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A Rant & A Revelation

Made in God by Christ Jesus

I often peel through forums looking for vintage chess sets. I love to play, am teaching my kids to play and next school year will start a chess club with our local Christian Educator’s Association. Recently looking for a specific period style I have noticed several auctions online that state: “Vintage/Antique Authentic French Regency, Mid 18th Century: Authentic.” And while each title is different the gist is the same, they want the buyer to see the auction, consider it real and pay them money for the merchandise. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you could pay $50 for a chess set worth $5 and in some cases for high-end collectors (of which I am not) you could pay $40K for a chess set worth $5. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, it is easy to be duped.

One such auction caught my eye today and after several minutes of examining the seller, messaging back and two and seeing several pictures, I asked for a specific picture of the bottoms and sides of several pieces and the box. To my surprise the pictures came over and what in bright gold foil did I see? “Made in Taiwan” clearly marked the bottom of two kings and the box. While I am not opposed to Chinese manufactured merchandise, at this juncture I was discussing an authentic antique item that looked very much real until the mark of the maker was noticable. After making reference a few times with the seller, it came to light that he actually bought the set thinking it was authentic in order to make a profit. Sadly, he was burned, and while he had a very nice set to play with, it was not worth his buying price nor his asking.

So, this set me on a small internal rant of how people take advantage of so many so often for profit. Then it hit me, in some way many people who are “among” the church do the same thing. They look, talk, dress, act, schedule and appear to be born of God but in reality the stamp of their origin is hidden. They are not God’s but rather they belong to the world, the flesh, the culture, the enemy. Eventually, just like in the case of the chess set, the truth of the origin is made clear. So often people continue to hang around God’s people so that they can feel better, get more personal affection, be provided for and put on the appearance of Godliness but in the end they deny the power of God because they walk away from the faith that was never theirs to begin with. As they depart we can see that they were not made by God to be righteous in the image of His son, but are indeed still in the world.

Where this could go in application is continual and never-ending. So, I’ll leave it right here for all of us to ponder.  A good place to consider is John 3, John 6, Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 along with 1 John etc. etc. etc.  The fruit of God’s faithful salvation is able to be seen but it is not salvation as many of the worldly and lost can put on the garments of acting and often times believe that they are the genuine article. God preserves His people until the end; are you standing fast in the confession of the hope in Christ Jesus? I pray so.

For His Glory,

Pastor James

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Hearing & Knowing the Spirit of God

Preparing to teach a short course on God the Holy Spirit, I came across and older excerpt from Ferguson on John Owen entitled, “The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen“.  Ligonier posted the excerpt in 2015 and today I share it with you in summary.

As it is, many protestants are absent in knowledge of the Spirit and have no real access to understand His nature and working and thus ignore and misapply much. Likewise in different scale, some place the “acts” of the Spirit as foremost in evidence and both groups would do well to discern that the Spirit of Truth is opposed to the Spirit of Error.  Owen suggests that the believer needs to discern the difference between the Serpent’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Here are short summaries of Owen’s thoughts:

The Regulum

This is the RULE of SCRIPTURE and is the guiding canon of how one is to discern the Spirit. God the Spirit will never change the “rule of life” but rather He works to give understanding on the “rule of Scripture”.  So any leading that is not consistent with the Word of God is not the leading of God the Spirit.

The Non Burden Commands

The rule of Scripture completes the believer and doesn’t employ undue or “grievous” pain when obeying Christ, but the believer who is “submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked with struggle, pain, and sorrow.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The Order

2 Samuel 23:5 reveals that God’s covenant is orderly and certain, ergo, the working of the Spirit are also orderly. A spirit of love, order and a sound mind are hallmarks of God’s spirit which are opposite of disorder and “restlessness”.  “We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.”

Glory of God

Dr. Ferguson states this properly, “The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.”

How, then, does the Spirit act on the believer? The Spirit comes to us as an earnest, a pledge, a down payment on final redemption. He is here and now the foretaste of future glory. But His presence is also an indication of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience.

Owen here writes in sharp contrast to those who spoke of release from the influence of indwelling sin and struggle through the liberty of the Spirit. Precisely because He is the firstfruits and not yet the final harvest, there is a sense in which the indwelling of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s groaning: “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) The presence of the Spirit brings us already a foretaste of future glory, but also, simultaneously, creates within us a sense of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience. This, for Owen, is how communion with the Spirit—understood biblically—brings joy into the life of the believer and yet a deep sense that the fullness of joy is not yet.”

In the end brethren, the Spirit is God and He does all things in accordance with the nature and character of God. Be blessed, encouraged and empowered by the glorious working of our God. You can get this resource by clicking the book below.

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When Our Lives Prohibit Our Prayers…

I have met few Christians who say they have never prayed. People pray for God’s wisdom, guidance, assistance, will, knowledge, grace, mercy and provision. Prayer for the sick and the lost and lost relationships conjoin with prayers for God to give us joy and peace and endurance as we traverse this life amongst darkness. Sadly, many times people offer up prayers, requests, petitions, supplications and thanksgiving and as it has often been said, ‘they don’t make it past the ceiling.’  So what causes a lack of hearing on God’s part concerning our prayers? What would cause Him to stop listening and stop answering us?  Here are a few thoughts to consider if you find yourself in this position.

  1. Praying against scripture. This is seen when we pray for something that is not promised in scripture such as vast riches or eternal health but more so it is evident when we fail to submit to scripture in the first place and offer lip-service through prayer thinking God will work according to our circumstances and thus provide an answer to our needs that scripture doesn’t prescribe.
  2. Praying apart from Scripture. No matter how often or passionately we pray, if we are not in the word of God we reveal a darker reality of our hearts. This shadow seems to offer a reality that we may want God to work for us but we are not interested in an intimate and powerful relationship with Him. The source of Grace and Hope is found only in scripture so to be out of God’s word and to pray is much like a fool’s errand; after all, it is through scripture that we find how we ought to pray.
  3. Self Centered Lives – While this seems to explain itself, let me give you a few examples of how this type of life will never allow God to hear our prayers.
    1. When our relationships with others are tainted with selfishness that is evidenced by strife, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. God will not hear our prayers. His grace is our hope in Christ Jesus and we are forgiven, so our relationships with others are of utmost importance in this vein. Praying while in discord with friends, neighbors, family or enemies is worthless.
    2. Desiring our fleshly hopes. This is not just in general but also in our payer lives. When we LIVE for ourselves and the gratification of our flesh we are not in unity with God’s will for our sanctification and purity and also, when we pray for selfish things or with self interest God will never answer those prayers. (see James 4)  This can also be seen in demanding our liberties that are often culturally frowned upon. Don’t expect God to hear our prayers when we are OK with offended our weaker siblings for whom Christ shed His blood. We give up our rights for the sake of others, that is love.
    3. Continued Sin and Idolatry. I am not saying that “if” we sin we don’t have an advocate in Jesus, but scripture is clear that continued rebellion against the glory of God’s great holiness allows no room for answered prayer. For instance, we cannot seek out escape from trials with our flesh and the world and then on top ask God to provide peace. Either we are trusting in Him or we trust in our flesh, we cannot do both.  Praying while engaging in continued unrepentant sin is foolish except that prayer be labored for God to do what it is He does in His children, which is empower us to put to death the flesh.  We cannot run to the world and her answers while running to the infinite Father of power and grace. Man can NEVER serve two masters.

      “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18)

So beloved, pray, but also know that your strength to pray, to live, to love and to believe comes from God through His word. Know that your life is secure in Christ and His promises. Pray and the Father will hear. Pray for the Lord to help you pray and to live as one who desires God to hear and answer prayers.

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Some Good Thoughts on Patience by Dr. Sam Storms

The following is an article posted yesterday by Dr. Storms. I found it useful and thought I would share it. Find other great resources at his website.

WHY PATIENCE DOESN’T COME NATURALLY

May 31, 2016 | by: Sam Storms

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shhpicJust a quick thought:
 
I know it is well meaning for many of us to just post things about the Lord, the Scriptures, Jesus Christ, the Gospel and how God works, is, thinks, acts etc. One thing needs to run through our minds before we hit the “post” button.
  1. Is what I am saying true? If I think yes, then go to number 2.
  2. The proof of what I am saying is in the context of the bible and it is found in the book of _______ chapter ___ verses ___ through ___.
  3. If number two cannot be filled in, delete the post and move on.
 
Why should I delete it? Because God does not take his name lightly.
 
Isaiah 48:9-11 plus numerous other places and examples of His wrath and glory being upheld because people acted or spoke apart from His word.
 
For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
 
Why? Because God brings ruin to all those who defame Him and speak for him wrongly.
 
James 3:1; Eph 4:14-15;
 
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Rev 22:18-19
 
What if MY thoughts on God are different that the bible? Well, then you should surely be quiet. Because ANYTHING or ANYONE that speaks apart from Scripture, according to Scripture, are condemned and are NOT IN THE LIGHT.
 
Romans 16:17-20 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
 
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed
—1 Corinthians 16:22
 
So, be careful or be quiet. God has never promised any of the following in His word:
 
Prosperity in money or materialism.
Eternal Healing.
Power or prestige in this life.
Knowledge outside the written word.
Prophetic Authority apart from scripture.
Will power over circumstances.
A promise to avoid pain and suffering.
Bigger faith, bigger gifts.
Speaking ANYTHING into being.
A requirement to plant seeds of faith to receive anything.
 
What has God promised?
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
 
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)
Have a problem with this?  I would humbly accept an audience with you, in front of anyone as long as we can bring our bibles.
For His Glory by His Grace,
Pastor James
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What is Conversion? Is Salvation Supernatural or Human?

In a recent conversation with a brother in Christ, the matter of the invitational system arose whereby he inquired about the biblical nature of such things. When he confronted the practice with the question of its biblical authority, the brother was led to history and tradition as the backbone of the practice.  This evening I read a post on Facebook related to the same subject and felt it would be good to share some of the points as taught by Dr. WR Downing on the true nature of salvation, which is the new birth, not a choice of man.  While I personally could tragically kill such practice with general elementary exposition of biblical text, especially John 3, Dr. Downing’s thoughts on the nature of conversion ring loud and clear.  More importantly, the scripture speaks to the nature of God’s work ALONE in salvation, thus the following:

True conversion is spiritual. It is much more than merely a question of man’s will or seeking to redirect it under preaching. Conversion is the result of the effectual work of the Spirit of God in regeneration. Conversion is the immediate and spontaneous outward manifestation of regeneration or the “new birth.” The very nature of the regeneration itself reveals its utter necessity before man can savingly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The necessity of regeneration or the new birth is found in the utter spiritual impotence of man (Jn. 3:3, 5; 1 Cor. 2:14), the blinding power of the devil (Matt. 13:4, 19; 2 Cor. 4:3–6), the eternal redemptive purpose, and the righteous character and omnipotence of God. If any human being is to be saved or delivered from the reigning power of sin, his own innate animosity toward God, the blinding power of Satan, and ultimately delivered from eternal hell, God must initiate the work of salvation (Isa. 64:6; Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:18–25; 3:11, 27–21; 8:5–8; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–6; Eph. 2:1–10; 4:17–19; Titus 3:5; 1 Jn. 5:19). To say all this is to declare that salvation is by grace; anything less would be a denial of the same.

There are six essential spiritual realities which comprise regeneration, or the “new birth.” If any one of these realities is not true or actual within the personality, the individual is yet unregenerate: first, the impartation of Divine life (Jn. 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:1, 4–5). Unless the individual receives such a principle of spiritual life, he cannot even “see” the kingdom of God, much less enter it. He may perceive, know or understand much, even so as to be without excuse, but his will is bent toward sin and evil and his inner being is darkened (Rom. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Second, the breaking of the reigning power of sin (Rom. 6:3–14, 17–18, 20, 22). Every human being by nature is a willing bondslave of sin. This power is broken by God in a definitive act of grace, and a radical cleavage is made with the reigning power of sin in the life. This aspect of sanctification—definitive sanctification—is contemporaneous with regeneration.

Third, the removal of natural heart–enmity against God and his truth (Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Man by nature has an innate aversion to God and his truth. This animosity is removed by a sovereign act of God, enabling the sinner to savingly turn to God in the context of his truth.

Fourth, the re–creation of the image of God in principle (Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:1–10). Both these passages refer to a past act, not to an entreaty. Man was created as the image–bearer of God. In the Fall, this image was devastated spiritually, morally and intellectually; the thought–process became fragmented and given to futility. The physical body, with its appetites and desires, assumed a controlling influence over the individual (Rom. 6:6, 11–14; Eph. 4:17–19). In regenerating grace, God re–creates the image of God anew in principle in righteousness, holiness of the truth and knowledge—a spiritual, moral and intellectual transformation. With the mind thus freed, and a holy disposition given to the personality, the sinner is enabled to freely turn to Christ in faith as presented in the gospel message.

Fifth, the removal of satanic blindness (2 Cor. 4:3–6). Above and beyond all matters of the will or heart, looms the awful, evil power of Satan, who specifically blinds sinners to the truth of the gospel. He further seeks to remove any influence of the gospel in any way he possibly can (Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Mk. 4:4, 15; Lk. 8:5, 12). This blinding influence is removed by an act of God’s grace.

Sixth, the gift of saving faith (Eph. 2:4–10). Conversion, or repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is inseparable from regeneration. Conversion is the infallible and immediate consequence of the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within the personality (Acts 16:14). The Scriptures usually consider regeneration and conversion inclusively as one. It is conversion, pointedly personal faith in the Lord Jesus and repentance from sin, which necessarily and infallibly expresses the work of God within the personality (Acts 13:12, 48; 14:1; 16:14, 27–34; 17:4, 11–12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:18; Rom. 10:9–10, 13, 17; 1 Cor. 2:4–5; Eph. 2:4–10).

So beloved, let us hold dear to the person of Jesus Christ and His infallible word through which one can find salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Anything else is just demonic.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor James

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Is My Church Healthy?

Gaging health in the local church is one of the favorite chatters of our culture. Sadly, because the word of God has fallen to a guide or tool rather than the authority, anyone can search and find plenty of pundits giving measurable scales to health. The difference in my thoughts today is that I want so submit to scripture, not culture, not tradition (beware of people who use this word for anything), not history, but the immutable word that demands our time. (Sadly, I won’t exhaust the text either… for fear or perfection will tarry the completion of these thoughts and render them silent.)  This will not be exhaustive nor will it be inclusive of all areas and it should clearly be understood that a healthy church is wrought with problems, trials, complaints, pain and failure because people are the church. The gospel overcomes these things. So, any church that is so perfect is no church at all.

PEOPLE

Is your church comprised of people? Are you able to see that the very blood flow of your congregation is the people? Remember, any church that is not people is not a church. The term church means called out ones, not place people go. Your church should emphasize the family of God ALL THE TIME and when it appears that programs and property are the point, your church is not just unhealthy but dead.

Are people cared for, prayed for, lived with? Do you find that you are drawn to individuals who give up their time and passions for you? Are you doing the same?  Is the culture of your church able to continue doing all it does if everything stops but life? The point of the Cross was to purchase a people and sadly we have lost sight of that. Are you just a leader investing in some portion of something that you are told to “plug” people in?

Paul prays for the people, never what the church is doing. The point of being the church is for the church to grow up in Christ and in love with each other as the LEARN Christ so that they may be filled with all the fullness of God.  “[17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)

PREACHING

Is the preaching teaching you things? Are you learning scripture? Test your doctrine for a minute. What is the meaning of justification? How has Christ propitiated your sin? Describe the eternal nature of Jesus Christ and how all the New Testament letters reveal it. What attribute of God is most dear to you in worship?

Having problems? Then you have never been taught scripture because all scripture in its context reveals these things at its core. Does your pastor preach the text or does he use the text to provide answers to his outline? Are you in AWE of the God of Heaven and His glory? Are you more moved by the special music than the word of God? Is Scripture utilized to make the preacher’s point but cannot be found in the context of the passage? Are you equipped to LOVE CHRIST, LOVE HIS CHURCH and throw this world away after the sermon is done? Now don’t shoot me because I am appealing to “feeling” or outcome? A good biblical sermon could be given and the heart of the hearer could be cold. The point? Is the preaching pointing to Christ’s WORD or the preacher’s word?

Is your church centered on understanding scripture, being trained in righteousness, learning to APPLY the Gospel among the life of the church? Is the only time you hear any Good News is at the end of service followed by some human condition to salvation or a heart-tugged missionary story? Do visual aids, skits, object lessons or stories make the points that Scripture should? What do you remember about God and His infinite glory? Do you know the God of the bible? After all, knowing God and His Son IS ETERNAL LIFE! (John 17) Run from such so-called preaching that rings anything but Scriptural power and glory. Run.

PURPOSE

What does your church exist? Do you know? Is it the primary focus of all things that happen among you? Are programs done in the name of “reaching” the lost but no lost are reached? Are you busy busy busy with everything to the point of being tired and then told to not grow weary in the Lord’s work? Are you able to really see the Gospel foundation as the walls and trusses of all that is done in the name of Christ? Will the work done in the lives of people effectively result in ETERNAL FRUIT? Look at these two texts and see what you think:

[10] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. [11] For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—[13] each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. [14] If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. [15] If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV)

[1] Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. [2] But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

Is GOD’S GLORY the ultimate purpose of all things? Are you SHOWN God’s ineffable majesty and does the life of your church REVEAL Him? Some gathered people say that every engagement is for the sake of pointing people to Christ or creating a relationship with Christ. This purpose, while honorable on the exterior is usually void of any solid preaching of God’s word thus removing any possibility of salvation from any participant. People are saved ONLY by the word of God being given to their ears when the mercy of God gives them hearing. (Romans 10:17)

The church exists for the purpose of God’s glory. Period.

PLANNING

What is your church known for? Asking anyone in the community will reveal the planning of ministry that will birth from the purpose. So, is your congregation known for having cool events? A school? A wonderful children’s ministry? A great music program? How is it that the body of the Risen Christ are to be about HIS business but very few professing churches are actually in the business of Christ at all? For many, the calendar will prove whose they are. If a church takes more time to administrate events that in preparation for learning Christ together it may be a very clear sign that the church is dead.

POWER

In reality, is your church powerful?  Are those who are your family among you enable to live with power, joy, exultation, satisfaction and grace? The power of God is ALWAYS evident among His people who are healthy.  The power of God in JOY is visible.  The POWER of God is effectual and the church that is His will have AFFECTION for Him through His Spirit given through HIS WORD ALONE! If a church is powerless and is easily identified as successful by the work of men and human invention, then not only is the church you attend very very ill, it is not a church at all. May the Lord grant you power to know and see and understand the vastness of His merciful affection toward His people in Jesus Christ! May you run to the the Lord Jesus and escape all traditions that encapsulate the essence of humanism including those so-called Evangelical and Protestant gatherings who are nothing more than liberal Romans.

Mercy,

j

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Voice in the Wilderness is NOT a voice on Social Media

screaming child

The lazy Christian has his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian has his heart full of comforts. – Thomas Brooks

I written many times on subjects like these mainly because I see grave damage, division and distance happening among the people of Christ due to opinions, correction and the like in the name of “truth” being purveyed on social streams. It is never incorrect to want to correct error, but it is not the call of the church to correspond with every fool and his foolishness. It would be a better practice to privately message folks that you feel the need to help and most of the time, to just stop continued theological error from showing up in your data feeds.

Polemics are necessary, but FEW are actually gifted in the wisdom of doing it. Paul was the master of polemics, and yet, he never chastised false teachers or responded to their continued errors. Rather, he spoke the truth in love for the sake of the church. He wrote letters concerning their listening to errors and condoning such. He politely questioned the Greeks in an effort to preach the gospel so that ‘some’ would be made alive in Christ. The point is that we are to be preaching truth NOT to correct all the world’s lies, but to afford the great grace of God its supreme power to transform lives.

This world is not about us and while we should be stirred in our spirit when lies are shared and stupid theology is “memed”, we should recognize our calling and be about the business of our Father and not the business of the devil. The world will never change, the lies will never stop, the heresy will never cease and our job is to make disciples, rebuke, teach, and correct… with all respect and all the affection of Christ.  After all, the reason the body teaches truth is for God to get the glory in its planting and sprouting.

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:23-26 for a minute.

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Do you see this? Have nothing to do with means just that. Stop involving yourself with quarrelsome people. Scripture is clear that when you warn a brother of false teaching and he doesn’t heed, that you should have the church make noise and move him away from you. Just a reminder, you don’t divorce yourself from the fellowship of true saints but rather cut the bad ones out.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

Even when we are to engage, it should be done with KINDNESS. Even to the apostate and WICKED evil doers who desire to blaspheme. We can be kind while being firm and strong in Christ and His word. We are to TEACH with ability, not promoting commentary from others as “copies” of another’s insight, but through the word of God taking another to truth and showing them error. Too often we like to feel right because someone else has shown us the wrong in others.

PATIENCE is the key. It took YOU and ME a long time to see some errors… afford others the time for the Lord to work in them. After all, WE may be just the vehicle He has purposed to use for their joy in truth! So we patiently ENDURE evil. We put up with it for a season waiting for the Lord to do His gracious work as we GENTLY correct our opponents.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

See the MOTIVE behind it all?  That God would save these evil ones. That He would graciously open their eyes to the truth. That they would be given the GIFT OF REPENTANCE so that they would find the knowledge of THE TRUTH.  This is salvation. This is the work of God. This is the reason we correct, not just to keep the flock safe and pure, God does that by the way, but that those who are lost among us will find Christ as their only hope and turn from their self sufficient non-gospel religion.

So the next time you feel the need to answer the internet, just don’t. In response, share the gospel, not the NotGospel… and watch your heart be at peace and the work of God continue through you. There is always a time and place for every debate, but the billboard approach of indirect self-righteous “rightness” doesn’t do it for us, a holy people.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5 ESV)

Stay full of Joy beloved.

Pastor James

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What is Worthy?

Worship by definition is to acclaim and make much of one or thing that is worthy of praise, honor, glory, attention or focus. Worship sits deep within the heart and when given opportunity, explodes with expression, not just about that which is worthy, but in honor of and toward such worth. Think about this, do you worship Christ or something/someone else? Are you invested with every fiber of your being in the glory of Jesus Christ? When you gather with the Saints of Christ each week, do  you come to make much of and hear Christ?

Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart that one speaks from the mouth. So, when preachers preach, that which come from their mouths is what they worship. It is becoming more difficult to hear Christ and His truth and see His face in preaching. When Christ is absent from the text which reveals Him, the one proclaiming such fails to herald the One of true worth and instead places his own treasure at the heart of all things. Paul says in Romans 1 that people suppress the truth by unrighteousness and worship created things. I believe that many Christians love themselves and “church work” over Christ, thus, they keep sitting and maintaining worldliness as religion instead of true worship. So often one can hear sermons centered on man’s work, man’s worth and man’s well-being which are guilty of promoting idolatry. Beloved, learn to hear truth and lies and know the difference. Sinner, come to the One who alone is worthy of all praise.

An old hymn rings true to my ears each day I ponder the glory of Jesus Christ… “And the things of Earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and and grace.”  So how do you know? Well, when you stand in awe of God, nothing else is in focus. Not even you! Praise not the content, pastor, service, music, feeling, friends, or anything else. Praise the ONE who is HOLY and who is Worthy of Praise. Run from anything else, it is a terrible thing to worship idols.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

James

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Why Easter Holds No Love in My Heart

…………………… these are the thoughts of Easter as I ponder the history of my own life, mediate on the practices, consider the purpose…..  I am without any coherent thought on these things.

Easter, as it is, seems to confuse me. It doesn’t fall into any form of the biblical practice of the church and over the last twenty years, I have had a difficult time finding the place for it among the community of faith. While many congregations make much of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on this day, I am still unable to discern why it is tied to a date, day, season, festival, or tradition. A brother recently asked what we were doing on Easter Sunday to which I pondered puzzled. “We are in 1 Thessalonians, and whatever the Lord has for us there is what we’ll do.”  Thinking about breaking out of the glorious heart of voice of Christ (Rom 10:17; John 1) for the sake of the church troubles me and I find no prescription for it. In all reality, I think that if ONE day out of the many days that are the Lord’s is set apart and esteemed, it is probably out of the heart of idolatry, not worship.

Why do we take a worldly practice and turn it into opportunity for that one day to preach the truth? The better question is why do pastors and congregants subject boring and ill-effective half-truths as normative the rest of the year.  Oh yeah, there is the Mass of Christ… my point made.

The church should be about living and glorying in the risen Lord each day, each gathering, each moment and at every opportunity. Instead, she seems to be drawn in by social justice, politics, public service, philanthropy, humanistic self-help, fragmented doctrine and socialization in the name of peace. The reason that the church is so apt to adopt the human invention of Easter and make it as if it were a celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ, is due to the failing of the shepherds of Christ’s people to make much of Jesus in this way each day. We cater as previously listed, to the human nature instead of giving the power of God through Jesus Christ who IS the living word.

So, the reason Easter holds no love in my heart is that it seems to detract from the normal, passionate, continual celebration of Christ and His living reign that should be just as grand every other day of this life. Spurgeon remarks,

“There is no ordinance in Scripture of any one Lord’s-day in the year being set apart to commemorate the rising of Christ from the dead, for this reason, that every Lord’s-day is the memorial of our Lord’s resurrection. Wake up any Lord’s-day you please, whether in the depth of winter, or in the warmth of summer, and you may sing:
“To day he rose and left the dead, And Satan’s empire fell; To day the saints his triumph spread, And all his wonders tell.”
To set apart an Easter Sunday for special memory of the resurrection is a human device, for which there is no Scriptural command, but to make every Lord’s-day an Easter Sunday is due to him who rose early on the first day of the week.

And it so happens that our text this week in 1 Thessalonians, as the last three weeks, reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord!

[8] For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. [9] For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 ESV)

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