Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Laying Still Under God's Scalpel

     I suppose with all that has gone on in our lives in the last few weeks, the topic of trials and difficulties has been on my mind. It is easy to teach on trials, when life is pretty good. But it is in the fire of trials when the soundness of our faith is tested. Some of what I learned I want to share with you so that one day it may help you as well. I have not learned this lesson perfectly, but I am growing bit by bit.

     'No pain no gain' is a common expression which is often true. This is true in the world of healing and medicine. When we are sick or have some problem in our body, the path to a cure is lined with pain. Doctors prescribe medicines that are bitter to fight disease. They take their scalpels and forceps to cut us open so that they may fix our health problems. They can cause serious pain and discomfort in order to obtain a cure. Yet why do people continue to go to doctors and hospitals? Why do they take treatment or medicine that is bitter and painful? People want to be healthy. They want to enjoy this life. And so, they are willing to bear with the pain of treatment in order that they may defeat the disease and return to health and the life they want to live.

     What is true of the diseases of the body and how they are cured, is also true of the diseases of the soul and how they are treated. Sin is the black plague of the soul. It destroys, rots, corrupts, and ruins people. No disease of the body can compare with the deadly nature of sin in the soul of man. However Jesus is the great Divine Physician. "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17  It is He who gives new life to the dead sinner through changing his heart of stone into a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) But the Christian still has sin in his life. The flesh is still there. God is working like a doctor in our lives to  cure us of this sin disease that still runs in our veins. He mixes together the bitter medicines of the trials of our lives with His word to treat our sin. He knows the right time for the trial in each person's life. He knows which is the right trial for the right person to cure their particular sin. He understands how to mix trials together to produce a healing effect. This God does every day in our lives. Through little trials, like a flat tire or big trials like the death of a friend or painful cancer, God is slowly but surely attacking our sin disease and causing us to grow healthy and strong in holiness.

    Our recovery to healthy godliness, depends in some degree on how we react to trials. If you try to fight the doctor as he tries to give you a shot, it will take longer to get a cure and you may have to be held down so the medicine can be administered. If you don't lay still as God takes His scalpel to remove your sin, it will hurt more. Grumbling, complaining, and disobeying God during  a trial will lead to a slower recovery. However if we lie still under God's scalpel by trusting His wisdom, goodness and love, the healing will be quicker and more complete. When every nerve of our body wants to lash out or run, our faith should cling even more tightly to God's promises and truth.  We should rejoice and be thankful even in the greatest pain and suffering, not because pain and suffering is good, but because God has promised to use these painful medicines to do us good and to glorify Himself. We should rejoice to see God curing us of our poisonous sin and causing us to produce greater fruit. We should worship even in the tears, even if it is through our groans. God is good and always does good. We can depend on that.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

 Lord, help our weak faith so that it can lay hold of who you are and what you have promised.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reverse The Curse In Your Marriage

There are thousands of books on marriage. There are many radio programs and ministries that are dedicated to fixing your marriage. I spent a lot of time when I was growing up on tractors listening to Christian radio. I heard many programs explaining how to make your marriage better. Now all this information is helpful. But it was on my honeymoon when I heard something that really clarified why we have marriage problems and what the solution is to our marriage problems.

   We were driving into Oregon listening to John Macarthur's teaching on the fulfilled family, a sermon series on Ephesians 5:22-6:4. He said something that I won't forget. Here are two quotes from that sermon series.

   "People will ask me what’s the key to your marriage or what’s the key to your family, how is it that your family is so close or you are close to your wife and you have such a wonderful relationship and I can just go back to this.  There is no magic, there is no formula, there is no gimmicks.  It’s not a  question of how many times did we do this or how many times did we do that or who was in charge of this or what kind of processes or methods did we use.  It’s simply a question and it has to start in my heart, am I committed to obedience to the Spirit of God, am I committed to the controlling influences of the Word of God, am I going to live out a Christian life?"  

"Because of fallenness there will be conflict.  You have to go back to the spiritual dimension to end it and that’s what’s so wonderful about this passage that we are looking at and you can go back to Ephesians now, that the solution to the conflict in marriage is spiritual and it starts with allowing the Holy Spirit to control your life, letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, obeying the Spirit of God as he reveals his will through the will of God.  Only the power of the Holy Spirit can reverse the curse in a home.  Where you have a Spirit filled person in the home, you have hope.  You ever try to pick a fight with a Spirit controlled person? Ever try to pick a fight with a totally joyful person that just has rising joy in their heart? Ever try to pick a fight with somebody who is thankful for everything, even the conflict?  Ever try to pick a fight with somebody who is totally submissive.  Very difficult.  Where that exists there is hope.  It’s a spiritual issue.  Conflict goes where the Holy Spirit dominates."  

     I thought these quotes were so good, that I should leave it at that. But perhaps a word or two is in order. Why does your marriage suck? Why do you have problems in your marriages? The answer is that you have two sinners who got married to each other that have some sanctification issues. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask" James 4:1-2 

    How do you fix your marriage conflicts? In almost every case, the solution is more heart and life holiness. If we pursue holiness and fellowship with God, then there will be some improvement in our marriages. Now you might be married to an unbeliever, even though they may profess to be a Christian, which in that case may mean that the more godly you are, the more they will despise you. Unregenerate people hate the light. John 3:19-20. But even unbelievers may willingly live with a godly Christian. 

   With all the marriage advice books out there, you would think that the Bible is full of marriage tips and helps. But there is very little said on marriage. This is because if you follow the commands in Scripture to walk in holy living, then your marriage will not suffer. But don't try to live a godly life for the sole purpose of improving your marriage. Live to please and know the Lord, and when you do so, the other areas of your life, including marriage, will be affected for the better.

   So if your marriage is in trouble, go to God in repentance and ask Him to help you to love your spouse. Use the means of grace that God has given; prayer, Bible reading, preaching...etc. Don't worry about trying to change your spouse. You can't change them anyways. You have the responsibility before God to love your spouse, even if you think they are your enemy. God even calls you to love your enemies. Does love rule your home life?

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3 



Monday, December 18, 2017

The Perfect Wisdom of Our God

God is wise. This can be defined in this way; 'His choice of the highest end and the best means to that end.' Simple, right? Easy to understand--God is wise. He does what is best to achieve the highest end, which is His glory and the good of His people. But, how does this apply in every day life? How can we live this out? How can we turn our knowledge of God's wisdom into wisdom on our end--that is applying our knowledge?

We were studying the wisdom of God in one of our last Bible Studies. God is wise so we can be comforted when trials come, knowing it is for the highest end. All the trials that occur are for the good of those that love Him and for His glory. He is constantly at work in our lives for our spiritual good and for His glory.

As we were learning this, I was dealing with a baby who refused to sleep. When I finally got him to sleep, a short time later another child started crying and then woke the baby up. Usually our baby is asleep almost immediately--we never hear him in the evenings. But he was up all evening. I was tired. When the Bible study members left I felt like I was ready to cry--what was I going to do with this crying baby? Why was he crying? I was already so tired, how could I handle a late night? Frustration oozed out of every pore.

My husband graciously took the baby, told me to go to sleep and I headed to bed. But, I could not sleep. I could still hear him crying whenever my husband stopped walking. So I started to pray, 'Lord, please let him sleep, let us sleep...' and then I stopped as a thought came to mind. God is wise. He knows why the baby is crying. He knows that it is what is best right now, even though I don't understand it. He is in control of this situation.

Now, instead of praying that the baby would stop crying, and that we could get sleep, I hopped out of bed, ready to take over for my husband. I was now armed with the knowledge and the joy that God is wise--that in His wisdom, this was the best means for the highest end. I realized that this crying baby was the means that God had chosen to fulfill His purposes. I didn't (and still don't fully) understand what those purposes were, but I found such joy in knowing this and in resting in this truth.

Knowing that God is wise we can find joy in each situation we find ourselves in. We ought to put aside all grumbling and complaining, as no situation is out of His control. He has wisely brought about each and every trial for His glory and our good. All praise and glory to Him!

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Don't Play The Goat

    As some of you know, we have a few goats on our farm. Some month ago we bought a sheep. We hoped that the sheep and the goats would get along together. But the sheep was not accepted by the goats. The sheep has been here for a number of months, and she is still isolated from the goats. A couple of weeks ago we bought a male goat for breeding purposes. Right away, the goat was accepted into the small goat herd. Meanwhile the sheep is still ostracized. There is a good lesson here about spiritual things.

  Jesus told His disciples "If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out it, the world hates you." John 15:18-19.  Jesus  compared believers to sheep and unbelievers to goats. Matthew 25:31-33. So hopefully you can see where this is going.

  Goats and sheep don't mix. Neither do Christians and the world. We are different by nature. The Christian is born of God with the Spirit living within him. They are a new creation in Christ and so they love different things. Christians have different goals, ambitions, and purposes. We belong to a different family, kingdom and country.

   The world loves darkness and sin. They belong to the kingdom of darkness. Since they love darkness, they hate the light. They have no love for the true God. Men and women of all religions and beliefs can find some common ground. They all belong to the same family and kingdom. But there can't be fellowship between the sons of darkness and the children of light.

     A Christian must expect to be excluded from the world, like my sheep was excluded by the goats. We may be friendly with them and even enjoy their friendliness. But there is a world of difference between us.We don't mix well like oil and water or sheep and goats. If you can have deep friendships with unbelievers, if you can have no problems being partners together in some enterprise, if you are comfortable at the parties of the world, if you don't feel out of place in worldly discussions, then you have a problem.

    Christians that can feel at home among the people of this world have a problem. They may be weak spiritually and have an unhealthy appetite for the things of this world. These sheep act too much like goats to be an offence. But they are in great danger. For in this case the Christian is like a sheep among wolves who will tear them to pieces. These kind of sheep may not even be sheep. They may be goats that only pretend to be sheep at times.

   A Christian who lives a godly life, will be despised by the world. A healthy sheep is one who evangelizes the lost, who stands fast on truth in life and doctrine, and who lives for a heavenly purpose and kingdom. If you do this, you will shine in the darkness, and the darkness will run from you or try to snuff you out. When this happens, it is a good sign. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward. So don't act like a goat, be a good sheep.

And by the way, we sold our sheep recently. Since it would not eat with the goats and it had to dig through the snow to find grass, we felt that it was time for it to go. Thankfully we found a good home for the sheep, with some other sheep friends. But I don't think there is any spiritual lesson to this part of the story.


Friday, September 22, 2017

The Chocolate Sprinkles Incident

At our home we like to have chocolate sprinkles on our bread for lunch. You know, the dutch chocolate sprinkles. Maybe we like them too much. Which is why we have some rules about how much is put on the bread. So there was an incident at lunch. My wife was putting some of the sprinkles on our daughter's bread. Another child felt that mom was putting too much on the bread and so he told his mom that she was overdoing the chocolate sprinkles. When I heard this I was taken aback. Here was the child telling the mother what to do. This incident needed to be addressed. After a rebuke and an apology, all was made right.

   But as I was thinking this over later, I saw how we often act like my son did. Except we don't act this way to mere humans, but to God. How many times don't we try to tell God what to do. We often complain and grumble against God when we don't like how He is ruling the universe. Maybe we are unhappy because the fairy tale life we envisioned for ourselves has not come true. Prince Charming or Princess True Love has not come into our lives. We live with constant sickness or pain. Our job is boring and the boss man is mean. Our church is not what we hoped it would be. Life is hard and it just don't seem fair.

     We complain about it to ourselves and to others. But we are really complaining to God. When the people of Israel complained to Moses about the lack of food in the wilderness. Moses told them "Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD." Ex 16:8. When we grumble, we are actually saying that we don't think God is perfect in wisdom and goodness. We act as though God should have consulted us before He brought trouble and trials into our lives. Little, finite, imperfect creatures are rebuking the Almighty Creator who is perfect in power and wisdom. Remember how Peter did this when he rebuked Jesus for saying that He was going to suffer and die? Matt 16:21-23. Aren't you glad Jesus didn't listen to Peter?

  This thought should cause two things in your mind. First, you should see how great your sin is before God. All of us have done this at one time or another. Some of us do this all the time. This realization of our guilt should make us cry out, "God, have mercy upon me, the sinner." Second, We should be amazed at the grace and patience of the Lord. God bears with us so much. Every day we provoke Him to anger by our sins. Yet He is patient and compassionate. He rebukes and disciplines His children. He forgives them when they sin. He is so unlike sinners. We would blow up in anger every time if we had to deal with what God deals with on a daily basis.

 When we again behold the glorious grace of God toward us, then we can in His power give that grace to others. The glory of Christ is what transforms and empowers us to act with grace, patience and humility when we deal with others. We need to spend more time reminding ourselves that God is good and wise and in control. He knows what is best and He will bring into our lives whatever He knows is best for us. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Rom 8:28.  Do we really believe that? Can we trust our Father like little children, even in the pain, sorrow and disappointment of life? How we need greater faith!


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Spiders And Sin

  Imagine for just a moment a scenario. As you walk into one of the rooms of your house to pick up your baby, you see a spider between you and your child. As you look closer, you realize in horror that it is a black widow spider. This poisonous spider is now moving closer to your child. What do you do? Hopefully you won't run away screaming or freeze in terror. You wouldn't want to scoop up the spider and let it play with your child. The best thing to do is to stomp on the spider and crush it to death. No mercy, no kindness, just a swift and gruesome death. You don't take chances with deadly spiders.

   While it is considered wise not to make pets of poisonous creatures like black widow spiders, yet when it comes to something more dangerous in the spiritual realm, people are very foolish. Sin is a poison. It is destructive, deadly and life threatening. Consider what is the destructive force of sin. Pornography devastates marriages, your spiritual health and countless lives. It is a black poison. Anger can destroy families, friends, and businesses. Gossip can destroy a whole church. Pride ruins souls and leads them into hell. I could list many other examples like drunkenness, gambling, slander, and laziness, but I think you get the point. Sin is destructive like a hurricane or a deadly poisonous spider. So don't take chances with deadly sin, kill it quickly.

  The truth is people by nature like sin. They make it their pet and invite it into their homes. People cuddle and feed their pet sins. Even when it bites them, people will often return back to their poisonous pet. Yet in the end their pet sins will destroy them. Even as Christians we can make a pet of our sins. Instead of seeing sin as some poisonous spider, we see it as if it was some harmless puppy or kitty cat. We may play with sin and dabble in it a little. We know it is dangerous, but our sinful flesh is strong and still wants us to hold on to the sin. We need to look at sin not as a nice puppy but a poisonous spider. We should become sin-crushers.

     This is what God calls us to do. In Colossians 3:5, we are told to "Put to death what belongs to your worldly nature."  How do we deal with sin? Put it to death! Don't have mercy on it. Killing sin is painful, difficult and dirty work. It isn't easy to kill what your flesh loves. But why would you want to keep something more dangerous than a black widow spider in your life?

  Killing sin is hard but thankfully God has given us some weapons to help us finish the job. We don't kill sin in our own strength. The Spirit of God lives in His people to give them the power to stomp on their sin. So we should pray about specific sins, calling on God to help us kill them. The Spirit uses His word to renew us and help in the fight. It is not enough to kill sin, but we must "put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another." Col 3:12-13. And even when we fail, there is forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ.

 There is not enough space here to get into all the details of putting to death sin. But I hope you will see sin for what it is, a poisonous and deadly thing, and deal with it ruthlessly in God's power by stomping on your sins.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Attack In Formation

This post is related to the one I did on the sword of the Spirit. When I taught that lesson, I included some brief thoughts on the subject which I want to consider in this post. I want to develop that idea more fully here.

  Our spiritual warfare is not an individual effort alone. We are not to be lone rangers or commandos alone behind enemy lines. By nature we tend to be self absorbed. Sin keeps us from fighting together in the church and it causes us to fight each other. But God knows we are stronger together. We weren't made to live alone.

  The best armies of this world are those that fight in formation and in a unified strategy. The Roman army's success was due in part to its discipline and ability to fight in formation. The phalanx of Alexander's army helped lead him to his many conquests. The British squares gave Napoleon his waterloo at the battle of Waterloo. Armies like these were able to work together for victory. They could use the different kinds of units in the army to their greatest advantage. These principles of warfare are also true in the Christian's war.

How wonderful it would be if the church would fight together in battle formation. While I would like to see this among all churches around the world, the focus of this blog will be on the local church. Each local church should learn to have an army mentality. Lone ranger Christians are dead Christians or at least a hindrance to themselves and to others.We need to look at each Christian in our church as a fellow soldier fighting a common enemy. Think of what a church could do if they would only learn to fight together.

 The devil understands the importance of unity and cooperation in the local church. He spends much of his time trying to divide churches. His tactics can vary, but there is one sinister purpose in all of them: divide and conquer. The devil will try to keep us focused on ourselves, never opening up about our struggles, never trusting others. Getting Christians into different groups and cliques is another way to divide and conquer. When Christians fight and argue about petty differences, then the devil has us where he wants us. He will try to keep us from being at church or from using our gifts in the church. Sadly while the devil is committed to total warfare with God's people, the church is often distracted and fighting among themselves.

 In an army there are different roles and different kinds of soldiers. This diversity when used together for a single purpose will often achieve victory. The same is true for the church.While we have different gifts and personalities, we have a common salvation, a common king, a common battle plan and a common destination. Now we need to act on these truths. We are stronger together. Attack in formation!

P.S. This is the 100th blog post we have done. So, to celebrate we are giving away two books. Both are by John MacArthur. The first is called, "Hard To Believe" and the other is called, "The Truth War." If you want the books, leave a comment on Facebook or on this blog's comment section. We will randomly pick two winners in a weeks time. Thanks for reading. Our prayer is that God would bless this blog for the sanctification of His people.