Monthly Archives: June 2016

“How Can I Know…

GLEANINGS — May 11, A.D. 2014

…God’s will for my life?” And who can tell how many Christians have wrestled with this question over the centuries? Let’s begin to answer the question by distinguishing God’s will of decree and God’s will of precept. The former refers to the “secret things that belong to the LORD” of which we read in Deuteronomy 29:29. What God has foreordained is, frankly, none of our business! This truth is reflected in Acts 1:7, where the risen Lord Jesus says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

God’s will of precept is contained in the commandments, judgments, examples, exhortations, encouragements and so forth which His written word has revealed to us. That will of God is actually not that difficult to discern. Seven principles for knowing God’s will for your life follow:

1. START WITH WHAT HE HAS ALREADY TOLD YOU. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” The verse goes on to mention sexual purity specifically, but our sanctification – our growth by grace in holiness – includes the ethical dimension of all we think, say, and do. 2 Corinthians 7:1 commands us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” That is God’s will for your life! So learn to…

2. HIDE HIS WORD IN YOUR HEART, and TREASURE IT. Psalm 119:11 gives us a powerful tool for pursuing that sanctification: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Verse 72 of that same great Psalm says, “the law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.” Don’t expect to learn much of God’s will for your life without an ever deepening familiarity with and love for His word. Then…

3. DO A FAITHFULNESS INVENTORY OF YOUR LIFE. Luke (16:10) records that our Lord said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” Jesus illustrates this precept in his parable of the talents, where a master says, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17). Having looked in the mirror…

4. START WHERE YOUR ARE. Whether you are 6 or 60, don’t look for shortcuts. If you have not been faithful in small assignments, don’t expect God to give you you bigger ones. If you recognize that you have shirked small responsibilities, why do you believe God will give you greater ones? Will he fulfill your dream to be an airline pilot, responsible for hundreds of lives, if you are presently a reckless automobile driver? Next…

5. REMEMBER THAT THE SON HAS SET YOU FREE, John 8:36. Within the context of sanctification and faithfulness, you have great liberty in what you can do! God is pleased when we step out in faith to pursue goals and objectives for His glory. When God told Adam to dress and keep the garden of Eden, He expected that Adam would use his God given creativity, resourcefulness, and industrious spirit, within the context of obedience. Therefore…

6. KNOW YOUR TALENTS AND GIFTS and seek ways to employ them. Heed the input of others about your strong and weak points, and ask for counsel. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Finally…

7. BEWARE THE CRYSTAL BALL SYNDROME! As we said at the beginning, future details about the outworking of God’s all inclusive plan for all things is not our concern. Let us leave to the wicked and foolish all attempts to know the future by way of occult practices. We already know the essence of the future! King Jesus will prevail against all enemies and welcome all His own into His glorious eternal inheritance forever. If you belong to Christ, that is God’s wonderful will for your life!

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What about Tithing?

GLEANINGS — May 4, A.D. 2014
Like the sabbath, marriage, work, and blood sacrifices, tithing originated long before God descended on Mt. Sinai. Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek, priest of God most high (Genesis 4:20, Hebrews 7) shows this.

Through Moses, God’s tithe from His covenant people was temporarily directed to the upholding of the younger, Christ foreshadowing Aaronic priesthood and its supporting Levitical system, as seen in various passages in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This was exampled in the historical writings (Chronicles, Nehemiah), and God’s people were stirred up on occasion by His prophets to remember and keep it (Amos, Malachi).

The Lord Jesus Himself affirms that tithing abides, as He chastises certain miserly, “loophole-seeking” religionists who greedily and craftily sought to minimalize it (Matthew 23, Luke 11).

The Law of God was given in grace. God said in effect “I have redeemed you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, therefore gratefully obey Me”, NOT “obey Me in order to earn your redemption.” Let us then aim to use lawfully that good Law of liberty, for the New Covenant upholds its every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:18, 1 Timothy 1:8, Romans 3:31). Indeed, Scripture teaches us that certain temporal ordinances passed away, but even they are upheld in essence by way of their fulfillment in Christ (examples, the Passover and all the other animal sacrifices, 1 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 10:1-4).

Christian wondering about tithing, consider this. You are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18,19)! Let’s recognize with joy that God already owns 100% of who we are and what we have! Are we not His people and the sheep of His pasture? Therefore, reasoning by the analogy of faith, how should we think of the tithe today?

Think of it according to that “primary ownership” precept of His Word: God with lavish, amazing grace allows His people to use, as stewards, 90% of what is His by creation and doubly so by redemption!

As those who love Him and are overwhelmed by His greatest gift to us – His Son – and His making us joint heirs of all lesser things with Jesus (Romans 8:17, Rev. 21:7), we readily see that we could never actually “give” anything at all to the Father of lights from Whom every good and perfect gift comes down (James 1:17), let alone anything remotely close to what He deserves!

So as the blessed, sancitfying Holy Spirit fills us and increases our capacity to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves, let us seek to use that 90% of His property (over which we are only accountable stewards) ever more wisely for His glory and honor and the true good of our neighbors and ourselves.

As we prudently use a portion of that 90% for our lawful earthly needs, we can give Him even more thanks for thereby answering the regular prayer petition He gave us, “give us this day our daily bread.” Since He surely is glorified when we enjoy with moderation good things beyond our basic needs (1 Timothy 6:17), we can, according to a Scripturally informed conscience and with great liberty, invest some of God’s 90% in edifying recreation, in lavish hospitality such as the aforementioned father of the faithful practised (Genesis 18), in thoughtful gifts, in diverse creative projects, in Kingdom building enterprises, and in things akin to breaking expensive vials of ointment (with His approval) while being accused by thieves of being wasteful on account of doing so (John 12).

So it would seem that as we walk this pilgrim pathway, flourishing growth in grace would be seen in the financial dimension of our lives as we grow more and more into such a view of our earthly riches and possessions. What about tithing, you ask? Well…what about ALL of what you have and what you are?

 

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A Lesser Resurrection?

GLEANINGS — April 27, A.D. 2014


OK, every minister is asked this question eventually. There’s no evading it, so here goes: “Will my pet go to heaven?” Folks want to know! Will Fifi, Max, or Spot rise from the dead? *

God’s word makes clear that He cares for all His creatures. The covenant He established after the great Flood was not only with Noah and his descendants, but with “every living thing,” Genesis 9:9,10. God declares to His reluctant prophet that He is interested in the welfare of the many cattle in the great city of Nineveh, Jonah 4:11. Verses like Psalm 104:27, Psalm 145:16, et. al. also underscore this. And when the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 9:9 (quoting Deuteronomy 25:4) states that it is not with oxen that God is concerned, he is making a comparison to God’s greater concern for His human servants, not contradicting the rest of Scripture that tells of the Creator’s kindness to all beings that have the breath of life.

Another thing to consider is the nature of the world to come wherein God’s elect will enjoy, with Jesus the firstfruits, bodily resurrection for all eternity. Peter writes that “according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13). In the glory that is to come, the heavens and the Earth will be in complete harmony. God’s plan is not to annihilate Earth, but to renovate it. “Behold, I make all things new,” proclaims the Lord at Revelation 21:5. Man’s eternal home is the place which Christ the Redeemer, the last Adam, has gone to prepare for His own (John 14:2,3). It will be a place similar to but even better (and probably bigger) than the beautiful Eden which the first Adam lost, when sin and death came into this world through him (Romans 5:12).

Eden was a very material paradise. It had trees, rivers, no doubt flowers and beautiful landscapes…and animals! Why assume that the future, better Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7) would be immaterial, and devoid of those things? Why would animals be excluded from His promise to make all things new?

But wait a minute! Let’s not jump to any conclusions here! Paul reasoned as follows when he pondered the life to come: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11,12)

What glorious fullness of knowledge and wondrous changes will obtain for God’s people when they are perfectly conformed to Christ’s image (1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 John 3:2)! The question of whether or not particular animals have risen from the dead might seem childish then. Consider this knowledge that the saints in glory will have – namely that persons they knew on Earth have been condemned to hell. A case in point is that of the eleven apostles and their one time friend, Judas Iscariot. Although we can’t embrace emotionally (at present) how this will be, we must assert that no saint will be eternally sad, should it prove that someone they knew and even loved on Earth is not among the redeemed. How much less could it quench their joy, should they learn that the all-wise, loving God did not plan the resurrection of a certain pet?

Hopefully his answer will not be disappointing to you here and now, but in one word the only answer this writer can give, in good conscience, to the question with which we began is: MAYBE (Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:19-21). But you may be certain that if you are an heir of Heaven, you will not experience one shred of disappointment then and there!

* At least one well known Christian leader and teacher of old, Martin Luther, is on record as a believer in “doggie heaven”. When a little girl asked him about her pup, Luther is reported to have patted the animal’s head and said, “Be comforted, little dog, you too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.

 

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The Power of Amen

GLEANINGS — April 20, A.D. 2014

This Gleaning might sound like one of those very annoying social media posts. You know, the kind which reads something like, “let’s see who reads what I write. If you are truly my friend, click LIKE then repost this yourself (even though you might have had other plans) for one hour. If you don’t do this, I’ll judge you a false friend and hold a grudge against you (in a very unchristian way) for a long, long time!”

In 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul is discussing spiritual gifts and the ways of the church gathered for worship, the apostle assumes that congregational amens are the norm. He writes: “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit” (i.e. in an unknown language, cf. context), “how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen‘ at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?”

Worship is a corporate matter. A congregation is not a loose association of individuals, but a body. Worship is the church gathered together to meet with, glorify, and enjoy their great God. Those lawfully appointed to do so lead the rest of the body in worship, but all are participants in worship! If you long to feel NOT like a detached person in an audience when you come to a worship service, that’s great! And you can lawfully participate by sharing your hearty amen when Scripture is read, when thanks are given after the collection of tithes and offerings, when a point in the sermon resonates with your love of God’s truth.

So click LIKE for the Lord. 🙂 With unfeigned affection and godly reverence, participate! Publicly worship by glorying in the presence of Him Who seeks those who will worship in spirit and truth. Go ahead and say amen! You will encourage the whole body, including those who lead, as you do.

Our Lord’s victorious resurrection marks the utter defeat of sin, death, and hell. It is the divine seal to His saving work on the cross as the sacrificial substitute for sinners.”…if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (from 1 Corinthians 15).

So we might say that when He raised His Son from the dead, the Father gave an hearty and demonstrative AMEN to what Jesus said when He took that last sip of sour wine, just before dying on the cross, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Concerning His life, the Son of God said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:18) . We might say that He uttered several powerful AMENS to His own resurrection when He appeared to many over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3). Just before ascending to His Father, He declared that all power in Heaven and Earth was now His (from the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19.20)…His final earthly AMEN.

We might say that the blessed Holy Spirit gave another divine and mighty AMEN to the finished work of the risen Redeemer when He swept into the primitive, New Covenant church on the day of Pentecost, filling it with power from on high.

“For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7) AMEN!

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Triumphalism Vs. Real Victory

GLEANINGS — April 13, A.D. 2014

 

Beloved Christian author and philosopher C.S. Lewis said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

In a similar way, there are two equal and opposite errors we can make regarding the relationship of the church to this world:

The first is Triumphalism. This is the attitude or practices of an ecclesiastical body that seeks a position of power and dominance in the world – according to the world’s ways. This was the mindset of some who witnessed Christ’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand. They wanted to “take Him by force to make Him king.” (John 6). It was probably the mindset of those disciples among whom arose a dispute over which would the greatest of them (Luke 22). The Master instructed them as follows: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.” Which leads us to the other error….

That is the idea of a Servant Church: an ecclesiastical body whose avowed purpose is to serve the world. Indeed, among the followers of Him Who washed His disciples feet there is to be a spirit of humble servanthood. However, the church is not to serve the unbelieving world in the sense of ENABLING the world to continually blissfully on in its course of rebellion against the rightful King. The church presents to the world Jesus, the door to salvation…but it is not the world’s doormat! For example, a Christian head of household might show hospitality by providing an overnight guest room for a lawfully married man and woman, but refuse to do the same for two people openly engaged in adultery or some other form of fornication.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem shortly before His passion, both triumph and servanthood were displayed, as the prophet foresaw in the Spirit: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9, cf. Matthew 21:5).

Here is a glimpse of the servanthood-triumph of the Messianic king which will reach its final glory when, “…comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:24). And here is a pattern for His servants who will share in His victory. “…as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

The One Christ served was His Father, not the world which benefitted from His service. He triumphed over the dark powers and principalities and over the world not by the sword but by His cross. True service to Christ blesses the world with Gospel blessings. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

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“What Do You See?”

GLEANINGS — April 6, A.D. 2014

Tourists, vacationers, and other sightseers have a wonderful opportunity to improve the depth and breadth of their Biblical World View. They can give greater glory to the great God of the Scriptures when they “…look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.” (Thank you, hymnist Stuart H. Kine, author of How Great Thou Art.*)

How can visitors to Interstate highway scenic overlooks and all of us do that? By remembering that the God of creation is also the God of the great Flood, that terrible judgment upon the wicked world in which righteous Noah lived and from which he was delivered. Scoffing fools lead astray others who are gullibly foolish, as they deliberately keep this great historical reality OUT of their unbelieving world view. Consider the solemn words of the apostle Peter:

“For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:5-7)

Peter thought like the sons of Korah, as we discern in a Psalm attributed to them: “Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth.” (Psalm 46:8) So should we think; so should our mindset be. Our home the Earth is God’s inescapable general revelation of Himself (along with the heavens) to all mankind. It clearly shows God’s creative power and majesty as well as His providential care. But let us not stop there.

When we consider the Earth in the light of God’s special revelation, the Scriptures, evidences of the Flood also become apparent. Those evidences include but are not limited to the polar caps, the present world’s highest mountains – formed AFTER the Flood (Genesis 7:19,20 would not apply to Mount Everest), the sedimentary rock layers which exist all over the world and contain billions of fossilized plants and animals, the fossil fuels found on every continent, and the vastness and depth of the Earth’s oceans – which are actually one global ocean, the residue of a global flood.

Note that the globe of the Earth itself was not destroyed by the Flood as was all air breathing terrestrial life outside of the ark. After the Deluge, the formerly inundated Earth was restored. It once again became a place where vegetation could flourish in its stunningly diverse forms, and innumerable kinds of fauna multiply. Likewise, Peter proclaimed of Christ that Heaven must receive Him “…until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (from Acts 3:21, emphasis added).

Just as God purges and purifies in smaller measures here and now, so at the future consummation of history there will be a final, fiery purification. This inconceivably powerful work of the LORD will not annihilate the heavens and the Earth, but will renovate them to a state of surpassing, incorruptible glory. In that day, the Scripture will be fulfilled which says, “…the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21). Look forward with hope, Christian!

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:5)

* Mr. Hine’s original words in verse one of his hymn were, “all the WORKS Thy hands have made,” not “all the worlds, etc.”

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