Friday, June 26, 2015

God's Promises

It is written in 2 Pe 1:3-4 “As His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises.” God has given us nearly 7,500 promises in the Bible. Some of these promises are specific for a context or person. Most are for us today, speaking of God's faithfulness to us. There are some promises that are always true and encouraging. God is a promise maker and promise keeper. He loves us and wants us to trust him and make and keep our promises too.This takes obedience and submission to God's guidance at all times in all aspects of our lives. This is commitment and courage in Christ.

1.   God is always with me (I will not fear) “It is the Lord who goes before you, He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deut 31:8
2.   God is Always in control ( I will not doubt) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him , and he will make your paths straight.” Prov 3:5-6. Conquer the wave of doubt, live by faith, trust, He is sovereign. God’s promises are an assurance God gives his people so they can walk by faith while we wait for Him to work. God’s promises never fail.
3.    God is always GOOD (I will not despair) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom 8:28.  I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Ps 27:13.
4.   God is always watching (I will not falter) “No temptation has overtaken (seized) you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted (tried) beyond your ability, but will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Cor 10:13.

5.   God is Always Victorious (I will not fail) “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the  heritage of the servants of the lord, and their righteousness in from me.” Isaiah 54:17 NKJV

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father's Day


It was December 1943 in a small town in Italy during WWII. My Father was commanding a battery of the 32nd Division Artillery.  Having fought Rommel in Northern Africa, they were now moving up through Sicily into the Boot of Italy. My father tells me the story of how as they entered this small mountain town that it was empty because of Allied shelling. No Germans to defend it. There were no town’s people for they had escaped the marauding Panzer Division to find safe haven in the mountains. It was eerie as their convoy drove through the town square to the boarded up church in the center. My father’s radioman and a couple of others tore the boards from the doors to open the church doors. It was Christmas Eve and snow was falling to add more mud to the street, but a sense of atmosphere.

The radioman walked into the church and up to the old pump pipe organ. He was a church organist at home. He began to play Christmas carols as they lit candles and found cases of wine.  The music peeled into the air and out into the night to be heard in the hills surrounding the town. Soon townspeople began to quietly and carefully come back to the town square. Here they joined the army that had delivered them from death. Song broke out, as carols were sung in native tongues.  Silent Night Holy Night had never had such a dramatic effect as faces smiled and voices raised there peaceful notes. There was a sense of peace on earth for a short time as the war stopped and the birth of Jesus Christ was celebrated by all.  The candles softened the night and the wine brought about a unique communion amongst unlikely allies.

The next day dramatic action resumed, as the Germans were not far away, not wanting to give up. They were entrenched on many mountaintops in Italy, but eventually with much sacrifice and blood, the Allies were victorious.  We saw the greatest sacrifice and blood; the God of all mankind gave the ultimate sacrifice, His life on the cross that we might live a life free of sin.

Mankind will war on, as that is our nature, but the peace of God is available to anyone who desires to claim Him as Savior and Lord. That Christmas Eve in 1943, the remembrance of His birth and life brought song and silence to hurting hearts as He does today. May He be praised. And may the sacrifices of those brave fathers and sons who have fought for our freedoms be remembered with thanks giving this Father’s Day 2015.

My father sacrificed at war, wounded for his country. He sacrificed to send me to the best schools in the country. He tried to be a caring father even though he had lost his own to suicide during the first great recession when he was only nine years old. He knew the meaning of love in sacrifice.
Perhaps you have stories about your own father to tell and pass on as legacy?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Finishing Strong

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Paul says in v. 7, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons…” (12:7). There is a thread through scripture about suffering. I know that this is “politically incorrect” to talk about, however, Scripture is replete with the subject.  1 Peter is about suffering saying, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the suffering of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”(1 Peter 4:12-13). 

Paul uses sports analogies to say, Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24).  He tells us about going into strict training in order to get the crown that will last- salvation. And yet in Galatians 2:2 he says he presented the gospel to leaders privately for fear that he was running or had run the race in vain.

Finally, in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 he says from prison, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day- and not only me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Author Steve Farrar says in his book Finishing Strong, In the Christian life it is not how you start that matters, but how you finish. He writes of a young man in full-time service to the Lord who wrote down names of 24 men who were sold out to the Lord at age 20. Now, at age 54, there are only three names on the list who have not compromised and been crossed off the list. Running this race is not easy, it requires perseverance. It is the rare, exceptional and teachable man who makes it to the finish uncompromised.   Only two of the 12 spies came back and said that the Israelites could take the promised land while fear stopped the others.

This morning I strapped on my cross-country skis and headed to a nearby park. The snow was slow and my sweat and heart rate increased as I went. It reminded me of skiing the Birkebeiner XC Marathon, an annual 55K race in northern Wisconsin. I have skied it three times. It is grueling and requires substantial training and perseverance.  You need to pace yourself and take water and snacks on the way or you will not make it to the end. Injuries, fatigue and exhaustion take many as the miles of trail wend through the forest. At the finish the competitors are greeted with a medal and a cup of hot blueberry soup. The soup seems heaven sent. I recall jumping in the hot tub with clothes after my first race, as hypothermia was taking over me and I was losing coordination.  I am proud of this accomplishment, even if there were 10,000 other skiers in the race and I came in 1000th.  I had trained hard for several months and was prepared that I not ski in vain.

Some years late I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near what is known as the Keweenaw Peninsula. I loved to mountain bike, so one warm summer Saturday I decided to bike the 120 miles around the thumb. I had one bottle of water. The trek around Copper Harbor and up Bordeaux Mountain at 1000 vertical feet was breath taking, but very arduous. I had an ice cream cone at about half way. When I finally returned to the cottage where I was staying I was exhausted. Actually, I was more than that. As the physician who rented the cottage to me happened to meet me as I returned, he saw that I was pale and no longer sweating. I was dangerously dehydrated and in an unsafe physical condition. He started an IV to rehydrate and stabilize me so that I would not become unconscious and die.  I had overdone it without adequate provision for the journey.

Traveling through the trials of life takes courage, training and perseverance. We will meet up against many obstacles that are daunting physically, intellectually and spiritually.  Some of them are beyond us and take discernment to figure out. Many aspects of life are arduous and like the marathons that I have described in this story. We need to train and be prepared for them if we are to finish and sometimes survive. Elijah, in 1 Kings was exhausted from his journey and running a marathon away from Jezebel and King Ahab, who wanted to kill him after his Mt. Carmel triumph over their priests. God took care of him providing bread and water through ravens.  God is faithful and will provide, but often there are consequences to our folly or missteps.

Life is a marathon and will take perseverance to run. Endurance is built up often through trials James tells us.  But we also need to ask God what to do and how for he will generously show us the way if we will ask and obey him. We need to stay the course and not quit or be disqualified. Throughout Scripture we are reminded of the one thing we need to do, and that is to fix our eyes on Jesus, submit and obey. Oh yes, there are 7 habits of highly effective people, but trusting in and obeying Jesus is the best way.  And while you are at it, find a friend who can help you, for two are better than one as Ecclesiastes tells us.  They can help us anticipate and avoid ambushes that will occur, as Satan does not want us to finish strong.

Know that the journey is long and hard. My experience from having been a hospital chaplain for 15 years is that trials and valleys are more frequent than mountaintops. But remember as Psalm 23 tells us we will be walking and we will get through the valley of the shadow of death, so do not fear, for God is with us, guiding and protecting us.  However, we may have a wreck along the way. Shipwrecks can take us further and take longer than we planned. They also can cost more in every way. So obviously we want to avoid them; however, they may happen at our causing or not and without warning often.  Know that we can come back from shipwrecks. If there is sin involved, we can confess and turnaround and God will renew us for the journey.

Persevere, for the journey may be too much for you. Know that on this life journey,the only strength that will last is strength through trust in God through Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. All other trusts can fail. Money, job, friends and health will fail us.  Stay humble knowing that there is not such a thing as a self-made man.  Be humble, teachable and accountable to others and God. Learn from your mistakes and those of others.  And be kind to others, for we will need them on the way. You can finish strong even if you started with problems. It is not over until it is over. And if you trust in Jesus Christ it is never over.

 Praise God.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Theology of Adjustment

Recently I heard the term “Theology of Adjustment” referring to a convenient theology changeable to the cultural themes. I was struck at how chameleon-like many of us are in modifying our religious thoughts to stay in touch with societal trends Currently the most popular concept for adjustment is homosexuality the (LGBT) political movement.  God calls Christians to love one another, and He does not tell us that certain people or sinners are excluded. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  And homosexuality is a sin regardless of what the world tells us. There is no proof that some are born this way. It is a choice, like all sins. So love the sinner and hate the sin. This is what God says. He also finds all sin including this one anathema to His will and teaching. 

But that is not my specific subject of the meditation, which will be marriage. The Bible speaks often of marriage and each time it is to be between a man and a woman. It never speaks of marriage as being between two loving people. Marriage is a state ordained by God. It is not a civil union or one legalized by the state. Civil unions and marriage licenses are obtained through the state.  But the term marriage is biblically derived. 

Marriage is meant to be forever and not to be broken except that it may be allowed in situations of marital infidelity. This is serious business and not to be modified for culturally relevant reasons. That is why I am so concerned with trends in the “mainline” churches. Some denominations have been allowing same-sex marriages. Moreover, recently one denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), changed an amendment to the Constitution to redefine marriage to be between two people. This allows man to decide who will be married when 47 times in Scripture God addresses marriage as only being between a man and a woman. The Bible says that in End Times there would be sensual people and scoffers doing what they want. We are to love them, hopefully to return to the truth.

That is my desire, to teach that God’s Word, the Bible is inerrant. Scripture says in Revelation 22:18-21 “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of prophesy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” It is not for us to change what God has written and ordained. 

This change in the PCUSA constitution has forced me to ask if I will please man or God. I have chosen God and resigned my membership after 14 years of progressively more liberal leanings in the church. My desire was to try to influence policy, but this has fallen on deaf ears at the presbytery and church level. I will continue to pray for and teach the truth through my blog and writings. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Unity in Christ

The Psalms of Ascent speak of our pilgrimage upward in seeking the Lord. For the Israelites it was moving in unity toward Jerusalem for an annual feast and worship, as discussed in Eugene Peterson’s, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. For all Christians it is living for the Lord and seeking Him in all we do. Psalm 133 speaks of living together in unity and how the Lord views it. “It is good and pleasant when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard.” David is speaking of unity in the body. Jesus speaks of unity in John 17:23, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” It is unity through Christ that gives us power and through which our love for one another grows.

The Psalmist in Ps 133 ends with “For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forever.” He is speaking of unity in the body. This unity is a theme or thread throughout all Scripture, albeit a very difficult one to be taken by faithful believers.

Paul speaks of it in Romans 15:5-7,May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:3, Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called  to one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  He goes on to speak of how God gave each of us gifts to use for the edification of the body to serve one another and build each other up, “until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  This is a clear teaching that we are to grow together and not apart in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul’s final teaching on the subject was to the Colossians where there was a spirit or teaching of Gnosticism. This false teaching on human wisdom and secret knowledge included that Jesus Christ could not have been fully God and man, because God is so holy that he would not lower himself to come to earth.  Paul preached the supremacy of Christ was preached even referring to the mystery of the Godhead and Christ. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given the fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  This is our unity, in Christ.

So today we must decide whom we will serve.  In Joshua we read of how Israel’s leader admonishes his people, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped…then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14,15).  This scripture and covenant that Joshua was forming with the people, as God has made with us, stands forever.  Yet through the millennia man has gone his own way and so has the body of Christ. Today we have over 3000 separate protestant denominations. In my opinion, as I heard a prominent Bible teacher say recently, this is an insult to God.  God wants one holy catholic church, as the Apostle’s Creed reads. This is one universal or united church of Christ. Our faith is in and of God in Christ our head. Man has added or redefined scripture. Religion is of man; relationship with Christ is of God. God has made clear that nothing should be added or subtracted from his Word, the Bible. Jesus through Matthew spoke, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matt 15:7-9). In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophesy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophesy, God will take away from him his share of the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  Paul teaches about Scripture to Timothy saying,  All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So where do we go with this?  I believe that in these last days, God is saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  He is the Head so come together under his authority. Although; it seems that discussions of unity lead to disunity.  In John 17 Jesus admonishes us that just as He and the Father are one that we may be brought to complete unity in Him. This is a model for us. We are the bride of Christ and should live in such unity. What are we representing, our denomination, or Christ?  Many believers present that there is no antagonism between believers. I personally have experienced disunity even in serving a church as a Pastor. Even though my ordination supposedly was in communion with a certain denomination, I was not allowed to serve in some categories, such as leading Holy Communion.  Fortunately, this fact has helped me in that I was not required to accept all of the denominations doctrine, which now I believe are outside the will and word of God.

Therein lies a problem. Churches and denominations differ beyond Christian faith on doctrine, governance, structure, form and function of ministries.  Back in the Reformation a major split occurred on the question of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper. Churches have split on questions of  missions, social or international problems and neglecting of evangelism.  The ecumenical movement of denominational unity or merger would struggle around issues of defining church membership and the question of who is a heretic.  How would checks and balances be handled?

 So how do we proceed? Millard Erickson, author of ChristianTheology, gives some guidance.  1. Realize that the church of Jesus Christ is one church as all are related to one Savior and Lord as part of one spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:13).
2. Spiritual unity of believers should show itself in goodwill, fellowship, and love of one another. 3. Christians of all types should work together whenever possible in common witness to the world. 4. It is important to delineate carefully the doctrinal basis and objectives of fellowship, and it is difficult to do this if evangelism is not part of the goal. 5. We must guard against spirituality not being vital. 6. Conservative doctrine or witness should not be abandoned, keeping convictions and principles intact. 7. In disagreeing, it is essential that we keep the spirit of love, seeking to persuade others of truth in love.

It seems that much of the ecumenical movement lost its zeal toward the end of the 20th century. However, certain efforts like Promise Keepers and Billy Graham crusades as well as disaster responses like for hurricane Katrina seem to not be denominational in effort.  This speaks well of the church, as Satan would want to divide and conquer our efforts for Christ in our neighborhoods, and around the world.  We must continue to seek unity in the Spirit through God's perfect Word. Keep looking up for your redemption draws near.