Category Archives: Discernment

Reasoned Hope Ministries

Reasoned Hope is a new ministry I have started with the help of some friends. Let me tell you how this got started – but for that I have to go back a few years.

Part of the reason Diana and I moved to Redding fifteen years ago was to start a ministry that would reach out to young people with the gospel of Jesus Christ – with two things being at the forefront of our efforts. Those two things consisted of the wonderful and powerful Transforming message of the love the Lord has for them and also to help warn them that the devil and the world were truly a menace to their very lives. During those early years we held an event at a local church and focused on how the devil wants to use music to influence and ultimately tear them away from what is good and drag them into evil. The event went well and lives were touched and we continued on. But shortly after that we realized that there was a whole lot more than worldly music aimed at us and our kids. We realized that the enemy was using a variety of methods (called schemes in 2 Corinthians 2:11) and the very church we were going to was preaching things we could not find in the Bible. Ouch! God moved us out of that church and later out of a partnership that was also a problem. Oh the Lord is merciful isn’t He? He is also a very good teacher!

But through all of these changes our dream seemed to die in the process. The church we found in Redding was preaching the Bible pretty well but was lacking in a real fire it seemed. But, on we plodded wondering if God would still use us in the way we thought He would when we moved to the Northstate. We went into God’s waiting room. Ever been there before? We got our heads back into the Word of God and began to learn more and more about the deception that had creeped into the church at large. We realized that the danger was not only in the world, some of it had seeped into the church – the problem was worse than we ever imagined. At the same time we also began to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ more purely, more intensely than every before. We found that in His presence is fullness of joy. That word ‘fullness’ was all over the New Testament and was hinted at strangely in the Old one!

The pressure inside us began to build again. I remember turning fifty and thinking, “I have only so many years left, God use me to the full extent of them – if you will!” I began to dream about doing a youth outreach ministry with a dual emphasis of “warning and encouraging” within the context of the local church. I though, “just give us a week to come alongside a church and their young people and I believe we will see changed lives.” We spent a year preparing and then due to the recession the secular job I had faded away. For the first time in three decades I was unemployed. But our faith grew. We thought that this was God too – clearing the decks so I could move into full time ministry and see my dream happen. We began to prepare and work towards the goal. When nothing too substantial happened after a year of prayer and preparation some disappointment started to set in. Was this not God’s will? Had we missed it? Had we misheard the call?

The day after we met with our pastor for dinner and to ask if they knew why the delays and if maybe I should just start looking for a job something big happened. An opportunity happened overnight. A church an hour away needed a pastor all of a sudden. They wanted us to come and interview. My pastor said it was exciting and would pray for us in this possibility. My family was behind us. My friends were praying! Within a few short weeks it became a reality. The church had twelve people and we didn’t even think we would get a salary. But the Lord quickly grew us and the church took care of us and we had our very own youth group built in. Meanwhile God was doing something very deep in my heart.

I had met my wife in a small but powerful Bible college in 1977. There and in countless hours of personal study from my earliest days God had been preparing me for this opportunity to share His Word on a weekly basis and to be an undershepherd in His house. But I had so much to learn on the job. For five years there was success and there was struggle. Then one day it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Two families made a decision to move their business out of state. This meant several other families that they employed would be leaving too. How would we survive? How would our needs be met? God rebuked me for this lack of faith. Not only that but He provided and brought new families to join us in our small church in our small mountain town of about one thousand people. God proved Himself faithful and showed us He is in charge. Incidentally, he brought two families that care about young people – what a shock right?

Our youth ministry is still in its infancy. We have as many kids from the neighborhood as we do from church families. But the youth group is alive and the youth leaders are alive and on fire for Jesus. For any pastor worth his salt that is incredibly exciting to see. We are expecting great things as the ministry takes off again and grows deeper and wider and impacts more young people – encouraging and warning them, so they will grow mature and begin to witness to their friends.

So where am I in all this? I’m glad you asked.

For some time I thought it would be an awesome idea to build a little podcast studio at the church where I could film short teaching videos and podcasts during the week that would deal with current issues of discernment and encouragement for our flock and for anyone else that would benefit from this. We could record testimonies and interview missionaries and get into the nitty gritty of walking out our faith in a pretty messy world that leads many of us to conclude that we are really living in the last days.

I woke up the other day at 2am and could not get to sleep. I started writing ideas down about these possibilities. I wrote out a budget for this broadcast studio. I researched the costs and best practices we would need to make it excellent and keep it manageable. I began to think how I could present it. I thought about one of the real “hearts” of our church – our Thursday morning ladies Bible study group. This group along with all the other ladies in our church are incredible prayer warriors and are always up “for a good scrap” as the army of God should be.

I prepared a powerpoint to distill down my ideas and thoughts and dreams. Then I realized something incredible. If done right, this ministry could open doors to take the “double shotgun” truths of encouraging, transforming love and the needed warnings out of our comfortable little mountain valley and into the big old world. God could resurrect my dream of reaching young people – to light a fire in them and see them safe within the guidelines of Scripture. Through a podcast and internet ministry maybe God could open doors to see a revolution launched. I could take this ministry with me and connect with other like minded folks at a conference I will speak at in August up in Oregon….but what would our own ladies think first?

The ladies were engaged and seemed genuinely excited. One of them came up afterward and paid for our website we would need to build with one stroke of her pen. (So I went home that afternoon and built it – oh yah – I have been doing websites for some time and have all the software to edit video and audio ready to go – on less thing right?!) The ball is beginning to roll. They all wanted to see the chart of the “stuff” we would need to get the broadcast center up and running. So I will print it out (for those who love paper and ink) and post it below into this blog. During my talk with the sisters I gave them a couple of verses from 1 Peter. First I talked about the “ability” we have in Christ through His powerful world if we will simply proclaim it – to impact the world for Christ. That verse is in 1 Peter 4:11 and it basically says that we are to speak the very Words of God – the “oracles” and minister with the strength – the infinite power – of God Himself and that if we do that He will be glorified. That is all God wants from us. For us to glorify Him in all things. That is the reason for “Reasoned Hope Ministries” as we are calling this effort – to give God His richly deserved glory.

The second verse I shared with the gals yesterday was from 1 Peter 3:15 and is the source of where we got our name. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a ‘reason for the hope’ that is in you, with meekness and fear.” That word “defense” is the word we get apologetics from – the defense of the faith and the warning of false teaching go hand in hand – so we see a great Biblical mandate to defend and warn and protect the faith once delivered to the saints. (See Jude for more info on this) But what has really gripped my heart is the phrase “reason for the hope.” Reason is the Greek word ‘logos.’ The same Word used of Jesus in John 1:1 and translated “Word” as in the eternal Word who was with God and was God. Here in 1 Peter it is translated simply ‘reason.” By extension isn’t it fair to say that Jesus is the only reason for ministry, for life, for hope – John 14:6 says as much. But Jesus is also the ‘reason’ in this way – He is pure sense and logic and right thinking and is also the full expression of God – He is God with us – Emmanuel – and He is the one with answers. Colossians warns that some Christians will be persuaded by persuasive arguments (Colossians 2:4) and yet the previous verse tells us that in Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Jesus gives us a ‘reasoned hope” then. He is that hope – that wisdom we so desperately need each day. As His followers – His disciples we will have the power and grace to make that reasoned hope a part of our very lives and character and outlook – but then we must share what we have with the world. That is what it means to be a real disciple.

We are simply asking God to open doors for that sharing to be made possible through the medium of audio and video podcasts as a way to encourage and warn Christians and also draw unbelievers to the light that is only found in Jesus Christ. If you would like to help in this ministry you can email me – Pastor Rod at rod.page@gmail.com. I look forward to seeing those people who are on the other side of the door that God seems to opending up at this time in our lives. We need about $1900 to finish the studio purchases. We need prayer partners. We need to have some of you share this vision with your Christian friends and family. Many hands make light work and we are all simply ‘workers together’ (2 Corinthians 6:1-2) for the cause of the gospel.

It is His work after all so He will see it through and guide us in these efforts. Of course, He does that through people – would you consider helping us? Please email me and let me know that you are praying for this ministry. Please pray for His provision of the money we need but pray more that God would give us opportunities and open doors for the gospel and that He would powerfully work in the life of our church and in the lives that this avenue can reach through the website, podcasts and videos. The site is under construction and can be found at http://reasonedhopeministries.org/.  Below is the chart with the needs to build out a simple but excellent little studio. If you are wondering about the item labeled ‘chair’ that is on there for a very good reason. My current chair makes a ton of noise during recording. It is old and I brought it with me to Lewiston – its falling apart, so we need a new one. Everything wears out except Jesus – right?

The Lord be magnified in all things!

Amen and Amen!

By His grace and love,

Pastor Rod

Vengeance and Forgiveness and Getting Love Done

A Short Study on Why and How to Love

God’s judgment is mercy in that it protects finally those who have taken refuge in His love. So you could say that even in God’s judgment He is love. That is some kind of love. But what about us? How are we to deal with love and judgment and making things “right” in our lives? Our calling is to love God above all else and to love God means to trust Him and His timing for everything else – including that final day in court for this world and those who have offended us. It means that we trust Him to love us in the proper way and in the best way in the end. So logically we must leave some things up to God. That is where the ultimate job of judging must go – into the hands of an all knowing and all powerful God, knowing thing escapes His gaze and He is perfectly holy so He will judge. We must trust Him for that and only judge with righteous judgment so long as it is in accordance with our own sphere of responsibility. see John 7:24

We are told to judge ourselves and the church under the leadership of the local church. 1 Peter 4:17 says it well – “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

The passage in John 7:24  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” asserts that there is a righteous judgment for us now. (and it is more than implied in Matthew 18) We are also promised the Holy Spirit which will lead us into all truth in John 16:13 so that by His provision we can judge in a righteous fashion in the sphere we are responsible for. Parents are to judge in a right way among their children. Our love is to abound all the more in knowledge and all discernment. That discernment is rooted in the Scriptures as we are led and shepherded by the Holy Spirit each day.

Paul puts the proper focus onto judging ourselves first and foremost: 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to “examine yourself…” The genuine Christian spends a lifetime allowing the Lord to illumine the innermost parts of his life by exposing himself daily to the Word of God so that thoughts and intentions and motives can be properly judged. This is in line with 2 Corinthians 10 that commands us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

Having a judgmental attitude or lifestyle, however, is forbidden by James 4:12: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” ( see also Romans 14:4) The previous verse in James 4 is even stronger, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

Forgiving Love is Key 

Proverbs 17:9 says “He who covers a transgression seeks love,

But he who repeats a matter separates friends.”

Jesus taught that we are to forgive one another – if we don’t we won’t be forgiven. In Matthew 6:14 Jesus said that if we forgive we will be. We are also told to be completely forgiving- Matthew 18:22 (seventy times seven – seven is perfect or complete in scope) and Jesus modeled that all the way to the end of his life by pouring out complete forgiveness to the seeking thief on the cross. During His life He taught his disciples that “by this will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

The greatest motivation for us is how much and to what extent we are forgiven. He has completely freed us from the bondage and threat of judgment because He has forgiven us completely. This kind of love – a complete forgiving love –  is the key to the amazing spiritual bounty we have in Christ – who has given us all things richly to enjoy. He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Paul spends seven chapters explaining the gospel in his letter to the Romans and then leaps into exultation as chapter eight closes. In a hymn of praise that is also full of exhortation, He exclaims “if God is for us who can be against us?” He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Indeed we do have all things that accord life and godliness in our Savior!  All of this would be impossible if He had not forgiven us on the basis of His death on the cross. He was able to forgive because He paid the price and He paid the price because He loved us. He made the choice to love knowing full well the tremendous price.

Isn’t it actually a very  small price for us to pay to love and forgive – a little pride or a little fury – when it cost Jesus His very life? Isn’t it worth it to give your brother or sister the benefit of the doubt and not judge them because Christ is not judging you?  He knows your deeds and innermost thoughts and still loves you! Take that love and give it away. You will see His love multiply that way and that is what it is all about.

Deuteronomy 23:35 says “Vengeance is mine.” That settles it, it belongs to the Lord – but the New Testament goes beyond as does Jesus in His teaching. We are to overcome evil with good not by taking revenge and therefore trying to take His place.

Romans 12:19-21
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Our lives are to be what Jesus’ life was. He taught truth and went around doing good. That good overcomes evil – if not in this life in the next one. It will be an influence for good now or a witness for God’s goodness and mercy in the next even in the midst of the flames of hell.

Paul said I have become all things so that I might win “some.” Oh for that precious few who will see Jesus in our hands and feet as unworthy as they are. We live “for things above.” Us taking vengeance now means we are not fully trusting God to take care of His responsibility for justice in His timing. Whatever is not of faith is sin.

John reveals that God is love and we know that He is perfect and right and just. We can trust His infinite love to always do right in the end – even if He allows men freedom for a short time to do evil. Maybe like the Roman who after he helped crucify the Lord some will see the love of God through us and exclaim with us, “sure this man was the Son of God!”

I close with two simple steps:

One is found in Jesus’ revolutionary teaching: from Matthew 5

Let’s call it “KNOW THE TRUTH

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Jesus’ teaching is so straightforward. He is crystal clear – overcome evil with good.

The second step let’s call  “DO THE TRUTH in Me

Jesus also taught  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

There is no way in the world we can carry out such a task as this accept that we abide in Him and are receiving from His divine power to be this kind of witness. Without Jesus’ power, we can do nothing – and “not taking vengeance”  when we are wronged is something.

When we do this – we fulfill the law of Christ and that is truly something. We are moving towards Jesus will for us to love as we are loved. We are becoming His disciples and what a good thing to be known for! This is the kind of love that “never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13)
Oh to see that love more fully demonstrated in our churches, in our families, in our hearts!

To God be the Glory, great things He has done!

By His grace and love and by His forgiveness let’s get His love done for His great glory!

Amen

From Hamburger Hill to Calvary

by Pastor Anton Bosch
Sun Valley Community Church, California

The Battle of Hamburger Hill was a battle of the Vietnam War that was fought by the United States and South Vietnam against North Vietnamese forces from May 10–20, 1969. Although the heavily fortified Hill 937 was of little strategic value, U.S. command ordered its capture by a frontal assault. The hill was finally taken at the cost of 72 Americans killed and 372 wounded. Losses on the North Vietnamese side are estimated at more than 630 dead.

What makes this battle so significant is that the hill was of little strategic value, which was proven by the fact that it was abandoned by the US forces two weeks later. But more significant is the fact that the fall-out from this battle back home forced the Nixon administration to order the end of major tactical ground operations in Vietnam. So in a sense the hill and the battle were won while at the same time losing the war!

In the same way, we as Christians individually and collectively in our local churches, sometimes engage in spiritual battles that are of little strategic (over-all) importance. In the process we expend enormous amounts of time and energy and incur severe losses of all kinds for hollow victories that make no difference in the light of eternity. We may even win a particular battle and yet, lose the war. One example of this could be winning an argument with someone who differs from us yet, losing the person for the Lord. We become so fixated at winning the argument, that we forget that our objective is not to win the argument, but to win the soul. We easily forget that Jesus did not die for arguments, but for souls.

The Pharisees were very good at the minutia of the Law and would win those battles every time, yet they lost sight of the more important things like “justice, mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).  Indeed they could win every doctrinal and theological battle, but lost their own souls and those of their followers. Allow me some liberty as I apply Matthew 16:26: “What is a man profited if he gain all doctrine and theology and lose his own soul?”

Doctrine and theology are important. There are times when we must stand for truth and defend it vigorously, even at the cost of our very lives. But to try and correct the fool who does not want to know truth is a waste of time (Proverbs 23:9). Paul warns about endless arguments over words (1Timothy 6:4). To tweak the theology or behavior of an unbeliever is pointless, unless he comes to Christ first. And to correct someone who is wise in his own eyes is futile (Proverbs 26:12).

It is vital that we choose our battles, or put in another way, choose which hill we are willing to die on. Dying for something that in the end is not important is a waste of a life. If one is going to give one’s life for something, surely one needs to make sure that it is for the right reasons and the right cause. And if you are going to expend resources, surely you should make sure that they are being spent in the best way possible. Jesus said: “do not… cast your pearls before swine…” (Matthew 7:6).

Daily the enemy of the church wins victories as we are drawn into divisions and strife over non-essentials, while not engaging the serious issues in our own lives and our churches. Jesus called it swallowing camels while straining out gnats (Matthew 23:23-24). We will argue and divide over doctrinal nuances with such venom and hatred. That shows that our focus on doctrinal niceties is simply a cover for the real issue – our carnality (1Corinthians 3:3). It is frankly no good winning every doctrinal argument, even if you are right, but in the process your spirit is more that of the devil than that of Christ. You are fighting the wrong battles – the real battle is within your own soul!

Yet we are amazingly inept at seeing the forest for the trees, and choosing the right battles. As we fight the wrong battles, we not only waste time and resources, and possibly our lives, but we are distracted from the real issues. This is one of the oldest tactics in war. Even in the sword fight the attacker will lunge at a part of the opponent’s body to draw his attention away from where the fatal blow will strike. Leading up to the Normandy landings on D-Day, the Allies staged a number of elaborate diversions to draw Hitler’s forces away from where the actual landing would take place.

Daily we are deceived by the enemy’s diversionary tactics to get us to focus on something other than the main and strategic goals. As in war, we need to ask the question all the time: Does this contribute to the over-all plan of God for my life and ministry, or is it a diversion and distraction? Many times the diversion looks important, but it is not – it is all part of the devil’s strategy. One diversion I frequently fall for is entering a debate with someone who is not really interested in the truth, but simply wants to argue. These debates consume a lot of time and energy and seem to be important as we feel we are “defending the faith”. But we must ask the question whether the other person is really interested in the truth or is simply being used by the enemy to distract us from the real task at hand. (And yes, the devil frequently uses other Christians in this way.) It is not easy to know the difference, but we must get better at not tilting at windmills[1] if we are going to win gloriously in the end. The fact is that every skirmish and every maneuver takes resources from the main front which plays into the hands of the enemy.

I vex my soul daily over Christian leaders who choose the hill of Calvinism, or of some view on the Rapture, or a specific Bible translation, or any of a thousand other issues, as the hill on which they make their stand. For many it becomes their last stand where they, like Custer and his brave men, eventually die in defeat.

It is absolutely vital therefore that we have a clear view of what the objectives are and having those in mind, we gear our lives and our churches towards those objectives and those alone. So what are our objectives? I thought much about this because it is crucial that we get this right otherwise we will be fighting the wrong battles and taking the wrong hills, only to abandon them again for the next unimportant one. Here is my understanding of the objectives of the church:

  1. To seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
  2. Keep those that have been entrusted to us (John 17:11,12).
  3. To bring believers to maturity into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16)[2].

It is essential therefore that each of us determine whether every endeavor, every project, every dollar spent, and every hour consumed works towards those objectives lest we find ourselves attacking or defending hills that make no contribution towards ultimate victory, but rather could cost us the war.

Throughout the life of the Lord Jesus, the devil sought to divert and distract Him from His goal – Calvary. The temptations in the wilderness, the adulation of the crowds, the good intentions of His disciples, the opposition of the religious community, and even the great needs around Him, all worked to divert Him from His objective.

In Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30), the mob thrust Him out onto the hill in order to throw Him off and kill Him. But Jesus understood that this was not the hill on which He would shed His blood and that dying here would play into the hands of the enemy whose strategy was to prevent Him from reaching the objective. Jesus recognized that the objective was for Him to die an atoning death on the hill called Calvary and not to die a martyr’s death at the wrong time on the wrong hill. He therefore quietly excused Himself and disappeared. It seems that our perverted sense of chauvinism forces us to never “run away” but always to stand and to fight. Yet Jesus knew when to fight and when to just walk away. Oh, that we might learn such discretion and wisdom!

It is with the ultimate, strategic goal in mind that He set His face as flint towards Jerusalem (Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51) knowing that for this cause He was born and for this cause He had come into the world (John 18:37). He was not distracted or diverted for one moment. His entire life, every decision, every action, and every reaction was focused on the one objective – the cross.

At the judgment the question will not be how many battle scars you have or how many hills you defended or won. There will be only one question: Did you do His will? His will is absolutely in line with His objectives of saving, keeping and conforming.

May it be said of us, as of Him:

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come– In the volume of the book it is written of Me– To do Your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-7).

 

[1] Tilting at windmills comes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote in which Don Quixote wanted to attack a group of “giants” until his loyal servant Sancho Panza pointed out that they were not giants but windmills.

[2] These are summed up in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19,20.

Escape From Reason’s Foundation – Psalm 11

The Psalmist asks himself, “if the bow is bent and the arrows are flying SHOULD my WILL SPRING INTO ACTION AND act and say IN EFFECT…”I will save myself!” But the truth is he knows that only his God is a real refuge.” In so many words Psalm 11 opens with a cry for sound reasoning. That we should know who we are and how dependent we are on our God being our only real safety, that He alone is a “very present help in trouble” as he says later in Psalm 46.

But there is something more that troubles the song writer than the threat to the buildings of the city – “if the foundations be destroyed what shall the righteous do?” It would be a wild thing for an attacking army to go after foundations…but that is the crux of his deepest anxiety…if the foundations are destroyed what shall good men do then?

Psalm 11:3 haunts us today. Today the foundations are assaulted in ways never thought possible. The spread rate of the crumbling is astronomical and its scope is unimaginable. Morally we are assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil simultaneously as Eve was to be sure, but in more sophisticated ways and in more generally accessible and contemptible ways too. It is everywhere like a wild virus strain that has overrun the lab – and this moral cesspool of a culture is more glamorized and monetized and has infiltrative power never before conceived, aided and abetted by the amazing technology of our times.

The Foundation of Reason
No foundation has taken a bigger hit though than the foundation of real thinking – of reason itself. Our discernment powers – are almost completely corrupted. The unsound minds of our times have a direct effect on our speech. James says that the tongue is evil and we agree. He points out that it is poisonous and can set on fire the very fabric of our existence – the ever revolving “wheel of life.” See James 3:6. There was a time when this warning was heeded, and caution and slowness of speech and steadfast God-dependence set it’s thinking on His wisdom. God’s thoughts were elevated above our own messed up ways of navigating through the experiences of this life so we held our tongue, listening and reasoning before speaking but that’s not today. Today we toggle our thumbs, turn on a mic, or use speech recognition software, blurt out our feelings and hit send long before we have reasoned out fully or prayed for wisdom and discretion. Let alone true discernment.

It seems that masses make big decisions the same ignorant and worldly way. Now we seem hellbent on electing a man to be President who capitalizes on using his vile tongue to denigrate his opponents and every time he says something worse his poll numbers jump higher. He recently was quoted as saying that he could start shooting people in public and he wouldn’t lose a single vote. I don’t believe he is necessarily wrong in his assessment.

We are in trouble because we have lost the foundation of reason in many avenues of life and we resort to passions that seem to lead quickly to belligerence. What do the righteous do? Do we jump on a political bandwagon and rely on men, because we too are upset and deeply angry at a government administration that is corrupt and being used as a tool of the enemy to take our liberty away? Do we stop thinking and go “gut?”

Not if we’re growing in godliness…
No, we humble ourselves and pray and ask God for mercy – we plead for it. We proclaim our dependence on Him.
Our very next prayer should be to confess our country’s dire moral state – for when the moral foundation goes, other edifices will follow, including the “reason” pillar. It is already sagging and has been for some time. I am concerned as a Christian that it has affected me. The fall of our civilized land has some kind of strange, almost aesthetic appeal to the flesh – I must guard against that “feeling” of fascination for just how it falls. I must not be simply a spectator as the Romans who attended the games were mesmerized by the fall of the heathen gladiators. I must shout against it. I must preach against it. I must prophesy against it. I must proclaim the gospel in Jesus’ love in the very face of ignorant enmity. Proverbs 24:17 says in the NLT “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.” Jesus said that we are to love our enemies. When He was reviled He did not revile in return, but He did preach the truth without compromise and then offered Himself as the only way for angry, ignorant man to be set free from his self-imposed slavery.

How to deal with non-reasoning people? Pray for them. Preach to them until their last breath or yours. Do good to them, especially when they persecute you and stay above reproach. Love them like Jesus did when He forgave the ignorance of the Roman soldiers who crucified Him. If they reject you they reject Him. If you do good you are heaping coals of judgment on them. You are not ‘enabling’ anyone by obeying the golden rule. God will judge.

God has spoken. The nation that forgets God is doomed. All who turn away from His laws are doomed – not just particular people but particular countries. Even our beloved America. WE are in trouble friends….but we must not let fear kill our reasoning either. We must discern the times.

The world will say that they have a way out…
Yet the scientist says hold on – one more breakthrough and we can solve it with new tech. We can cure the cancers, everyone of them. Utopia is around the corner. Never has there been a time when the labcoat and the pagan priest have so agreed. The non-thinking pagan of our day is the same as the New Age prophet that has been brewing for over 130 years. They say the same thing – those darn Christians are holding us back. Their dusty old book is phobic and dangerous and must be stamped out. They have not found a flaw in it. They don’t even bother to look that it for-tells them in detail.

Ignorance of Prophecy is Not Bliss
They don’t know about Daniel. They don’t know about Psalms 11 which is also prophetic in some respects. We already know about the man they will one day put in power. We don’t know his given name but we know he is called “the little horn” with a mouth that speaks great things. Daniel 7:8 tells us and it would tell them new-agers too if they could think long enough to read it. It is plain to us who have been born again not of the flesh, not of the will of man but born by the Spirit of God who have had a restored reasoning capability instilled in us. WE can read the prophecies and understand them. WE are not blinded by our own arrogance like the Pharisees who thought they had eyes did not see. They had brains but they were starting to lose their minds – I fear that today’s man has lost it almost completely and we know that in their stubbornness Satan has also veiled their eyes…The Man of Sin will attempt to tear down every foundational truth, even the very fabric of life – reason, goodness, purity, and truth itself. Foundational things will be what he goes after and he already is. The spirit of Anti-Christ is here.

So we Must Fight Now and Look Forward to Greater Glory
Daniel seven ends gloriously for the believer – it is a chapter of victory, of consummation of His kingdom after all. But there is a period when the old prophet is shaking in his boots. The Bible says he was terrified by the teeth of iron and claws of bronze. This man was a dragon. He devoured with that evil mouth and what was left he stamped with the awful feet. His goal, his aim was set on the saints. He prevails over them, for awhile, until God comes in their defense and the dragon is completely defeated. We use fight back with our mouth and with our hands. We must swing the hammer of God’s Word – the Sword of the Spirit. We must take cups of cold water to those who are in prison – we must clothe the naked with the robes of righteousness purchased for them by Jesus Christ’s own blood on the cross.

The human race has lost its senses and is about to begin worshiping this evil man of lawlessness…but God doesn’t care about that. He has had enough and because of His great love for us at just the right time He comes and rescues and it will happen in real time – this is not a theoretical war – it will happen in the physical realm. God comes through with fire, flaming fire – it has been His plan all along. So in the end He triumphs over the non-thinking rebellion. But just how is He rescuing now?

God’s not done yet…
Those who were men going along merrily to destruction, who at one time were the same way as everyone else were changed. Men who formerly threw away their ability to reason, who abandoned it like the birthright it is for a “mess of pottage” – these men had come to their senses, been woke up out of their sleep and realized their nasty state. All real Christians can say to one extent or another, “except for the grace of God there I would be too.”

All born again people must say, “such were some of me!”
I saw Jesus, and so I turned from the biting and lethal serpents and he cast out the serpent on the inside that was eating my brain. He delivered me. He cast out the demons that enslaved me and gave me soundness of mind.
Hallelujah for the Savior of our heart and our mind, so that we can love Him with our whole being, as commanded.

We must pray for God to embolden us to continue to take the gospel message to every creature. It is not enough for us to be growing in Christ and maturing in Him and think that somehow our job is done…with us! As Francis Schaeffer insists in his book “Escape from Reason, we must learn the language of our day in order to speak the gospel in a way that people will understand. We must know and respond in a way to pull people back towards reason. They must be reminded that in the real world non-reason never works. But there is also a more “excellent way” and that means real, Biblical love being proclaimed in the gospel. The love of a self-sacrificing Savior must be proclaimed into this generation and by the power of the Holy Spirit and His wisdom and in Christ we can do that effectively. We must not expect reasonableness in the philosophy of our current culture but we can share His love and let Him fill our mouths with His Words for the world we find ourselves in right now.

We can escape and help others, in Jesus, to escape from the ‘escape’ from reason.
He still delivers, Still opens the eyes of the blind and still sets the captive free!
It is still the favorable year of the Lord!
We must proclaim it! See Luke 4:18-21
Salvation is God’s business and it became a reality in Jesus and soon we shall see Him. We must make both of these realities our ‘business.’

Doesn’t this make you want to sing….Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed redeemer.

Psalms 11 ends pointing the struggling believer to God, seen in the soul assuring  verse “the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”
In case doubt and unbelief has crept into his thinking the singer is instructed, “the Lord is in His holy temple.” The doctor is in. He is in residence. In case you are wondering verse seven says “the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” That’s the blessed hope! The only other alternative is judgment…AND THATS COMING TOO FOR THE UNREASONED MAN.

No demented rate of decay can change that.
I will look up, for my redemption draws near!
Now I reason in part but then I will reason fully just as He has reasoned me!

Let’s roll!

Amen

Judgment Day

In light of the Supreme Court ruling this morning basically legalizing homosexual marriage,  you may be wondering if the title of this blog is appropriate. Many are celebrating the decision and many are not. I choose to celebrate people none the less. They are made in God’s image and they are a treasure, though marred by the fall of man recorded in the Bible. All of us are flawed, myself at the top of the” broken and earthen jar” list. People sometimes drive me crazy and disappoint me, but I sometimes let myself and others down too, so I choose to love individuals unconditionally and will fight to preach the truth that all men are created equal because God says that they are. In the eyes of the law they are equal – but of course we are not all the same and not all “things” are the same or equal either.

But why choose a provocative title? Am I trying to satisfy the wrath of those who believe in the Bible, like I do? No, though I understand it. I chose it because my job every day is to look into the Scriptures and draw out treasures both old and new and then share those treasures. The Bible has witnessed many a day like today. Many so called saviors have arisen who claimed that they loved their country, and that their dictatorial stance was only temporary and would lead to more freedom eventually.

Whenever they drastically changed a law they would claim that they were actually purifying the nation. When all of the less desirables were dealt with, the country they were dismantling would be whole again. History has a way of making deja vu seem boring – after all some memories would be better off being kept in the past where they belong. Today we are told that we are evolving for the common good. We are told it is a good thing to sue someone who won’t bake you a cake when you demand it just because you are willing to pay for it. We are told that some need to sacrifice their freedoms for the “greater” good.

The Same Old Sin-Thing is Boring
Today is a repeat. It is not boring unless you consider the fact that we have seen a series of laws be thrown out even though they were passed legally by a majority vote. And, we have seen more strident judges making up new laws, although their job is to rule on the constitutionality of laws and not to make incursions into the legislative branches business. But that being said, the legislatures would probably go the same way anyway, eventually, “for the good of the country,  you know!”

But all this is blather. Meaningless chit chat. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans really, now that it is. We have crossed a big line today. What I also mean is that talk is cheap when it comes from those who will soon turn to dust, but who will face judgment before they do enter their final state.  The will meet Him – the Judge – God.

Warnings Are Mercy in Disguise
We have been as a nation meeting Him all along.  He is no absentee landlord. He has sent messengers from headquarters to warn us and counsel us. “Come, let us reason together, says the Lord.” That guy ,Isaiah, came a long time ago and told us what God wanted. I am pretty sure his own people’s nasty king Manasseh took him out. He probably told people it was for the good of the nation, that Isaiah was just too exclusive and harsh and narrow minded. Jesus told about the prophets of Israel as though they really were coming from headquarters and that they were beaten and such as reps of the real and merciful Landlord. Then the Chief runs out of messengers and sends His own Son to warn people, and the people think that if they kill the Son they can keep the remote branch office for themselves. So they actually kill him. Mercy in disguise was not recognized properly. It was not appreciated properly.  But it was also ironic that supposedly “religious” people were the ones who loaded the gun, and cocked it, and handed it to the Romans to pull the trigger that killed Jesus. They were religious in name only. Real religious people are by nature merciful and compassionate. See the book of James for that score.

Jesus was talking about Himself in the story about the killing of the son and his messengers. (Mark 12) It was a prophecy. Jesus, mercifully told the people of His day to turn around and be reconciled to God – He warned that if they didn’t change their mind they would perish – judgment would happen. Turn or burn. They thought if we kill Him, that judgement will be done away with and we will be free from this ‘too tight for us to wear’ morality straight jacket kingdom. It didn’t work. He rose from the dead. They all died in their sins and sealed their fate. They enjoyed their so called freedom of sin for a season but now they are wishing for drops of water to cool their tongues from the flames of judgment.

Jesus ascended gloriously to the right hand of His Father and left a small group to keep up the work, and they were given a portion of His own Spirit for power and understanding – so they could continue to fight the fight for real freedom, for real peace, for real equality, but also for eternity. To keep on warning is the job of every Christian. Our very witness is proof that the true owner of this planet is coming again to reclaim it for Himself and to deal with those who would defile it.

A Terribly Tragic Day
This day is tragic because it is a huge step towards attempting to legalize the continued degradation of the human condition. It is a day of death, not of life. It is temporal, but it is still tragic. Most of all it is that way because it means judgment has fallen even more poignantly than ever before this day. We have come to a point that is outlined definitely in the very scary, but very good chapter of the letter to the Romans that one of God’s messengers wrote 2000 years ago. He wrote it to a church in the capital.  Rome was massively moving towards a free for all society. They were falling headfirst into a moral morass. Paul wanted to warn the whole world that true righteousness was not found in wrecking the law that resides on the pages of Holy Writ by passing laws written on cheap paper.  He appealed to whatever was left in the human conscience and wrote a treaty on law, culture, the human condition, and most importantly on the answer, the true answer, for real freedom and hope. In order to get there he had to warn first about the problem. So…

HE TOLD THEM IT WAS JUDGMENT DAY
I will quote him here: “for this reason God gave them up” it says in Romans 1:26. First, let me say this – it actually reads “the God gave them up.” There is only one lawgiver and His name is Jehovah. That was the name God was known by only  to men who were in relationship to Him. He has other names, one is Judge. He is Judge because He always does the right thing. He is Judge because He is the Creator. He made us and owns us and has always done right by us. He also will eventually give us what we want. If we want to be “free” of Him, He somehow allows that. By definition that is not what we would think a “righteous” judge would do. WE would think He would stop it immediately. But a judge is not a cop. A judge is to rule on law. Eventually all will be brought to justice when the Son’s angels will police everyone up – and deliver all to be judged- by what we have done in the body for good or for evil.

Judgment Equals “Gave Them Up”
When it says in Romans that the Judge, God, “gave them up,” what Paul is saying is that the guilty guy is not being sent to a reformatory, but is being consigned and locked into the exact state that they were attempting to force everyone else to become – rebels against a holy Judge. God’s judgment was “so be it then!” First to unbridled passions in Romans 1:26. People kept and keep going on in sin.  Sin is never satisfied; when it is out of the barn it is mowing down everything in sight. Being “given up to” passions without controls means God consigned someone He loves, that He has an interest in, to get what they want.  The Judge, God then gives them over to a “debased mind” in verse 28. This is so critical. When the mind is given over to be in a debased state, it cannot guard the heart and the rest of the person is absolutely compromised. In verse 22 we find out that a futile thinker leads certainly to having a darkened heart. Without a heart there is no mercy, no compassion – brutality will follow. There is no doubt where the culture is headed – certain ruinous barbarism.  Rome was the same way – moral debasement then great cruelty.

The 1900’s Were No Accident
I skipped over one – one state that we passed many moons ago in our nation. It is the state of impurity in Romans 1:24. We lost our purity it seems in the last century. It came like a flood in the music of the 1950’s and went crazy in the 1960’s. It started much earlier in the church – somewhere in the 1940’s when the church went for impure doctrine – abandoning the pure gospel for another that was no gospel. By the time the 50’s hit there was no guard for the heart of the country. The American church was already sick in the head – impure doctrine leads to a state of impurity and degradation. Satan’s scheme worked maybe because he knows God’s words better than we do – he used it against us. He went after the church and then the culture was easy pickings.

Legalized abortion followed in the 70’s and now we are in 2015 and we have legalized homosexual marriage by court mandated/sanctioned lawmaking. It had to happen. I want to throw up. I am ashamed to be an American now. It is my shame too – I am a sinner, a lawbreaker, a moral failure, a sinner of the first degree. I have known Jesus since I was eight years old and still I have been guilty of breaking His laws. I, in some ways, am worse than those who know not the law and break it in some level of ignorance. But I am also redeemed from the curse of my law breaking. I have found freedom – and I don’t mean perfection yet. But I will one day be perfected in My King who already is  perfect.

Chapter two of Romans consigns the so-called moral man to being branded a sinner/lawbreaker, as well as the sexually immoral and more outward sinner of chapter one. The warning of Romans two is that there will be tribulations and distress for every man being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek, for God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:9-11)

The Really Big Question
So where do we go from here? It is time to preach the gospel like there is no tomorrow because there may not be too many of them left. Romans 3 preaches that “all are under sin – none is righteous, no, not one.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one….the way of peace they have not known, there is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The really big question is what to do now, sinner! If the whole world, including me, is accountable, what do we do? How do we get back? The answer is tragic today – as a nation we do not. We have crossed a line. Our hope is for one person at a time, here and there to repent. Peter preached that sermon on Pentecost – some fifty days after Jesus was killed – repent! Change your mind is the meaning of that word in the Greek where it was penned first. Only when the gospel is preached is their enough light available to enlighten a mind that is dark and a heart that is black with the night of death. We need to be made right – righteous as the Bible says it.

Answer
Paul said it under inspiration of God Himself this way in Romans 3:21-26

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Be Emboldened Dear Christian
This is not a day to give up on people, but to give up on politics. I don’t mean that we should stop talking about changing the laws, or throwing out the bums from congress, or arresting the criminals (even if they work of the government) – for a fitting and reasoned cultural response as American citizens read Randy Thomasson’s article here.

What I am saying is that a “cultural” response is not the real focus of evangelical Christians and can not be – the Ameri-Titanicus is going down – we must rescue “possible” survivors. We must preach the gospel to people who can be saved but maybe eternally lost. The culture is lost but we may, and we will, be able to pick up willing people out of the ocean and put them on the Ark with us by proclaiming the gospel that is powerful to save!

We must also renounce sin – anything that is distracting us and snaring us must go. We must have a humble and broken spirit about the great loss that today’s decision portends. We must weep and pray and fast and weep some more. Then we must get up and let God’s Word be a fire in us – we must steel our souls by the Word and be washed by the water of the Word, and get ready to fight for souls. WE must pray for courage! We are going to need it.

We must come together in our local churches and band together with those who are like minded. We are going to need to be one as Jesus commanded us to be – in love. We are going to need to abide in His love by keeping His commandment to love one another in reality by His grace.

It is time to move on with the work that we have been fitted to do by the generous gift of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit into our hearts that happened when we were saved. It is time to get back to Bible reading, and Biblical meditation, and Biblical living and Biblical preaching. It is time to be the church of Acts.

It is time to act.

God be with us.

Return

The Simply Awful State of our Union
Today I was led to read the book of Hosea. I could only get through the first six chapters and had to come up for air. Air is in chapter fourteen, the last chapter in the book. Israel and Judah, (for the land is still divided) had gone ‘whoring’ after other gods for so long that the prophet is commanded to take a whore for a wife and children are produced whose very names signify the consequences of the people’s immoral and idolatrous ways.

The first is Jezreel. This is a place name though it means ‘God will sow.’ What God would sow is immediately apparent in that God promises to punish Israel. Jezreel was a place of bloodshed. Jezebel’s agents murdered Naboth just to give King Ahab his garden. Gideon fought there as did Deborah. It seems that the word punish is better translated “visit upon” and it drives home the point that the one time obedient King Jehu who righteously slaughtered evil Omri and the priests of Baal/Ahab, but then later failed to walk in the ways of the Lord, would himself be “visited upon” with the same wrath he displayed in the valley of Jezreel. To be named ‘Jezreel’ has great significance as a lesson for continued faithfulness to the Lord and should be just as onerous a name to give to a child as  Chernobyl would be today.

The next ‘baby names’ are easier to pick up just from a glance. “No Mercy” is the girl and “Not a People’ is the next boy. What a graphic illustration of impending judgment and rejection, and of the inevitable consequences of unfaithfulness to the amazing Husband that God had been to Israel since the day of their deliverance from Pharaoh, in the promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, in the giving of the Law, and their final entrance into the promised land.

After all the blessings, Israel had turned on her God and whored after others. She was an unfaithful woman, a prostitute. God says enough, enough, enough of it for thirteen chapters. Hosea is tough to read. It is tough because it is still accurate.

Wake Up Call
It would be less tough if it didn’t apply to our world, our country, our states, our counties, our cities, our families. Family Safe Media reports that “the pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink.”  The numbers behind this assertion are several years old… So what is the current state of affairs in our nation now? Where are we really at morally? Only God knows. But we know this, young men and woman are leaving the church in droves. The church itself seems less potent than ever. Is it because we are morally degraded and getting high on sin and not on God. Isn’t it because we are not all we claim to be?

What about God? Is He happy when divorce in the church is just as common in the world? Is He going to bless a nation or a church that is morally compromised? He will not be patient forever. He is  a loving God but He is holy as well.

Hosea stands as a call to repentance and renewal. God pulls no punches in it. He promises to be a lion and a leopard and rip us apart as a “no people” with “no mercy.” As a country we will become Chernobyl. Over and over Hosea calls out to point out the sin, and not just the sin, but the heinous and horrid and whoring and sickening aspects of our sin.

Hope
Oh, this doesn’t sound like grace but it is. To see the need in all of its awfulness is not just motivating, it is the truth. God hates sin. Sin is not just a bad idea or a bad choice, it is abhorrent and a stench in the Almighty’s nostrils and IT WILL BE DEALT WITH post haste.

We must come to grips with it or it will ensnare all of us. Compromise will destroy not just our institutions like marriage and family and our economy it will destroy people, even the babies. The spirit of whoredom (Hosea 4:12) inundated the glorious land to the point where parents laid their infants in the arms of pagan gods to be burned alive and then kissed the idol. (13:2) God says that person will be done away with so completely that he will burst into flames one day and be as “smoke from a window” himself. God is the one who draws a line from the sin of immorality then to idolatry and then murder and then to final judgment. Indeed it would be better for that person to have a millstone tied to his neck and drowned than to receive what the Lord has planned for him.

Oh wait, I entitled this paragraph “hope.” There is no hope unless we let the weight of our sin crush us towards repentance. Hope comes when we turn from sin and return to God. The air of chapter fourteen is not available until we are in a position to see our sin and hate it and turn to God with the wonderful words of confession and pleading for mercy from God to “take away all iniquity, accept what is good” and “pay” with an offering of sacrifice. For us in the New Testament the offering has already been made. But the words must still be given. The ‘Return’ must still be effected. We must destroy the idols. We must pound them into dust. WE must seek Him while He may still be found.

We must resolve as Judah was told to know that

Assyria shall not save us;

we will not ride on horses;

and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.”

The hope comes from a broken and contrite spirit…in realizing our “orphan” status is real, and in then fleeing youthful lust and returning to the Father humbly, and then being willing to walk in the ways of righteousness.

This orphan finds mercy. This is air. Air we can breath.

God promises to “heal” our apostasy.
“Love” us freely.

What more could we really want than to have the God of the Universe love us freely?

Some will no doubt read this and ask theological questions of me. Don’t you believe in eternal security? Yes, but sin is real. True repentance is in the heart of those who will be secure but don’t kid yourself. The New Testament is full of warnings against sin – see the whole of 1 Corinthians written to Christians. We must still speak with the prophetic voice of the Bible. In our day we are too afraid of making some theological mistake when what we simply need to do is to proclaim all of the Bible all of the time. Let God sort out the tares. Let the Holy Spirit be unleashed to convict the world and the church of sin and righteousness and judgment…it is His job but we are ambassadors whose job according to Daniel in the last days is to turn many towards righteousness…and therefore to shine like the stars forever!

Daniel says the wise will understand. The wicked will not. God says the wicked have no hope but the one who returns does.

Hosea ends with these poignant words.:

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?

It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress;

from me comes your fruit.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

whoever is discerning, let him know them;

for the ways of the Lord are right,

and the upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them.

Selah