He lights our path

He speaks His will

He lights our path

He speaks His will

Thy Will Be Done

When God calls, say "Yes"

What does the Bible say?

Love, be hospitiable, be wise!

Looking Ahead

Life is Fleeting

God's Word is Eternal!

God is My strength and Power

And He makes my way perfect.

God's Promises!

God's Grace!

Does radical Christianity make you extreme?

Laying up treasures in heaven

God's word Will Never Change!

The Sifted Generation: Tested, Tried, and Found True

The Sifting is Already in Progress. Jesus knows those who are His - So does the enemy!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Is Not Life a Series of Waits? Enduring Life-Altering Events

 


When asked as a pastor, to express with sincerity the lingering trauma that consumes the soul when a life-altering event makes its appearance, I would use the word "Numbness" to describe it and I am not alone. Many people describe the after-effects of traumatic events as going from initial shock to numbness, but it is important that we understand numbness is not shock, although it can follow on its heels. Shock is the immediate and radical realization of loss, numbness follows. Rather than quote a psychological definition I want to relate in real-life you, me and God terms. Numbness is the ongoing state a person drifts in and out of when under heavy distress. It can also occur to someone who has been exposed to a past traumatic event and is often referred to as PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It is what induced the psalmist to cry, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psa. 27:13). It is what induced one of the temple singers to say in Psalm 42:1-3:

1      As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
2      My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3      My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”

Yes, the chorus of vs.1 is often sang in praise song and hymn to simply represent a longing of our heart to be near unto God. But the context points more to the longing of a discouraged and displaced temple singer, separated from his daily temple duties, as he wanders like a deer searching for water in the parched wilderness with David in exile from Saul. In other words, he has temporarily lost his job, his security, his place, and his livelihood! Night and day he thirsts for God's quenching presence that he might be restored, but in its stead, receiving only salty tears as a substitute.

Can more clarity be necessary than what is found in this biblical definition of the consolation succored in post life-altering events? Loss, struggle, brass ceilings, the need for restoration , and the longing for God to respond?

Biblically speaking, numbness surfaces when it seems all hope is lost and our circumstances seem to out-pit God's ability to transcend them. I know this sounds crazy to so many. The unredeemed will especially balk at such indiscriminate hope in who they feel is imaginary, and even believers can toss God out in the hopes of some form of human redemption to their problems. But the believer is never asked to give place to such unredeeming thoughts. For instance, the one thing that is completely out of the realm of human possibilities is the ability to secure a home in eternity without the intervention of the cross of Christ. Salvation is of God not of man. If believers are all to happy to turn to Christ for this humanly impossible securement, why are we so hesitant to turn to Him in the temporal and lapsing things of earthly concern? Our hope is not in the things of this world. We must reach out to He who transcends all visible reality, Jehovah God--our Father who art in heaven.

How then do we endure the pain? How can we continue to function in a normal manner when our lives are disrupted by the unexpected?

Could it the answer be found in the "waiting?" The old adage that there are only two things sure in life, death and taxes, is not really true. We spend more time in life waiting than writing a check or expecting death.

The trauma of the unknown can bring the strongest of believers to emotional fits, the shallowest of believers to disbelief, and the new believer to defection. If God would only __________ (you fill in the blank). To wait upon God, is the noblest of actions. It starts with the belief that God does know of our situation and He isn't dismissive of our pain, nor is He desensitized to it. Charles Spurgeon once stated, "He puts a bit into the mouth of rage, and a bridle upon the head of power."1 Yes, that is the power of our God in action. We must remember that.

First Things First
The first thing we must do if we really want relief is seek God for recomposure. We have to descramble what the life-altering event scuttled. We have to seek Him to give us clarity and clear vision concerning what has happened and where we are currently at (this is not a suggestion). Seeking God is tantamount to expressing faith that He holds the future. We must get rid of annoyances, such as seeing joy in the lives of others when it is not present in yours. This is renouncing envy and replacing it with biblical thanksgiving for the Lord's work in their lives. Renounce it. It is only a distraction. The next thing is to renounce what is not a current reality and take to the Lord the things that are.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Co 10:3–5).

Any person, place, or thing, be it material or spiritual, that halts or suppresses the truth you know to be found in God must be recognized for what it is, a distraction. Those things are often figments of our imagination brought on by listening to the wrong sources and they work to make God less than what He is, the all powerful Creator and Sovereign that transcends all visible and spiritual reality.

Understand, I am trying to be real with respect to the numbing pain of parched environments life-altering events bring to bear. I refuse to oversimplify the issue by quoting how spiritual giants of the past have endured the wilderness and prospered for it. I say this because, you are not them, they are not you, and you are in what seems to be a pit of despair. You need to be dug out and you do not need to be bombarded with a cacophony of "so-and-so" was where you are and look at them now. Neither do you need to hear you have a sin issue or you brought all of it on yourself. We all have sin issues and some things are not brought on by ourselves which is all the more reason to seek God for strength and the answers.

What needs to happen is for us to get to the point of not allowing the pain of the situation to distort the truth surrounding God in our lives. We somehow need to get to the place of refuge where we do not feel the scourge of the situation, but the presence of God in a very real sense. Although our enemies surround us, the presence of God will stay our focus upon Him. Getting to this place may be challenging, but it is achievable. To get there, the believer must rise above the circumstance through a willingness to let all of the peripheral circumstance (the things we see as "bad" or even "devastating") fall into the hands of God. If you think about it, Jesus stated that He holds the believer in the clutch of His fist and nothing can get at us without first getting through His clutch. We may not like--we may even detest--having to allow things to play out in God's procession of events, but really, is there any better way? Could there be anything more to define what a Christian really is, or is supposed to be, than one who pants for God like a thirsty deer in the wilderness?

Reality Check
Our real need is one of purpose, placement, and position. We find purpose from the events in our lives that find their placement God's overall structure, positioning us to stand firmly upon God's word through Christ our Lord. For the believer, this was where we once were and where we need to get back to. Any toppling of this former structure carries a meaning that, at the present, only God knows. But be assured, that the purpose, placement, and position where you are now headed, if you will accept it, is and will be greater than where you were before. This means letting go of the past and moving forward with anticipation of the future. Believers are an enigma amidst the world of clingy things. Realizing we need to let go of our other past reality is not the end of all things. Rather, it is the beginning of a whole new adventure. Faith is the victory that will compel our direction.

Again, life is a series of waits and this is where waiting fulfills its perfect purpose.

The temple singing psalmist went on to direct his mind to focus on the past days of singing and worship, fulfilling his purpose in the house of God, but finds that that alone still does not alleviate the clinging pain. But he has not lost hope in God for he knows he will yet again praise the Lord, the "help of his countenance."

    4      When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
    5      Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. (Ps 42:4–5)

So then, where do we go from here? Where did this temple singer go? He replaced his remembering of where he once was, in the joyful crowds of the temple, with another memory, the memory of the transcendent God--the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Instead of focusing on the "what was" he now focuses on the "what is." And the "what is" is that God is still ruling from on High. Although the psalmist continues to lament on His situation in the remainder of the psalm, He closes with the same refrain of vs. 5b:

    11    Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. (Psa. 42:11).

Although we are not directly told in this particular psalm how the Lord worked to alleviate his pain, it is implicit that he would continue to wait upon the Lord for his answer. I love the psalm because it is not a one-two-three step remedy for painful situations, rather, it reveals where one is at in the process of waiting. There is hope because in the waiting God is still at work. He is still on Mt. Hermon; He is still above all things seen and unseen and as the next psalm recaptures, Psalm 43:3-4, it is God's work, word, and illumination that will carry us providing the ladder out of the pit of despair:

    3      Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
4      Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.

The believer knows that true relief in the period of waiting is bolstered by the hope that is found in God's declarations. He cries out "Send Your light and Your truth!" Why? Because He knows they will be the source of leading to the path of restored joy! When we heed God's direction and follow the light of His leading, we can say with the psalmist, "Then I will go to the altar of God ...And on the harp I will praise You."

The answer to our situation is not what any of us could do, or we would have done it already, but rather, what God can do. In the meantime, do like me, practice some knee bends and do a little burning of the midnight oil in God's word. Let Him direct your future path.


1 - Spurgeon, C. H.,  The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith: Being Precious Promises Arranged for Daily Use with Brief Comments (New York: American Tract Society, 1893), 187.

** First posted on Life-Letter-Cafe, http://lifelettercafe.com/2017/07/not-life-series-waits-enduring-life-altering-events/

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lighthouse or Foghorn? The Christian Relies on Both!

Lighthouse and Foghorn - Dreamstime


  Your word is a lamp to my feet
    And a light to my path.

Psa. 119:105.



Fog horn or lighthouse, which is best? Both are used to warn of craggy rocks, beaches, and coral reefs, all dangerous areas for the mariner. These two warning systems have been used for ages and despite GPS, are still used today.

In her article, Who Blows A Lighthouse's Foghorn? Melissa Kline informs us that it is, for the most part, automated. She writes: "It (a Fog Detector) uses a projector to shine light across a given optical path, then measures and interprets the backscattered light. When the detector senses a drop in visibility, the unit sends a signal to the lighthouse’s electronic equipment, which then signals the foghorn to blow."1

She continues the article telling us how even this technology is aging (misfiring) and being replaced with " a Mariner Radio Activated Signal System, which allows boaters to activate foghorns themselves when they need help navigating during inclement weather."2 In other words, the need for assistance in navigating during times of poor visibility is being placed solely in the ship captain's hands. He can choose to sail on with or without receiving help from the ominous sound of a foghorn.

In the believers life, there are times when we need the illumination of the lighthouse and others, when we need the low and blaring blast of a foghorn. Unlike the aging and changing technology of the fog detector, God never ages nor changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The lighthouse of God's word is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, who in times of spiritual discernment guides us along the right path bringing to our remembrance the promises Jesus spoke (John 16:13). The foghorn is needed during the foggy and unclear times of lifethe times when we know the light exists but the static in our lives, like the fog, seems to drown the ever burning lamp of illumination. It is then we need to hear from God.

Are you in need to hear from God?
Where are you traveling today? this week? this month? this year? Do you need illumination and discernment to make a choice? Ask the Lord, and turn to the lamp of His word. He often speaks to us through His word or uses it to point us in a direction where we will see His unfolding will. He will never fail you.

Maybe, your traveling through the rough seas and the storms around you seem to be suppressing the light. This is when you need the voice of the Spirityou need to hear from God. The Bible refers to His witnessing work as the still small voice of God. It is God's foghorn. It may not blare as disturbingly loud, but it is still audible. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). When He said this, He did not mean just sometimes or even just for some people. If you are a child of God, you can hear His voice. The question is how? In my life, I have to say there have been times when I distinctly heard the voice of God softly speaking and prompting me, especially through the Bible. At others, I have heard him through a filling of the Spirit or even in the witness of a cool refreshing breeze. There are many ways God speaks to us. But, they all have a common denominator, His peace accompanying His witness. Hear this my friend, "God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33). Also, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" ((Phil. 4:7).

But God also warns us through the foghorn of dread. Even in dread there can be peace when it comes from God. When we are going through changing times or dark circumstances, we are prone to mistake our emotions for God's peace. If a door or a window shines a crack of light, we think "Wow! This is good news. This must be where God is leading. I feel so confident." It is good to remember that during these times, we are vulnerable and susceptible to emotional swings. The uplift we experience can be easily mistaken for God's will because we are apt to jump at anything that will bring relief. The smart thing to do when experiencing this is to give some time to prayer and waiting upon the Lord to make sure it is from Him. In other words, do not act hastily.

An amazing experience that taught me how to wait upon God
There was a time when I was facing a change in ministry. I knew the time had come for me to move into a new pastorate. God's peace had left me in my current position filling the vacuum with unrest. The Holy Spirit was witnessing to my spirit that it was time to move on. He had another place for me. I prayed of course and sought God for where that new place may be. A few days later, I was asked by a pastoral search committee if I would come and visit their church. This was quick and exciting response. Also, it was in an area that seemed to be a dream come true. I continued my usual studies and interactions with other pastors while I waited. Soon the day came. I grabbed my Bible, my sermon notes, and an over night bag and was off. I was so excited. But soon the raging excitement turned to dread. As I approached the quaint village, the peace I thought I had in my spirit quickly turned to sour grapes. I was only about a mile from the town when my high expectations were doused with uncertainty. It wasn't the town, the beautiful church, the village, or the people of the church; I hadn't even made it into the city or seen any of that. It was simply God saying, "You will not take the pastorate of this church." Knowing this, I decided I needed to fulfill my commitment to bring a message to them but wondered why God had led me this far only to turn me around.

I pulled into the church parking lot and was met by several people with hospitality and goodwill. The church building was beautiful and set in a great neighborhood. They gave me some time to relax, some refreshments, and some quiet time to prepare for worship. What they did not know, is that God had had already closed this door to me. What I did not know, was why? That morning, I brought a gospel centered message that was well received and the church was quietly dismissed. Those who made up the search committee and the leadership stayed in the sanctuary preparing for a Q & A to find out more about me. The usual doctrinal questions were asked, and I told them more about me and how God had been working in my past. This was all well and good, then the hammer dropped. A woman stood and asked if I would be willing to lead their men and the community in a leadership role that involved a now nearly defunct Men's ministry organization. Just days before, I had learned this ministry was very ecumenical and forbade any teaching that was not one-hundred percent accepted by all denominations. This meant I would be limited on what I could teach. I certainly could not join a group that would put a muzzle on God's word. But more than that, through the harangue that fired back in response to my simple answer concerning why I would not fulfill this request with this organization, I found out that it was the women who ran the church. They were desperate for a pastor to lead the men of the church into submission to what they thought a man should be, not what God desired a man to be. To make a long story short, by their own admission, they were not looking for male leadership in the home or even in the church (which would be admirable), but acquiescence to their desires. The direction they were headed was wrong because the motive was wrong. Now I knew why God said no.

Since that learning experience, I have set it in my mind to not trust my emotional response, but to seek God's face, pray, use the discernment of His word, and to wait patiently for His direction which would always come with His peace. Whether it was the illumination from His word, His lighthouse, or the foghorn of the Spirit, the still small voice which stirs the believers heart, I would wait upon Him.

Sometimes life takes us into dark and clear places where we need the lighthouse of God's illumination and sometimes it takes us into fierce storms and driving rain or simply, thick fog. It is then we need to listen for the foghorn of the Spirit that will stop us in our tracks to seek His divine will. Remember what Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me." Follow Him, won't you?

God Bless

     1 - Melissa Klein, "Who Blows a Lighthouse's Foghorn?" 2016, accessed June 1, 2017, http://www.popsci.com/who-blows-foghorn

     2 - Ibid.

Monday, May 1, 2017

When Prayer Confronts an Unchanging God


Christians need to get used to the idea that since the Lord is immutable, or unchanging, this also includes His will. We need to realize that in any situation, in the end, His will is what will be accomplished. In the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before His arrest, kangaroo trial, and crucifixion, Jesus said as much. While He was in the garden praying, He expressed the following: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). And again, a few minutes later: "a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done'" (Matthew 26:42). This is an excellent picture of divine transparency—a searching picture of His humanity. He knew what was ahead, and just like the imprisoned John the Baptist, who sent some of His disciples to Jesus asking, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" (Luke 7:20), when our flesh is under pressure, we can sometimes say or think some things which are completely outside the realm of God's will. Let's look further.
  
Most Bible students are familiar with the story of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt under the mediatorial leadership of Moses. What most could easily recall are the miracles in Egypt, such as, the parting of the Red Sea and their crossing to the other side on dry land as they trekked to the Promised Land. They will also recall that Israel rebelled and had to spend forty years in the wilderness before actually going into the Promised Land under the mediating leadership of Joshua. But many of the "in-between" details some may not recall. 

In Deuteronomy chapter one, Moses briefly recounts events that led to the "why" of their forty-year incarceration in the wilderness; simply put, they refused to follow the will of God. Yes, there were murmurings and complaints, but they are really only a sub-story to the real reason why they did not enter into the Promised Land at the appointed time. At this point, let's allow the Scripture to speak by framing their disobedience in the correct context. 

The Recounting of God's Will
Upfront, I would like to say that when God gives instructions it is never wise to foolishly disobey. Moses tells us that God had spoken to the nation at Horeb and had given the following divine instructions:
6 The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’1
These instructions did not come without further direction. Moses recounted how the Lord had led them out of Egypt stating, "In the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place." and further, He "went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day."2 God had literally led them, carried them, and chose the places they would encamp.

Israel Refuses to Trust the Lord
So the question is, if the Lord was their guide, protector, and provider thus far, why couldn't they trust Him to take them to the final destination? I realize that hindsight is greater than foresight and we can easily sit in wonderment at their lack of faith, but the question still needs an answer. God had stated His will and there would be no going back on that, His will would be accomplished with or without them and in this case, without them was God's decree.


Do Not Reject God's Leading!
This brings us to the point of the post. When we knowingly and intentionally pass up a divine appointment, and or, opportunity—a door God has opened and set clearly before us—no amount of repentance, prayer, or backtracking will open that door back up. The Bible describes seasons of opportunity—times of visitation—and as believers, our responsibility is to walk in and through them knowing the Lord at the helm and will fight for us. An example?
41 Now as He [Jesus] drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”3
Do you see the last line? All of us have many visitations—times when the Lord is moving us, directing us, and pointing us in the way we should go. It is during these times we must not say "No! I will not go." Again, no amount of prayer is going to deliver us back into that "now passed" and "once decreed" will of God. What we will have to submit to, at least for a season, is God's discipline. It may be, as was the case with Israel, "forty-years" later, that the Lord will again open the door, but not until we have been disciplined to obey.
 
So, what happened to Israel after they rejected God's divine direction?
Well, they went exactly as God desired when He is snubbed and ignored. God, the omniscient One that He is, knew they would try to repent and do as He previously said, but He had already pronounced judgment and slammed that door shut. So, He speaks to Moses asking him to tell them to not try and go through the closed door because He would not be with them. So anything they would try to do would be like running into a brick wall. Here is what we read:
42 And the LORD said to me, ‘Tell them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; lest you be defeated before your enemies.” ’ 43 So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of the LORD, and presumptuously went up into the mountain. 44 And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah. 45 Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD would not listen to your voice nor give ear to you.4
This is not an isolated incident. There are other examples such as Esau, of whom we are told, sought repentance with tears after he gave up his birthright to Jacob, but could not find it (Heb. 12:17). Then there is Peter, who denied the Lord three times, who also wept bitterly for what he had done (Luke 22:54-62). Peter, like any of us with foot-in-mouth disease, could not take back what he had done. Tradition tells us that, even though Peter was fully forgiven of his sin, the action itself never left him. William Bates wrote: "Never, all his life long, did the remembrance of his denial of Jesus leave Peter, and that, morning by morning, he rose at the very hour when the look of the Master broke his heart, to pray once more for pardon.... but the mordant memory of his sin was ceaselessly with him. In the “Life of Phillips Brooks,” there is an account of an extraordinary sermon he delivered at Harvard from the text, 'Thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” An able minister wrote upon the margin of his copy, “We never get rid of any act: it is a part of ourselves.'"5

The disobedience of Israel at the outset of God's open door to the Promised Land, was a hard price to pay, excepting Joshua and Caleb, only those twenty-years and younger were able to eventually enter the land God had sanctified for their inheritance.


What we can take away from these simple truths, is a one liner: "When God calls, obey." His will will always be accomplished and no amount of complaining or artful persuasive prayers are going to change what He has set in stone. So, the advice I give myself is PBJ, "Pray hard. Be discerning. Join God." I might add, join Him at the time of His choosing!
God Bless

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.6

1 - The N
ew King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Deut. 1:6–8.

2 - Ibid., Deut. 1:31, 33.
3 - Ibid., Luke 19:41–44.
4 - Ibid., Deut. 1:42–45.
5 - William H. Bates, “God’s Forgiveness of Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra 79, no. 315 (1922): 260.
6 - Ibid., NKJV, 2 Th 1:11–12.


A Prayer From my Heart

Lord, today and over the past few weeks, I have been facing the issue of job loss. So my first response has been to pray. It is in this vein of prayer , that I come to You. So what am I asking? Am I asking You to change circumstances that affect others in order for You to selfishly answer my prayer? or, am I asking for you to give me peace and patience to wait for the circumstances that involve me, as well as others, to come about as You have sovereignly ordained? I honestly feel, the answer is found in waiting. For if You change my circumstance, rather than allowing me to slide into Yours, then You would need to change the circumstances that involve everyone else to make room for me. That could mean detrimental results for others. Lord, I do not want others to face changing circumstances on account of my needs. But, I do desire for You to work out Your plan in my life in the provisional way that only You can, because only then, will it be a mutual blessing for all parties involved. So I wait... and I pray. I ask for wisdom and insight into Your divine directions. It is through Christ my Lord and Savior I pray, amen.

Pastor Mike

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Does God Change His Mind?

God's majesty is never ending   

This topic is not a new issue. It has been written about by theologians much smarter than I on numerous occasions. The reason I am taking it up, is because there are still articles and books being printed that would like you to believe that God is not truly immutable (unchanging) because our actions can change God's will in response to our prayers. Therefore, because of this, I will write this in two parts. Let me first ask that you please read this prayerfully. Ask God for wisdom. If what I write flies in the face of everything you have been taught or, true biblical/classical/orthodox theology, then weigh the two in the balance and let God's word be the judge.

First of all, the Bible teaches that God is "immutable." This is defined as His unchangeable nature. Nelson's puts it this way: "a characteristic of God signifying that He does not change in His basic nature (Mal. 3:6). In Him, “there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God does not “mutate” from being one kind of God to being another, nor is He subject to the limitations of time and space, since in Christ He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3)."1 Theologian, Norman Geisler concurs:
The biblical basis for God’s unchangeability is found in numerous texts. Consider the following: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Num. 23:19). “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Sam. 15:29). “They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.… But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Ps. 102:26–27; cf. Heb. 1:10–12). “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie …” (Heb. 6:18). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). “Resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2). “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

It is clear from these verses that not only does God not change, but it is also impossible for Him to change. There are things He cannot do, namely, He cannot act contrary to His immutable (unchangeable) nature.2
Yet, if this is so, why do so many teach that by living "positively" (not allowing any negative thoughts to surface in our minds or actions), we can change God's direction in our lives? This is more a teaching of Eastern Mystical Religion and Hinduism (involving "karma," good or bad) than the Bible. How did this slip in to our churches? There are also those believers who by their so-called "faith statements" ignore Psalm 139:16, "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them." This passage simply tells us that God has already seen our days being the one who fashioned them. In other words, they have already been ordained by God. When Jesus spoke of faithlessness, anxiety, and worry, He told us to consider the lilies of the field "which neither toil nor spin" yet they are clothed just as God desires (Matt. 6:28-29). Toiling and spinning in a believers life, are nothing more than physical and emotional labors spent to bring events to bear that fit into what we desire—deeming it better than what an immutable (unchanging - all knowing) God knows to be good for us. God does not desire we toil and spin, He desires we trust and wait.

Now, we come to the topic of prayer. I recently read a devotional by Robert Morris, which either knowingly or unknowingly, promotes what is known in the theological world as "Open Theism" (see footnote3). His devotional at one point stated: "When the Bible says that God is unchangeable, however, it isn’t saying that God doesn’t change His mind. It is saying that God doesn’t change His character. God cannot and will not change His character. He is who He is. But according to Scripture, He can and will change His mind!"4 Morris goes on to list three examples where he believes God changed his mind, Genesis 18:16-33 (Abraham's conversation with God concerning destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the number of righteous in the cities), Exodus 32:9-10, 14 (God's desire to destroy the rebellious nation of Israel), and Jonah 3:4, 4:2 (God's staying of judgment against Nineveh). In each of the cases, Morris quotes a passage where it seems to state that God changed His mind or would change His mind given certain criteria. Morris reasons that in each case either prayer or repentance was the determinant moving God to change His mind.

So, how are we to approach such biblical passages as Morris quotes? They certainly seem to speak of God changing His mind. But do they really teach this? Before we go any further, take a moment to consider Millard Erickson's thoughts on a changing God's mind and our experience with Him:
This idea of divine changelessness is also supported by personal religious experience, for God is depicted as never failing those who trust in him (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; Isa. 43:1–2; 49:15–16; Heb. 13:5). Such faithfulness, however, requires an unchanging and unchangeable God, for if he could change, how could we trust him and obey his commands unreservedly?5
Erickson's words bring peace to the one who is seeking it because he dares not make the Lord God out to be a fickle, waffling Creator, instead we can trust Him because we know His promises are sure. In a word, "trust," is what all believers must have in their relationship to God. Also, if our Lord is not omniscient (all knowing, Psalm 139:1-12), then He would be always gadding about to see what our next move would be! This being the case, let's answer Morris' thesis that God can be influenced to change His position through prayer and or obedient actions.

Remember Morris' words. He stated, God does not change His character, but, "God will change His mind." This is based upon an open theist or free-will theist supposition that God does not know all of the future (he is not omniscient or all-knowing). He can only know some of it, because He cannot know what humanity (having a free-will) will ever do. Therefore, if we choose to pray and have faith then we (the creature), possess the power to coerce the Creator and make Him act according to our will. Listen to how Morris draws the reader into his tempting persuasion:
So we learn that God is immutable and will never, ever change His character. But He can and will change His mind when His people pray. And when we pray, we can remind Him of His unchanging character [persuasion]. He has always been and will always be compassionate. He has always been merciful, He is merciful at this very moment, and He will be that way right into eternity.6
In the above, Morris tells the reader that through prayer and persuasion and by reminding God of His character, God will be moved to answer our prayer and change circumstances. Now do not get me wrong, I think it is very biblical to tell God you are aware of His character as revealed in the Bible. Where I falter is in using it as a tool of persuasion. It is kind of like, putting God between "a rock and a hard-spot." You are trying to force Him to act in a way incompatible to His nature. The key word being, "force."

The downside of this way of thinking is this: If I have the power to persuade God, by reminding Him of His character, and He does not do what I ask, then I must be a flawed, weak, faithless, unloved, and insignificant negative person in God's eyes. But is that true? No, not according to orthodox theology and the classic biblical view. On the contrary, the Bible (Jesus) teaches that you are of more worth than the smallest sparrow. "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Mat 10:29-31, emphasis mine). This simple passage teaches that God is omniscient (all knowing) and that if He is aware of when a sparrow dies (his will) how much more is He aware of us and our day-to-day activities. We are worth more than the sparrow.

So, we have a choice to make concerning our theology and our biblical worldview. (1) We can believe that our prayer coerces God to act because He never knows our future and must be coerced to act in mercy according to our request, knowing when we do, there is a risk of becoming entrapped to a depressive "God must not love me" because He does not answer my prayer attitude, launching worry and anger, or, (2) We can believe that God loves us infinitely and knows what is best for us. His will be done, not mine. That He does have each of our days numbered (He has seen them), and that His knowledge of what is best for me is better than my greatest wishes for myself. This is so because, God's will for believers is transformation into the likeness of Christ not God transfoming into the likeness of me. Remember Romans 8:29: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (emphasis mine). If transformation and conforming to change into what Christ desires us to be was left up to us, it would never happen. Face it, we are more selfish than we sometimes think. Besides, we were created to serve God, not God be our servant. Believing we can coerce God into doing what we desire, presumes we also perfectly know what God's will for our future is. But do we?

Before you read and take something at face value, practice pausing a second to consider, whether what you are being told is true to Scripture. God is working in and through us and He alone knows the direction He has laid out for our lives. We need to join Him in His work, not He join us in our work.
Prayer??? God answers prayer according to His will. He asks us to wait upon Him for the answer.

To close, consider another devotional entry, this time by O. S. Hawkins, on waiting:
First, we have to wait for the sunrise. We cannot hurry it. It does not rise any sooner if I move the hour hand on my watch. Second, the sun always rises. We never wait in vain for the sun. Every sunset since time began has been followed by a sunrise — and God is just as faithful as the sun He created. Those who wait on Him are like those who “watch for the morning.” He is always right on time, and no matter how desperate we may be, we can count on god to rise and meet us according to His perfect timing.

Worry does not change what God is going to do, instead, it makes the path to getting there painful.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [provision for our needs] shall be added to you. — Matthew 6:337

____________
1 Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

2 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 74–75.

3 Open Theism or free-will theism purports the belief "that God does not know future free actions of human beings so that the future is to Him uncertain." (Steve Wellum, “God,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary [Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003], 660.) Interestingly, this belief is very similar to the Islamic analogue, "Al-Qadiriyyah, [which] contends that people possess complete control over their actions and that even God lacks knowledge of what humans will freely choose to do (Piamenta, Islam, 147–49)." (Kirk R. MacGregor, “Predestination,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016]. Therefore, God acts in response to our actions.

4 Robert Morris, "Why Keep Praying? God Changes His Mind," Devotionals Daily, March 28, 2017, accessed March 29, 2017, http://contentz.mkt4728.com/mson/2017/03/29/sIwcvYyMoff0/index.html.

5 Millard J. Erickson, God the Father Almighty: A Contemporary Exploration of the Divine Attributes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 70.

6 Morris, "Why Keep Praying"

7 O. S. HAwkins, "What Good Does Worry Do?" Devotionals Daily, March 30, 2017, accessed March, 31, 2017, http://www.faithgateway.com/what-good-does-worry-do/#.WN4vx2e1vZ

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Refugee's and the Christian Responsibility






The refugee crisis in our world today, has sparked a lot of talk concerning the Christian's responsibility toward foreigners. Because it seems to be a touchy subject for some, I would like to come at it from a non-biased point of view. Pointedly, I want to highlight a few important passages that I believe offer an honest understanding of the topic.

People, in general, do not ever like to be wrong. Some will go as far as only providing one side of a story to prove their point, even if they know the other side to be true as well. This can be seen in politics and main stream journalism all the time. The truth is censured based upon what side you want to support. Although this is unbalanced, and unfair, it seems to be easier than trying to sort through both sides and come up with a rationale that satisfies all. That said, there are many factors that motivate a person to stand for this or that, or to side with this person or another. Balance and truth is what I desire to present today, showing that in order for truth to be truth we must avoid half truths. 

What does the Bible say that can be applied to the believer when it comes to international refugees and our responsibility?

1) Concerning hospitality: "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (1Pet. 4:9). (see also Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) I have chosen this verse because it seems to be one of the obvious choice passages used to defend allowing a stranger into our home or even simply serving him/her. It strikes at the heart of service, and no true Christian can deny that we are called to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13). This includes refugees.

2) Concerning Christian love: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,' you do well" (James 2:8). This will be the most quoted verse when it comes to service toward refugees. It is clear and concise. It is mentioned twice in the Old Testament, Lev. 19:18; Zech. 8:17. It is mentioned eight times in the New Testament, Matt. 4:43-44, 19:19, 22:39, 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; and James 2:8. The question most associated with this passage came from the lips of a religious lawyer in Luke 10. In verse 27 Jesus quoted from the old law, something a religious lawyer would be well aware of, considering interpreting the law was his responsibility. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). The lawyer then replied, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' reply was with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37.

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”1
 


One of the many points of the parable is that my neighbor is anyone who is in need. In this case, a Samaritan (foreigner), one despised by the Jews, was the one who helped out the unnamed man. Something, most likely, the lawyer in question was lacking. Therefore, we are called to love all people not just those of our own nationality.

3) Concerning safety: "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into" (Luke 12:39). In this command of Jesus, concerning the spiritual state of believers, and in reference to the return of the Lord, we are told to always be aware and alert to the Lord's coming, which could happen at any time. Those who are not watchful are in a dilapidated spiritual state and are like the unwise master of the house who allowed the thief to break in and wreak havoc.


The argument could be made that the Lord recognizes that to live wisely means to live in such a way that we are hospitable to all people, that we love all people, but that we also be proper stewards of what we own, which includes security and safeguards. Not allowing our homes to be broken into is not just so that our belongings will not be stolen, but more certainly, that our loved ones are not harmed in the process.

So then, biblically speaking, I think a case can be made for putting proper (as opposed to improper or unreasonable) safeguards in place to protect our country from external danger. Does this mean we live scared? No. not at all. Does this mean we snub those that are already here? No, on the contrary, we love and serve as Jesus did. It also does not mean we hold up everyone who wants to enter the US for the sake of a few. However, it does mean that it is wise to properly vett those who are coming over illegally in order to make sure we are not allowing danger to sit on our couch. There is nothing wrong or unwise about that. We can love, serve with hospitality, and still safeguard our homes or country with out being labeled a hater.

     1The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 10:30–37.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Life's Reminisces and Future Glory




The image above reminds me of my childhood Kansas. Every winter my brothers and I would go down to a wooded patch behind our home where a low-lying seep would freeze over in winter to make our very own skating rink. We were not wealthy enough to have ice skates, and it didn't matter, our boots sufficed just fine. For hours on end we would skate or play stick hockey, all the time being so thankful that winter had come. For us winter was special. It allowed a closer time to bond together as siblings and to appreciate things such as a home and heat to warm it, hot soup, and of course snow...and in Kansas we got plenty! 

Those days are gone just like the year that has just passed. I no longer live in Kansas, but Illinois. Nevertheless, the childhood memories will linger and I do hope that all of us can find something to be thankful for in our past.

Here in Illinois, Christmas passed us as fast as it arrived and the New Year has now come. We are all anticipating how the Lord will use us in this coming year. As I think about this I wonder what thoughts passed through Mary's mind as she held the Lord Jesus in her arms. Christmas, at least as we celebrate it, would have passed and the days that followed were before her. All she may have known for sure was what had been revealed to her by the angel Gabriel (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). Did she know that wise-men would come from the East bearing gifts for the Babe? Did she know that shortly after she brought the Lord into this world, that the family would be soon whisked off into Egypt? I wonder if she wondered if they would ever make it back to Nazareth of Galilee? Her life and that of the Lord Jesus was purely providential at this early time. Of course, we know the many prophecies that foretold His birth and I suppose she was also aware or, at least, made aware of them as well. But even still, with much of the life of Jesus laid out in the Old Testament, she, being human, may have wondered "what did" and "what did not" apply to the future life of her Son. Its kind of like us knowing the Lord is to one day come with the clouds, whisk His church to heaven, then return to earth to set up His millennial kingdom; we still wonder about when it will be and even squabble about the particulars. But one thing I am sure of, Mary, knew her life was in God's hands and that the miracle produced in her womb would one day rule the world. This she expresses in her song:


Luke 1:46–55 (NKJV)

46 And Mary said:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His name.

50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him

From generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

And exalted the lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.

54 He has helped His servant Israel,

In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers,

To Abraham and to his seed forever.

It is my prayer for all, and for all who read this, that you will place your faith solidly in the hands of Jesus, the Creator of the world and the universe, the Savior and Lord over this world and for all who will believe in Him. The angel said "...you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1;21). 

We maybe clueless as to the outcome of the days ahead, but we will never be alone if we will place our faith in the Son of God, Jesus, who also promised to all who believe, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5). With Him, the days ahead will one day be memories of our childhood, and we will look back and say "Great is the Lord" and like Mary, "who is mighty has done great things for me." 

God Bless you and 2017


Friday, November 11, 2016

A Salute to Veterans



To all my fellow veterans, active, retired, and having served, I salute you for your gallantry, professionalism, ethic, heroism, sacrifice, and love for the our nation. It has been your dedication to God and country that has compelled you to step up when our national security and interests were threatened. When the oppressed around the world cry out it has been the US Service members who have gone to their rescue. When called upon you never shied away. You stood strong and proud. For this and so much more I salute you and pray the Lord's blessing upon our nation and upon you and your families. May the USA consider to prosper. May we continue to be the right arm of the outcast lifting them from harms way. May we continue to persist in our support of what is right over what is wrong. May we continue to wave the banner of old glory proudly for all that she has stood for.

God Bless the USA!

Happy Veterans Day!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Sifted Heart and It's Lord



The "Prince of Preachers," Charles Spurgeon, was not a stranger to spiritual sifting in his day. He once wrote of how the Bible speaks of it in the following way:

  “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”—Amos 9:9.

The sifting process is going on still. Wherever we go, we are still being winnowed and sifted. In all countries God’s people are being tried “like as corn is sifted in a sieve.” Sometimes the devil holds the sieve, and tosses us up and down at a great rate, with the earnest desire to get rid of us for ever. Unbelief is not slow to agitate our heart and mind with its restless fears. The world lends a willing hand at the same process, and shakes us to the right and to the left with great vigour. Worst of all, the church, so largely apostate as it is, comes in to give a more furious force to the sifting process.
Well, well! let it go on. Thus is the chaff severed from the wheat. Thus is the wheat delivered from dust and chaff. And how great is the mercy which comes to us in the text, “yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth”! All shall be preserved that is good, true, gracious. Not one of the least of believers shall be lost, neither shall any believer lose anything worth calling a loss. We shall be so kept in the sifting that it shall be a real gain to us through Christ Jesus.1

What is amazing about Amos' text and Spurgeon's sentiments is that all who are true believers need not worry on that final day, for it is Christ who upholds the faithful. The chaff mixed in with the wheat will have long since been swished away by the sifting breeze of the winnow and the sharp slice of the divine scythe. Only those intimately acquainted by the blood of Christ will be found in His mercy--yes, from the wafting wisp of the dimly burning flax of a believer, to the ambassador for Christ on mission--all will be saved on that day.

Although we can rejoice in these facts, it is no secret that this sifting of the church is taking place right before our eyes. The true believers are making a stand and the false are on the sidelines. Self-gratification has gripped the hearts of Western civilization even to the point that many believe they do not need the Lord.

Dear church-goer, please make sure your salvation is sure. Please make sure you are in the faith. Here are a few litmus tests:

  • Have you  turned your heart over to Jesus?  - John 1:12-13
  • Do you put Him first in your life? - Col. 1:18
  • Do you love the saints? - John 13:35; 1 John 4:20-21
  • Do you practice lawlessness firsthand? Continually? - Matt. 13:41, 23:28; 1 John 3:4
  • Do you strive to keep the commandments of Christ? Dan. 9:4; John 14:21
  • Does the "Fruit of the Spirit" exude from your life? - Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:8-11
  • Do you actively lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven? - Matt. 6:19-21, 19:21
  • Do you love the world and it's dimming glimmer more than the luster of heaven? - 1 John 2:15-16, 4:4; Matt. 6:24
  • Do you consider yourself an alien in the world? - Phil. 3:20; Heb. 11:13; Eph. 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:11

These are not exhaustive and are only meant to take you to a place of consideration. It is a known fact that in the church today there are many who profess to be Christians but are only deceiving themselves. It is my sincere desire to see all believers turn fully to Jesus. Consider this: Jesus said, "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" 2 All this passage is really saying is there are many who are lying to themselves. But on that day no lie will stand even though one is proffered. We must remember, "For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light."3 the Apostle Paul echoes this with, "In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."4

The best time for sifting the heart and the church is now, while there is still time to repent and turn to God. For on that final day when the world stands before God, time will be spent, and salvation will no longer be available, (Rev. 20:11-15). What stops you from doing this now? What holds you back from the inheritance of eternity with Christ and life-everlasting?





1- C. H. Spurgeon, The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith: Being Precious Promises Arranged for Daily Use with Brief Comments (New York: American Tract Society, 1893), 267.
2 - The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 7:22–23.
3 - Mark 4:22
4 - The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 2:16.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Day Truth is Taken Captive Pt. 2


This is a wake-up message. 

In pre-exilic Judah, there was a spiritual famine in the land. In Pt. 1, we looked at how their worship had become mechanical and self-centered. It was a pitiful sight. Worship and personal devotion had become drudgery and they were not living out what their lips said they believed. The death knell was sounding and on the wind its peal echoed with the distant vibration of approaching enemy hoof beats. Truth was inflight and its surrogate had settled in. God was not pleased.  If Isaiah 58 warns of the impending consequence in forgetting God, Isaiah 59 exposes the impossibility of a return.

How did Jesus see mechanical and non-committal worship?
In repudiation of the rigid, merciless, and unloving way the religious leaders carried out their practice of worship and consecrated living, Jesus stated twice in the Gospels, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (Matt. 9:13, 12:7). Here is why. In Matt. 9, Jesus was condemned for eating with tax collectors and sinnersthe outcasts of Jewish "spiritual" circlesthe unclean. In Matt. 12, He is called out for allowing His disciples to pluck heads of grain to quell their hunger on the Sabbath. In both cases, and in God's eyes, mercy had encountered the necessities of life. Despised as he was, the outcast tax collector encounters mercy as one born in the image of God and as equally valued as any other who needs spiritual life. The hungry disciples pit physical sustenance as a qualifier for receiving God's mercy. In both cases, God meets the needs and lifts truth from its fallen state to make it meaningful, loving, refreshing, and sustainable. Instead of the heavy burden of heretical and dry religious interpretation being flung oppressively on the people, Jesus showed that proper faith and proper interpretation would balance holiness with mercy. A beautiful lesson in love and wise judgment. Jesus taught that the law was never meant to overrule mercy and grace.

In the West today, we are also facing a war on truth
Os Guinness, in writing of the death of of Judeo/Christian ethics in the West states the following:

But we can say with an organic certainty, which is as sure as any mathematical certainty, that the growth and the flowers that they [Christianity] once produced will eventually die. Cut-flower civilization? The destruction of a root system and a moral ecology? A civilization without a soul? We could give more sophisticated names to this crisis. We might call it a “legitimation crisis” or a “crisis of cultural authority” in that the beliefs and ideas that once inspired and drove the West have been repudiated and have almost lost their compelling power.1

Sadly, Os is correct. Christianity is waning, but not because all Christians have abandoned truth, but because Christianity is seen as a burden on the hedonistic, liberal, and humanistic religious philosophies of darkness. Truth is still preached and truth is still lived out, but the unbelieving world is not listening. God's truth is being suppressed in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18, 28).

Tipping points
The lesson of Judah (and previously, the Ten Tribes to the north of Judah) is when a nation forgets God and becomes self-serving, placing unrighteous living over what is right for the preservation of civility and society, God abandons that society to its own preservation. In Judah, because truth had lost its persuasiveness, what God desired to give to Judah He could no longer do. Consequently, what would eventually become of these truth slayers was exile. Instead of being a servant of their own pastures they would now serve over the pastures of foreigners. Isa. 59 justifies the Lord in His allowing the future exile of Judahit shows He means business. Truth had fallen and those responsible for disseminating that truth would fall with it.

Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear  Isaiah 59:1-2

How sad. Hypocrisy, power, narcissism, a lack of love and dozens of other reasons caused Israel to become merciless in their devotion to God. To borrow from Os Guinness, our society today is their "cut-flower" society of old. If the end of Judah, as they knew it, was the captivity of darkness to the external forces of Babylon, what will the end of the West be, but a fall into the exilic captivity of current spiritual forces of darkness. As the snake slithers under the threshold of the church so shall the viper slay the one preparing its pit under the altar

In a few words, the Lord tells them that He can hear and that He can save, but their iniquities, which include the trampling of truth, morality, ethics, and justice, had raised obstacles to His love. In Noah's day, God gave the world 120 years to repent (Gen. 6:3). After that, His longsuffering mercy was lifted. He had had all He could take (Gen. 6:3, 5, 6). In His wrath all but Noah and his family died in the flood. MacArthur writes of the type of judgment which would befall Judah calling it the "wrath of abandonment." Writing on Romans 1, He states, "God's wrath is already at work in our culture.  We're not waiting for it, folks.  We're in it.  "That's a pretty bold statement, what makes you say that?"  Scripture here proves it.  Look at verse [Rom. 1:] 24, "Therefore God gave them over."  Verse 26, "For this reason, God gave them over."  Verse 28, middle of the verse: "God gave them over."  Now, in verse 18, he says, "The wrath of God is revealed."2 

This is the same type wrath that is hanging over the West.
Below is a simple outline and some commentary on Isa. 59

I. The Lord is able to Hear and Save but Judah's sin impedes it (59:1-2)

II The People are Guilty as Charged (59:3-13)
   i. Accusations attested (59:3-4)
  ii  Descriptions of their Sin and Rebellion (59:5-8)
 iii  Confessions of Sin and Recognition of Consequence (59:9-15a) - Truth has Fallen - Fled


"In transgressing and lying against the LORD, And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice" (Isaiah 59:13-15)

 

When truth is fully suppressed through apathy toward God and continual rebellion and injustice, the hammer falls. 

It is here that Judah (and Israel) lost its independence as a free nation. Soon they would be lamenting their captivity as Psalm 137 indicates:

Psalm 137:1–4 (NKJV)
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.


2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.


3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”


4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?

The outline continues with HOPE!

III.  Eschatological Promises (future) (59:15b-21
   i.  By His Own Arm God would bring Salvation (59:16) 

Isaiah 59:16 (NKJV)
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.


The inauguration of the New Covenant (Heb. 10:16-17) would begin after Jesus was crucified where He signed the covenant in His blood on the cross. He arose from deaths grip to validate its authority. This covenant was extended to all people, through the church, and is still in effect today. One day soon, the recipients of God's grace, His church, will rise to glory (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Thereafter, this Covenant will be extended to cover national of Israel during the days prior to Jesus returning to the earth at His second coming, where as Rom. 11:26 states, "All Israel will be saved." (Rom 11:25, 26; Zech. 12:10, 13:9).

Concerning All Israel being saved, Norman Geisler writes:

A consistent, straightforward reading of this passage [...] yields several crucial facts.

  • First, the messianic kingdom of Israel had not yet been fulfilled.
  • Second, God would restore the kingdom to Israel at a yet future time.
  • Third, this will not occur until after Jesus returns.
  • Fourth, there is not the slightest hint that any spiritual kingdom had replaced these prophecies.
  • Fifth, the Old Testament promises were not just for Israel but also for their literal descendants, whom Peter calls “heirs” of the promises.
  • Sixth, and finally, these covenants made by God include an unconditional promise for Israel to inherit forever the Holy Land, from Egypt to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18).3
Outline cont.
ii  Sin will be Judged and Justice will be Legislated (59:17-18)

Isaiah 59:17–18 (NKJV)

17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.


18 According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay,
Fury to His adversaries,
Recompense to His enemies;
The coastlands He will fully repay.
 


From the passage note the uniform of war: 
* Breastplate - Righteousness (Pure righteousness when executed is justice in action - Rev. 19:11)
* Helmet - Salvation originates from the top down. Pictures complete readiness. No one goes to physical war without his helmet and neither can spiritual battle be fought without first enlisting on the side of righteousness (Messiah- Jesus).
* Garments - The uniform of vengeance - Identifies Jesus coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to "tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" against all oppression and iniquity (Rev. 19:15-16)
* Zeal - Cloaked and covered in a love for truth and justice - This pictures the fervent desire of a true believer and is modeled by Jesus. With zeal for justice the earth will be judged for its sinfulness which resulted in: 1) apathy toward truth and justice 2) harm to their fellow man

A View of Mt. Zion from the Hill of Offense4
Isa. 59 closes with one of the most powerful passages of promise in all of the Bible:
Isaiah 59:20–21 (NKJV)
20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,”
Says the Lord.

21 “As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”

The Redeemer is the Lord Jesus. In the Days before He sets up His kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:1-6) He will come to Zion (Jerusalem - Zech 14:4-5) - Those who turn from transgression in Israel (Jacob) will worship Him. Israel will finally, as a nation, come into the bond of the New Covenant accepting Jesus as the Messiah (see below).


Ezekiel 20:33–37 (NKJV)

God Will Restore Israel

33 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36 Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the Lord God.

37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;


In conclusion
This has been a rather long entry. But it is a post that is needed. In America and the West today, truth has fallen. Injustice is on the throne. Secular humanism, naturalism, and hedonism have played their cards. The politicians fear their constituents and few are standing for the absolute truths of the Bible. Christianity and Judaism are both tolerated and hated. America was founded upon biblical principles and as a Christian nation but she is no more. She has been properly labeled  as "Post- Christian" by most and the sexual revolution has won the hearts of America's majority. 

A recent Lifeway poll shows the following disastrous results, proving America has lost its moral compass:5



 and:



So where do we go from Here? Judah, when faced with the same indictments as a nation, was exiled. Is that where we are headed next? Will we be abandoned by God? Is His wrath on the horizon.


Luke 21:29–36 (NKJV) - Parable of the Fig Tree

29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Warning to Watch for His Coming

34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


The Day Truth is taken Captive Pt. 1

1 - Guinness, Os. Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization (Kindle Locations 406-411). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

2 - MacArthur, John, The Reality of God's Wrath, https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-184/The-Reality-of-Gods-Wrath (accessed 07/19/2016)

3 - Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 489.

4 - Photo courtesy - Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2201.

5 - Green, Lisa Cannon, Changing genders isn't morally wrong, Americans say, http://www.bpnews.net/47223/changing-genders-isnt-morally-wrong-americans-say (Accessed July 19, 2016)