Friday, March 29, 2019

Counterfeit Light

Counterfeit light
It’s night
The Son is not shining
It’s dark
But there is a Perfect Light
In Him there is no darkness at all
Do you know the Light? Or
Do you live in darkness where there is not light at all?
There is healing in the Light
Find and believe in the Light with all your might!

Why is there good in the world? Author Scott Peck asks in People of The Lie. He tells us it is a matter of life and death, because there is also evil in the world. “The only reason to recognize evil is to heal it whenever we can,” Scott says. But evil is a state of mind and spirit God tells us in Genesis.  In Jeremiah 17:33, the prophet says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can know it?” You see mankind is not good. We are selfish and want power for ourselves, Adam and Eve show us in the Garden of Eden by falling for the serpent’s lies. This is why God sent the flood and even reconsidered His creation.  Mankind will continue to sin, which is evil in the sight of God. Therefore He needed to provide the only remedy through His Son, Jesus Christ. He sent Him into the world to show the world “The way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). God in Christ needed to die on the cross to bare our sins through His death, and to rise again to new life to give us that life, His righteousness or goodness given to mankind if we believe in Him. That is the gospel, the only way to heal sin and evil in the world. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yes, all of us have sinned and, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift of God, when claimed, sets us free from sin and death.  The law of God points us to our sin, as we cannot keep it. Righteousness requires our submitting to God’s cure for evil and sin, His Son. Not doing so is pride, thinking we are not good enough or don’t need it. It is true that none deserve what God has done for us, and all need it. Pride keeps us from seeing our need, just as Satan has. This is deceit.

Evil hates the light and lives in darkness as a disguise. In fact Satan masquerades himself as “an angel of light”  (2 Corinthians 11:14). It is difficult to come into the light for evil because of lies and fears of being found out. But “Perfect love castes out all fear” (1 John 4:18).  The psalmist David tells us, ‘Surely the darkness will hide from me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:11). David wrote these verses as he had tried to hide his sin with Bathsheba, but the prophet Nathan told him, “You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:12). In Psalm 32, David tells of the anguish he experienced when he kept silent about his sin saying, “my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Nothing can be hidden from the Lord, all will be found out. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (Proverbs 26:26) and “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes” (Proverbs 16:17). One more New Testament verse will suffice saying, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).

Yes evil does indeed exist in the world explaining as Rabbi Harold Kushner does in his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. The problem of evil is discussed, although in his first version the author contends that God is not strong enough to stop it, which he later retracted because it is not true. A lot of people live in confusion over this, but “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Lust for power and selfishness account for much of the evil in the world. I even fear for our country because of the prevalence of these traits. Satan has been called the “light bearer” but he is not. He is the bearer and father of darkness and lies.  

So if you are worried about evil, stay in the light. Stay in the scriptures and commune with godly people. We are all capable of evil, so stay in the light. Do not fear man but God. Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25). There are people who want to destroy, but God protects His own. “Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Do not be deceived.




Friday, March 22, 2019

"I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up"


We have all heard the ad for emergency alert systems with the by-line “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” It is an unfortunate part of aging and many disabilities that is serious. However, a more serious situation is the person who has fallen in sin and can’t get up or out. This is probably far more common and has eternal consequences.

We can start with the fact that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yes, we all sin, we all fall short. But the key to this is the question do we get back up?  We have also certainly heard the admonition that it isn’t falling that’s the problem; it’s how many times you get back up or do you get back up at all. For many the motivation is strong and up they rise, for others, not so much. So let’s find perhaps the most powerful biblical examples of this.

The Apostle Peter fell by denying he knew Jesus his master three times. Jesus had even warned him of his pending fall. Remember, Jesus, the Son of God, knows all. Peter couldn’t believe it would happen. “But Peter declared, ’Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you’  (Matthew 26:34).  Well, the rooster crowed three times nonetheless. And the rooster probably has crowed in our lives as well. So the difference is in our motivation. Is it God or self or money? 

For Judas the motivation was self and money. When he learned that Jesus was not going to be the conquering king and overthrow the Romans he was out of there. He sold out the Lord that led Him to the cross. The result for those who trusted and trust in Jesus as Savior-salvation. For those who do not trust-death. For Judas it meant hanging himself. For all others it means spiritual death eternally out of the presence of God in the darkness of hell. Something to think about I’d say. “Those who trust in riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (Proverbs 24:28).

I have certainly sinned and many times. Yet I have confessed my sin and repented, so I have been forgiven. “If we confess our sin, He who is faithful and just will forgive our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness”  (1 John 1:9). So confessing and repenting is the key, just as in falling, it is getting back up.

Scripture tells us, “Though he stumble, he will not fall” (Psalm 37:24). David tells us in Psalm 55:22, “He will never let the righteous fall.”  Jesus made clear that many people and kingdoms are double-minded and will receive nothing (James 1:8) and “’Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). We need to be clear whom we serve. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

We are in the “end-times.” Many believe we are in the period Jesus declared in Matthew 24 speaking of “the beginning of birth pangs” or the apocalyptic revealing that the book of Revelation portrays. This will be a time of persecution of Christians and Jews and many will fall away. The uncommitted Christian, who are most, will fall away to escape trials or persecution. This time will not be easy and it has already begun. In this culture of “hyper-tolerance” we must accept all forms of behavior, except perhaps Christianity. This is a period when cults are growing and people are beginning to hate others. I am saddened to listen to political candidates spewing hate. I am admittedly frightened to hear of Islamic hate for Christians and Jews and of the beheadings of Christians by radical Islamists. It’s normal to fear this heinous behavior, but do not lose your faith. Do not fall, because it is going to be harder and harder to get up.

What are we to do? Turn to Christ and His great and precious promises. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). We are to hold onto the promise that, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). There are many more admonitions of faith and encouragement in Scripture. Those who are believers “let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).

One of my favorite Scripture verses written on plaques, Bible covers and sculptures is from Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths growth tired and weary, stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings of eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”  Now there is a promise we can sink our teeth into.


But perhaps the most encouraging words are in Jude’s doxology saying, “To Him who is able to keep you from falling (stumbling) and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019



Douglas Frank Photo

Words

Words mean a lot. They can be spoken in anger, love, gently, harshly, deceptively, warmly, powerfully, silently and in or out of the Spirit. Etymology is the history of the study of words. It is about origin. The Greeks studied ancient texts for meaning and so has all civilization down through the ages. Words have meaning and communicate. But there are many nations and tongues and none of us speak or write them all. In fact Americans are least versatile in foreign languages. I’ll take myself for an example. I speak English with a Midwest accent. I took four years of Latin, Spanish, French and a little Greek and Hebrew. Winnie Ille Pu is the only book I read in Latin, but it helped me with many complex medical words that I see daily in my work as a hospital chaplain. I did however, take six years of French and learned almost nothing practical on speaking or communicating with anyone until I worked in France. Very quickly my language skills moved from “you speak like a baby,” to “Oh, a French Canadian, bonjour!” This was a great relief, particularly since DE Galle had just kicked all “Ugly Americans” out of France. Soon as a bank teller at “a Caisse d’Epargne I would learn not to lose the bank money dealing with converting Ancient to Nouveau Francs.  In contrast our foreign exchange student from Germany spoke nine languages fluently. So why the long introit to words?

Humans are social and made to commune and communicate in order to function in an increasingly complex society. Words or images found on cave petroglyphs have morphed into 1000s of written and spoken languages. Only one Word however, has not changed through the last 2000 plus years and actually forever, the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1).  God’s Word has existed since before time. God spoke the world into existence as Genesis details. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling place among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God spoke out some of His word to Moses onto rock tablets as the 10 Commandments and they have been broken by all of us. Slowly over 1,500 years some 40 scribes took down what is known as the Holy Bible through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God and His Word are “Truth.” It is designed to show us the light in the darkness of our world, ruined by sin and disobedience of mankind, even though we were made in God’s image and likeness. 

In an era when humans are trying to change even the documents of the founding of our nation to meet their own sinful and selfish desires, the Word of God stands. Even though it has been taken out of schools and disregarded by the Supreme Court of the land, it is still the truth. Now that is both a frightening and reassuring fact depending upon your worldview. I have a biblical worldview, meaning that the Bible is my anchor and compass for life. Most in our society have an increasingly humanistic worldview, or one determined by humans to meet their changing needs. But the Bible, like God, does not change and yet continues to meet all of our needs, no matter what those who disregard it think. You see it is the Creator and we are the created, so we do not have power over it. There are consequences to trying to lead by human intelligence and guile, and we are seeing the divisions and wars for control increasing in spite of the unchanging truth. 

We were founded as a Judeo-Christian nation and our founding documents reflect it. We have wonderful rights, and they are based on the Bible.  God meant for us to continue to trust in His Word for guidance. I am amazed that God even spoke His word to me audibly, making clear His desire for me to dedicate my life to full-time ministry at age 50+. Like the disobedient Hebrews, I too was not on His course, so He said, “This is the way; walk in it.” The phrase before told me to listen to His voice and word for direction. So I have dived into study of God’s Word daily ever since to guide me in His true North to find the forest through the trees. 

“What is truth,”Pilate asked Jesus? Jesus had already said to him, “I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”  (John 18:17). In Matthew 22:16 the disciples asked Jesus, “Teacher we know that you are true, teach us the way of truth.” He told them in John 8:31, “‘If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Throughout Scripture “God is truth.”  Prophets, King David and all the followers of God in Christ through the ages have sought the truth. Sadly we read in Isaiah the prophet writen 700 years before Christ’s incarnation, “Nowhere truth can be found.” And the Lord was and is still not pleased. 

Revival in this country will not happen unless each person humbles themselves, repents and turns from their wicked ways, we will not hear from heaven and our land will not be healed (2 Chronicles 7:14). Psalmists have bemoaned and exalted the Word of God. So why do I love the Word? Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” The whole psalm lifts up the Word as blessed and pure and hidden in the writer’s heart. “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws…Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens…Your laws endure to this day…I have put my hope in your word…how sweet are your words to my mouth, sweeter than honey” (Psalm 119:30,90,103,114). Now that is worthy of loyal following and staying power. The word has power, For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

I don’t know where you find your truth? I know that I have spent many years on college campuses that spewed forth broken philosophies and untruths slanted away from God and His Word. I did finally find truth at Bethel Seminary where God’s word is taught and lived out. Founded on Scripture its doctrine is based on:
  • The reliability of the Scriptures as the authority for Christian living and church order
  • The depravity of humanity, making divine redemption necessary through personal regeneration
  • The virgin-born Christ as the incarnate Redeemer
  • The vicariously atoning death of Jesus Christ
  • The historicity of the resurrection
  • The certainty of the return of Christ
Now that may be difficult for you to digest, but I suggest that the Truth will set you free! Now here’s the thing, freedom is great for those who know the way forward. For those who are lost, freedom can be very scary. I work with a chaplain who was a prison director. He tells me that many inmates when set free are frightened because of the lack of structure and want back in, so they commit a crime to do so. That’s seems insane. Well, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).  Now that’s scary. So which way is up? The way of the Word of God will lead you up. Choose it!





Monday, March 18, 2019

Cleansed

Douglas Frank Photo

Cleansed

I recently wrote about sin and our propensity to dilute its destructive power. We use other words that are more palatable or politically correct. Do we forget that because of our sin, God in Christ Jesus needed to be tortured and hung on the cross? Do we forget that even God the Father turned His back on His own Son because of our sin? Remember we are but filthy rags without Jesus in our lives and hearts.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of the cleansing of the temple or House of God by the Levites. This was commanded as ritual cleansing. Moreover, the symbolic cleansing of the temple was made dramatically real by Jesus Himself, when He cleared it of usurious moneychangers pimping pilgrims coming to sacrifice and worship. Jesus said of His body,
‘“ Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days”’ (John 2:14). Jesus was of course talking of the need for His own sacrificial death and resurrection as a propitiation or atonement for our sins. Our sins were washed or wiped away.

King David’s broken and contrite heart after sinning against the Lord with Bathsheba brought his confession in Psalm 51 saying:
 “Have mercy on me Oh God…wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…Against you only have I sinned…cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow…Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” 

Over 100 times we can read of biblical cleansing, but it is Jesus’ cleansing of the 10 lepers that turns cleansing and healing from just ceremony and body to spirit and soul. Jesus makes us new by the cleansing of our broken and sinful nature. The photo above by my Cousin Douglas Frank looks like cleansing to me. 

I know of my own rebelliously ignorant life before Jesus stopped me on The Lake Superior Road. I capitalize because it was my own Damascus Road experience of being stopped by the Lord and cleansed as I confessed my own sin and need for His forgiveness and atoning grace. The Apostle John said, “If we confess our sin, He who is holy and just will forgive us our sin and cleanse or purify us of all unrighteousness”  (1 John 1:9). This cleansing process is at once in our salvation and continuous in our sanctification or growth in life and godliness. Peter goes on to tell us of God’s “great and precious promises, so that through them we might participate in His divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). There are some 7,500 promises of God for us to know and believe, for He is unchanging and good to perform them if we will persevere and be changed and cleansed. They are for us to read, believe and follow with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, because apart from Him we can do nothing. 

The cleansing process is difficult for us in that as James tells us, it is through trials meant to develop our perseverance, making us mature and complete, lacking nothing. He continues to tell us to seek God for wisdom in this process, which He will generously pour out to us if we will believe (James 1:2-6).  We know that God has begun a good work in us and He will complete or perfect it when we see Him face to face (Philippians 1:6). 

 “But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language…We are to take off the old the old self and put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge and image of its creator(Colossians 3:8,10). Moreover, Paul gives us things to become by “clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. And over all these things put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity” (Colossian 3:12-14). I love that we are given not just what to get rid or cleansed of, but then what the cleansed or purified self should consist. Now clearly these qualities can be obtained only through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

I have been washed in His blood, freeing me for sin and shame. He has “cleansed (washed) me whiter as snow” (Psalm 51).  Take a shower with our only True Friend and be clean. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Pain of Prophesy


Jesus is speaking to the disciples in Matthew 24 delineating the beginning of birth pangs in the end times. It is debatable as to when the tribulation with take place and how much of it we will be suffering. Clearly we will be suffering and that is not good news. The good news is that we will be taken out or raptured before the wrath of God occurs. There will be pain. But what is the purpose of pain? I believe that there may be several purposes starting with bringing us closer to God. Some may run, but God wants us to stay under the pain until His work in us is finished.

The above purpose of pain also can be maturing, completing in us the perseverance that God intends as James 1:2-4 tells us. “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you come into trials of diverse kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you will be mature and complete lacking nothing.” Now that is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. God works His purposes for us in the pain.  But what I love about it is the next verse, “If anyone lacks wisdom he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed in the wind…the double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways” (James 1:5-8).  Now there is a strong purpose of pain, to bring us closer to God, to seek His wisdom in the storm. Perhaps one of my favorite praise songs is Praise Him in the Storm. It tells us that God wipes away our tears and strengthens us as we stumble against the wind. “God is in the praises of His people”  (Psalm 22:3). Yes, God hears and answers us in our pain as we praise Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).  So there is a clear purpose of pain, that we will seek God’s face and wisdom. In other words God is present in our pain. The wonderful devotional, Jesus Calling, reminds of “peace in His presence.”  Yes, there can be peace in the pain.

In 2 Corinthians 11:25 Paul speaks of his many sufferings, including being stoned and left for dead outside the city of Corinth. He had preached and no one listened. Then he went back into the city in pain and people listened. We are to preach in our pain. Let your light shine, don’t be afraid and hide it under a bushel.

This testimony of Paul’s also points us to 2 Corinthians 12:9 which tells us, “His power is made perfect in our weakness, when we are weak He is strong.” This is one of the many paradoxes in Christianity; we are made strong in weakness. Another similar verse Philippians 1:21 says, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Well, that makes no sense in worldly terms. We must die to self.

We are to prepare our hearts for God’s purposes in the pain. He has called each of us for a purpose. Mine is to glorify His name as a hospital chaplain. He is preparing me through pain to be an encourager and healer in the storms of life. There is purpose in the process. Yes, God is working out His purposes through us in the pain of our calling. The Pain in the process can make life clear.

God wants for us to have passion in the process, that is passion in the pain of the process. God is continually preparing our hearts in the process of pain for His purpose.  


Yes there will be pain and it has a purpose. The process should cause us to pursue His purpose is to prepare us to preach His praise with passion in the pain.