, then he beheaded the giant with the giant’s own sword. Did you notice the confidence and confessed faith in God that David displayed while running to face Goliath? “The Lord WILL…” he declared. “I WILL strike you down…” he proclaimed. Many of the soldiers of both armies, the armies of Israel and Philistia, heard David’s assured threat. David believed in his heart that God was with him, and he confessed with his mouth that faith. We can learn a great lesson from this historic encounter.

Many years earlier, a similar example of knowing faith was recorded. God had promised his people a land to call their own…a land flowing with milk and honey; a beautiful region in which to settle down and raise their families. Moses dispatched spies to investigate just such a place, the land of Canaan.  The spies returned with reports of a strong people and tales of giants seen in the land. So many more years passed while the fearful children of Israel struggled in the desert.

After the death of Moses, Joshua sent spies into the land of Canaan once again…to include the city of Jericho. In Jericho, a harlot by the name of Rahab assisted the spies. Rahab, recalling what happened at the Red Sea when God delivered his people from the pursuing Egyptians, told the spies, “I know that the Lord has given you the lands, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.” (Joshua 2:9) We see the same faith-filled confidence in Rahab that was demonstrated by David. “I KNOW…” she said.

Later, Joshua and his army destroyed Jericho. Rahab believed in her heart and confessed with her mouth that the Lord had already given the land to the Israelites…and it came to pass. The “giants” of Canaan went down before God’s people just as Goliath had gone down before God’s servant, David. We can learn a great lesson from this historic encounter as well.

What is that lesson? Simply this: Trust the evidence of God’s power, love, faithfulness and grace. Young David trusted those attributes of God. Rahab, though she was a harlot, also trusted them as she knew and believed the stories of God’s delivering power, love, faithfulness and his grace.   

What giants are you facing in your life? Perhaps the giant in your path is financial hardship or a broken relationship. Maybe it’s unemployment or poor grades in school. It might be a frightening prognosis delivered by a doctor concerning yourself or a loved one. Is it that public speaking engagement you agreed to and are now terrified about? Are you in the military and soon to be deployed in a combat zone?

There are many giants to be faced during our lifetime. Yet God is the same; God’s word is the same; God’s power, love, faithfulness and grace are the same as when God delivered the children of Israel out of captivity and slavery in Egypt. They are the same as when God allowed Joshua to sack Jericho and when God empowered young David to slay the giant.

Before his ascension, Jesus the Christ promised to be with us always. Through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit he is as close as a prayer. If you are a believer, his Spirit lives in you. Make up your mind to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Settle it in your innermost being that God will see you through all your difficulties, then marvel at how the giants in your path fall, while Sovereign God Almighty walks beside you.              

 

Fretful Folly

 

Oliver Cromwell was the most important leader of the English Revolution, which occurred during the period 1640 to 1660. He was also among the more controversial figures in the history of the British Empire.

     Cromwell dispatched his secretary to North America on vital business. While taking advantage of overnight accommodations in a seaport town one night, the secretary fretfully tossed and turned in his bed, unable to sleep due to worry.

     The secretary’s servant or valet slept in the same room, in accordance with prevailing custom, and was troubled by his master’s complete inability to fall asleep.

     Finally, the servant came to his master’s bed and inquired as to why the secretary could not settle down and get his much-needed rest.

     “I’m concerned things may not go well with this mission,” responded the secretary.
     His servant asked, “Master, may I ask you several questions?”

     “Of course.”  

     “Did God rule this world before we were born?”

     “Yes, he certainly did.”

     “Will God rule this world after we are dead and gone?”

     “Absolutely!”

     “Then, master, what makes you think he can’t rule this world in the present?”

     The servant’s logic and wisdom quickened the secretary’s faith, restoring peace within his soul, and both servant and master were blessed with a night of sound sleep.

     How many of us fret and worry about things over which we have no control? We fret about issues in the past and worry about possible mishaps in the future. We ask: “What if this happens or that occurs?” 

     “Suppose such-and-such takes place or so-and-so tells what’s-his-
name to go fly a kite?”

     “What if I lose my job and can’t pay my bills? Worse yet, how will I cope if my kids don’t turn out the way I hope they will?”

     “Am I going to die in an accident, from a terrible disease or dreaded illness, or will I die as a result of violence?”

     On and on we go with our fretting and our worrying, with no end in sight. Why? What purpose does it serve? What problems does it solve? Is it not useless and harmful? Is it not folly?

     In an effort to keep us from fretting and worrying about so many things, the apostle, Paul, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write:

     “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8 NASB)

     Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, also had appropriate words in this regard. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us saying:

     “…I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?”

     “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
     “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?”

     “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.”

     “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you. O men of little faith?”

     “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
     “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
     “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34 NASB)

     I certainly can’t add to these words. I wouldn’t even care to try. They speak for themselves and they are the truth. I can only urge you to believe them and put them into practice…each day.

    
      

Turning Point

 

My father said, “At least once in every person’s life, I believe they experience a turning point, an event wherein they either live or die.” He went on to elaborate how such an event might be physical, emotional, or material in nature. Examples could include a heart attack, the death of a spouse, or the evaporation of all of one’s assets. I suppose each of us has at least one turning point during our lifetime, when we face the possibility of death, and somehow see our life change as a result.

     Perhaps my father was right, as I can recall a number of examples that seem to validate his claim. I have literally lost count of all the memorial services I’ve attended honoring relatives, friends, and colleagues who succumbed to the negative impact of sudden illnesses, depression, or financial ruin. My father was, of course, referring to physical death, rather than spiritual death.

     During the early 1970’s, while on a business trip to San Francisco, a very likeable co-worker of mine by the name of Andy Dithridge and I were having dinner at our hotel.

     “Why don’t you quit this job, Jim, and go into the ministry where you belong?” Andy’s question seemed to come from left field and catch me off guard. Oddly enough, his question is the last thing I remember about Andy, except for waving goodbye to him at the airport after returning to Los Angeles. Andy suffered a massive coronary while shaving the following Monday morning, lapsed into a non-recoverable comma, and died in a hospital several days later.

     A customer of mine, Leo Kroll, suddenly lost his wife of many years. He was absolutely devastated. I’ve never seen a man so crushed and so depressed. He died soon thereafter of physical complications triggered by a broken heart.
 
     There was a story in the mid-1960’s of a man who jumped off the top of a 12-story building in Los Angeles, abruptly ending his life on the pavement below. His reason…the newspaper revealed he had “lost everything he had worked for his entire life.”

     When I encounter events like these, I nearly always wonder whether the individuals involved were born again in the biblical sense. We rarely, if ever, know for certain just how or when our time on this earth will end.

     In my own experience, my most memorable “turning point” came in February of 1980. I was driving northbound on Southern California’s Ventura Freeway, on my way to visit one of the bank branches under my authority. While moving at approximately 60 miles per hour in heavy, early-morning traffic, my spleen exploded. The doctors later called it a “spontaneous internal hemorrhage” of the spleen. It was such a “rare duck,” I was in the hospital nine days before they were able to determine what had happened to me. They knew I was bleeding internally, but they couldn’t determine the reason, as a ruptured spleen was the furthest thing from their minds. I had experienced no jolting impact of any kind…nothing that would shatter any internal organs. The problem was finally discovered while running a series of tests and through a lengthy process of elimination. What remained of my damaged spleen was surgically removed and I was discharged from the hospital 25 days after having been admitted via the emergency ward.

     Several days after my release from the hospital, I discovered that the removal of my spleen had somehow contributed to my developing an irregular heartbeat, compounded by periodic episodes of atrial fibrillation. This produced stress that led to hypertension and elevated cholesterol. As a result, I’ve visited hospital emergency wards twelve times since 1982, having been admitted as a patient on ten of those occasions, and I’ve been on eight different medications for a number of years.

     Early on in the midst of this fiasco, I promised God if he would see me through this so I could provide for my family without serious hindrance, I would gladly serve him for the rest of my life; if he would just make clear to me what it was he might want me to do. After several wrong turns, career-wise, God opened a door and I reluctantly walked through it…directly into the most wonderful working experience of my life. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. Who in the world would have guessed I would go from managing a 119-branch domestic banking district to directing an inner city coalition of congregations? Turning point? You bet!

     We are all subject to turning points in our lives. We never know precisely how, when or where God will cause our turning point to occur. For Moses it was a burning bush in the desert. For Jonah it was a violent storm at sea. For David it was encountering a giant in a valley. For Paul, it was a blinding light and the voice of the risen Christ, while on the road to Damascus.  For me, it was a highly unusual rupturing of an internal organ, while speeding down a busy freeway.

     Are you ignoring God? Have you been avoiding coming face-to-face with Jesus the Christ? Are you running from the truth? Do you have the life only our Lord can give? What will it take for God to get your attention?

     If it has not already taken place, I hope the turning point of your life will come by way of a conscious decision on your part, without your having to first undergo an earth-shattering, soul-shaking experience in the process. Remember, we were born into this world spiritually dead. Until or unless we turn to Christ and believe in him with all our mind and heart, we will never receive the eternal life only he can provide.   

 

The Wonder of Creation

How can anyone in their right mind view the totality of space with its worlds without end, its multiple universes and the manner is which the planets, stars, and all ‘heavenly’ bodies remain in their respective orders, with the exception of a meteor, comet or asteroid every now and then, not believe in creation?

     How can one consider the myriad forms of life on this earth; e.g., life on the ground, life in the oceans, seas, lakes, fjords, ponds, rivers, streams, creeks, brooks and life in the air without wondering about their origins? The living things are as numerous as the grains of sand on the beaches around the world.

     How does one explain the unique internal and external designs of fleshly forms of life…a beating heart, breathing lungs, functioning organs, eyes that see, ears that hear and a mind that reasons? Where does ‘instinct’ come from? What are the root sources of laughter and tears, peace and anger, happiness and sorrow? What prompts good and evil, righteousness and sinfulness?

     Why don’t bananas grow on rose bushes and blueberries flourish on corn stalks? What prevents cattle from giving birth to donkeys and why don’t alligators climb evergreens? Could it be that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Spirit is in full charge of all that exists everywhere, always has been and always will be? Could the first five words of the Bible (In the beginning, God created…) be correct after all?

     The many wonderful things scientific research ‘discovers’ have always been there; we just don’t know about them until we discover them. Genes, germs, bacteria, viruses, what constitutes DNA, the atom, etc., all existed since the beginning.

     Did God create it all in seven calendar days or seven eons? But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8)

     Watching the gracefully erratic flight of a butterfly, looking into the eyes of a newborn baby, standing at the base of a Giant Sequoia, listening to the pounding surf, or gazing in awe at the Milky Way in the heavens can go a long way toward coming to the realization that we have a Creator whose power, wisdom and love is so far above and beyond our own, we can’t even muster the words to describe the vast difference between God and mankind.

     Yet, for a time, this God became flesh and dwelt among us, teaching us his Gospel of peace and salvation, giving his life on our behalf and taking away the sin of the world.
     All creation is an awesome wonder, but the greatest wonder in all creation is how the grace of God, when appropriated by our faith in Jesus the Christ, makes of us a new creation, endowed with life eternal.    

 

                          

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