Monday, August 3, 2015

Double-minded?

Wisdom.  

Everybody claims to want it .... and it's pretty obvious that not everyone has it.  But although we may laugh at the follies of other people, we are most acutely conscious (unless we're insufferably conceited) of a lack of wisdom in our own lives - - - when we make mistakes, or bad decisions, or foolish choices.  But did you know that, according to God Himself, wisdom can be yours for the asking?  Not "wisdom" as the academics define it; not philosophical insight or theoretical expertise.  But real, practical, priceless wisdom.  God says that He's willing to give it to anyone who asks.

But there's a catch ...

From the word of God: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

James, the third member of Jesus' "inner circle" (along with John and Peter), is writing to his fellow Jews of the first century.  Many of these had come to believe in Christ as their Saviour and Lord, but not all; James is writing to both groups.  And the Jews treasured wisdom: they cherished the writings of David and Solomon, as well as the Book of Job, which they still call "wisdom literature."  In this passage, James says that if any man simply asks, God will give him wisdom, without "upbraiding" or scolding him for asking. (He won't say, "You dummy!  How dare you ask Me such a thing?") That's quite a promise!

 
But, as I said, there's a catch.  Not because God is tricky, or playing cat and mouse, but let's face it: there's a "catch" to almost everything in life, and this is no exception.  In fact, this "catch" is really very helpful, because God tells us how to ask for wisdom.


It has to do with being "double minded," and it's something that most of us have experienced at one time or another - - - maybe at many times.  And it's extremely dangerous: because being "double minded" doesn't just prevent a man or woman from receiving God's wisdom; it can absolutely devastate their entire life.

"Double mindedness," obviously, might be seen as the opposite of singularity of purpose: lack of focus, or divided loyalties, or conflicting desires.  Look at some very simple examples: a heroin addict who hasn't "fixed" in a couple of days will think of one thing, and one thing only: getting her next fix.  She's not thinking about a television program or her children or getting a new car; her attention is completely focused on getting that needle in her arm again, as soon as possible. She's not "double minded" at all!  At a different level, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon and Barack Obama had one focus, one overriding, crystal-clear thought throughout their adult lives: they wanted to be elected President.  Of course they loved their families, and made money, and all the other normal, human things: but the focus of their lives was achieving that goal.  They were not double minded.  

And if they had been .... they probably wouldn't have been elected.

Most of us aren't heroin addicts or presidential candidates; most of us just want to live our lives.  If we're Christians, we want to live them in a way that will please and glorify God.  We want to accomplish His will.  And we need wisdom for this.  So, God invites us to ask Him for it: but warns us that it won't work if we're double minded. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. 



Someone says, "Wait a minute! You mean that if I ask God for wisdom, that's supposed to be all I think about?  Waiting for the wisdom to hit me?  I've got a family and a job and responsibilities.  What's wrong with thinking about those things?"  Nothing's wrong with that; we're all in that position, and that's not what "double minded" means.

But you can't simply say, "God, give me wisdom," and then go about your daily business, thinking about whatever happens to attract your attention for a moment, and forget about the request.  Yes, you have responsibilities, and you even have pleasures, and none of that is a problem.  The problem comes when you hesitate, when you doubt, when you're torn between seeking God and seeking something contrary to God and His will.

There's nothing wrong with having a job, or choosing the right school for your children, or even enjoying a moment or an hour of relaxation.  The problem comes when these things run contrary to God's ways, and you know it, and you can't make up your mind.  "I really want God to give me wisdom ... but right now I need to figure things out for myself."  "I really want God's wisdom, but maybe I should wait to ask until I've whipped this sin problem, which I'm kind of enjoying."  "I really want God's wisdom ... but I really want something else more."

That's being double minded. To put it simply, it's the opposite of faith - - - or one of the opposites of faith.  It's not exactly doubting, on an intellectual level; it's more like refusing to make a clear choice between receiving God's wisdom, or going your own way.

And here's the horrible truth: hundreds of thousands of Christians live their lives in exactly this way.  They have a measure of God's wisdom available to them (they have the Bible, after all); but they never receive the personal, tailor-made individual wisdom that God wants to give them, because they're constantly shifting back and forth in their minds.  I've experienced this.  Perhaps you have, too.  And God simply won't honor that kind of game-playing, that kind of halfhearted desire for His wisdom.  His wisdom is too precious.  Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 

  
 There's another consideration, and it's frightful.  This matter of double mindedness has ramifications far beyond receiving God's wisdom, or not receiving it.  This kind of indecisive, faithless fence-straddling can actually drive us crazy, and/or bring chaos and ruin to our lives.  Our brains were not designed to hold all these conflicting and contradictory desires and aspirations at one time.  If you "seek God" with half your heart, while the other half seeks something else, you'll be unstable in all your ways.  You won't succeed at anything, because you've committed to nothing.  You're just like the waves of the sea, the tides at the shore, constantly rising and falling and changing.  There's no stability.  And, although you can get away with this internal conflict for a few years, or a decade, eventually your life will begin to crumble around you.  Things will fall apart.  There will be losses.  And I wasn't being facetious: it can drive you crazy.  You're a man or a woman; if you're saved, you're made in the Image of God.  Your Creator did not intend for you to be a wave.


 Speaking of waves ....

I can think of a man who was double minded, for just a moment, and it nearly cost him his life.  But you already know the story.

 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
 (Matthew 14:22-31)




Huh?  "Thou of little faith?"  Lord, He's the only one who had enough faith to get out of the boat!

Peter's faith was real, and his expectations of Jesus' power and deliverance were real.  That was one part of his thinking.  But when he made the mistake of looking down at the waves ... well, at that moment he became double minded.  And the results could have been catastrophic.  Jesus wasn't rebuking the man who got out of the boat; He was rebuking the double-minded man who was thinking about the waves.

Double mindedness.  It keeps us from receiving God's wisdom, and it keeps us from living the sort of peaceful and productive lives that God intends for us.  I'm not a great fan of Bible commentaries, but this matter was summed up very well by Matthew Henry, commenting on James 1:8: "When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be great unsteadiness in all our conversation and actions. This may sometimes expose men to contempt in the world; but it is certain that such ways cannot please God nor procure any good for us in the end. While we have but one God to trust to, we have but one God to be governed by, and this should keep us even and steady. He that is unstable as water shall not excel."

But we don't have to be double minded.  We can ask of God, and keep our eyes on Him, and our hearts with Him .... and wisdom will be but one of the blessings He gives us.

What a Saviour!  What a Lord! 
 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No Condemnation

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? 
Romans 8:33

Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God's book against His people: He seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ for ever. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God's angry hand - - - nay, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian, except "I have absolved thee: thou art acquitted." For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way, and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus. There is no sin which a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to do it. They who wear the white robe in heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ. Do believe it, Christian, that thy sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle, but it is doomed to die. God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, "nailing it to His cross." Go now and mortify it, and the Lord help you to live to His praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear, is gone.


- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening


"No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own."

- - - Charles Wesley

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Finally!

After decades of one of the greatest travesties of justice in modern American history, the current President of the United States is preparing to right a terrible wrong.  We have no doubt that he's doing it for Machiavellian reasons: it is a carefully calculated move to curry favor with Israel, while betraying that nation and empowering Iran.  We do not congratulate the current President on this action; he is a vicious Jew-hater and is devoted to the destruction of Israel.  We only wonder why it wasn't done years ago by a legitimate president.  Nevertheless, if the following article is true, we rejoice with the family of Jonathan Pollard, and pray that he may spend his remaining years in peace, under his own vine and fig tree.  Praise God!


U.S. Preparing to Release Convicted Israeli Spy Jonathan Pollard, Officials Say

The Wall Street Journal 

By Devlin Barrett Updated July 24, 2015 6:52 p.m. ET


The Obama administration is preparing to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from prison, according to U.S. officials, some of whom hope the move will smooth relations with Israel in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.

Such a decision would end a decades long fight over Mr. Pollard, who was arrested on charges of spying for Israel in 1985 and later sentenced to life in prison. The case has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel, which has argued that a life sentence for spying on behalf of a close U.S. partner is too harsh. Israel has for years sought Mr. Pollard’s early release, only to be rejected by the U.S.

Now, some U.S. officials are pushing for Mr. Pollard’s release in a matter of weeks. Others expect it could take months, possibly until his parole consideration date in November. Under sentencing laws at the time he was convicted, Mr. Pollard has to be considered for parole after 30 years,though that doesn’t mean he has to be granted parole. The Bureau of Prisons website currently lists his possible release date as Nov. 21, which is the date the federal parole commission is slated to consider whether to end his sentence.

Last year, President Barack Obama told an Israeli interviewer: “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately, but what I am going to be doing is to make sure that he, like every other American who’s been sentenced, is accorded the same kinds of review and the same examination of the equities that any other individual would provide.’’
To get out before November would require unusual intervention. In the federal prison system, often the easiest way to free an inmate early is to cite deteriorating health. Mr. Pollard’s supporters say he is suffering from a host of medical ailments that should qualify him for mercy.

The U.S. has considered releasing him before but always backed away from such a move, largely because of opposition from senior leaders at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. When he was sentenced, then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said it was hard to imagine “a greater harm to national security than that caused by” Mr. Pollard.

It is possible that such opposition could again scuttle any release, but it appears his chances of winning freedom are better now than they have ever been, U.S. officials said. Some U.S. officials said they expect he will be a free man before the year is over.

Mr. Netanyahu has personally pressed for years to get the U.S. to release Mr. Pollard, who is currently serving time in a federal prison in Butner, N.C.


Discord between Israel and the U.S., over the recent failed Middle East peace initiative and how to handle Iran, has taken the relationship between the two allies to new lows. Mr. Netanyahu has been a leading opponent of the deal struck between Tehran and six world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

When U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Israel earlier this week, after the nuclear deal was concluded, the two governments disagreed over how the two should deliver public remarks. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced a trip early next month to the region, but so far hasn’t included Israel as one of his stops.

The fate of Mr. Pollard is close to a national obsession in Israel, where he has become a cause célèbre.

“I can only say that like all of Israel I will be very happy if he is released,” said Noam Shalit, father of former Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit, and a public supporter of Mr. Pollard. “I can’t speak to international relations…But on the human level, I’d say it’s about time.”

Michael Oren, a member of the Knesset for the center-right Kulanu party, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2013, said he had been hopeful Mr. Pollard would be paroled. Mr. Oren, however, drew a distinction between the Pollard news and the tensions created by the Iran deal.

“While we are delighted that Jonathan Pollard will be a free man again, this will not change in any way our position on the nuclear deal,” he said. “The Pollard case is about justice and clemency and the nuclear deal about security and survival.”

The prospect of Mr. Pollard’s freedom still grates on many U.S. intelligence officials, in part because his release likely wouldn’t come as part of a like-for-like swap, as espionage cases are often resolved. Other officials counter that 30 years is a fair punishment and that keeping Mr. Pollard in prison until he dies would serve little purpose.

Mr. Pollard has explained his espionage activity by citing a great affinity for Israel, though counterintelligence officials say he was paid tens of thousands of dollars for his work,

From June 1984 through November 1985, Mr. Pollard removed large amounts of highly classified U.S. intelligence from his office, made copies and delivered it to Israeli operatives.

About a year after his spying began, federal agents stopped Mr. Pollard as he was leaving work and questioned him about the possible unauthorized removal of classified information.
 
During that conversation, he twice took breaks to call his wife, using a prearranged code word “cactus,” signaling that she should remove a suitcase full of classified information from their apartment. She also pleaded guilty and served three years in prison and later moved to Israel.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said Mr. Pollard’s release “would be nothing more than a pathetic attempt by a weak administration to curry favor with our Israeli allies who across the board reject this dangerous deal with Iran.’’

A spokesman for another GOP presidential candidate, Rick Santorum said even though he supports the release of Mr. Pollard, “this does not compensate for the tremendous damage the Obama administration has done to Israeli-American relations and the damage the Iran deal poses.’’

©The Wall Street Journal, emphasis added

video

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The "Cubs" of ISIS

Once again, we see the face of Mohammedanism, in its "purest" and most faithful form:


From vocative.com:

 ISIS BOY IN NEW VIDEO: "GIVE ME MY WEAPON"

For the first time, children speak directly into the camera

 By Jacob Steinblatt and Amit Weiss on July 23, 2015 at 05:09 AM

ISIS’s official media wing in Iraq’s Dijla province released a new video Wednesday that boasts the terror group’s boy fighters and ups the ante of a bellicose propaganda campaign championing child soldiers.

The video, called “The Cubs of Dijla” in a reference to the young boys being indoctrinated and groomed to fight, shows children as the clip’s primary speakers. They deliver monologues and recite verses of the Quran, marking the first time the Islamic State has depicted boys - one as young as three - speaking at length directly into the camera.

“Where are the martrys? Where are the suicide attackers?” a young boy asks, urging Muslims and Arabs to stop talking and start acting. “Give me my weapon,” he declares as he grabs a gun almost as long as his body. He later fires the rifle.

As Golda Meir famously said: "We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us." But her remark referred to the Arabs.  She could have been speaking of all Mohammedans, anywhere.  ISIS is currently the spearhead of the worldwide attack by the Muslims on civilization.

In a sense, the ISIS "cubs" are very fortunate.  When Boko Haram and ISIS encounter Christian children, those children are crucified, burned alive, or, if female, sold as sex slaves to the highest bidder - - - from infancy on up.

We have sympathy for people born into Islamic cultures; they can't help the circumstances of their birth.  But any adult who professes to believe in the Koran - - - in Riyadh,  in Syria, or in my home town of Chattanooga - - -  is a barbarian, unfit to live in human society.

This video is not part of the above article, but it tells the same story:


video

May God save these precious children, and may God's judgment fall swiftly on Islam and all its works.  It is pure evil, and cannot be reformed.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Voice to Be Remembered

The time seems opportune to present another song by one of the truly great singers of modern times. Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was not a "diva;" she was not "hot;" and she didn't use sex as the main selling point for her performances.  God gave her a magnificent voice, as He graciously does from time to time, but instead of using it to become an A-list, headline grabbing "celebrity," or wrecking it with drugs, she gave it back to God, and used it exclusively for His glory.  In doing so, she became one of the most beloved singers of the twentieth century, without ever selling out: she steadfastly refused to sing jazz or blues songs, which she contemptuously dismissed as "anthems." 

Popular singers come and go, and they have their place.  They entertain us; at best, they touch us deeply, such as when Andrea Bocelli or Lara Fabian sing. But although they entertain and touch us, they do not usually exalt our spirits, or point the way to God.

Mahalia Jackson did, and still does: she was the real thing.  Here, in a departure from her humbler roots, she sings a magnificent hymn, accompanied by the Percy Faith orchestra and chorus.  This doesn't make you "want to dance with somebody," as one sluttish "diva" sang: this makes you fall on your knees, and adore the Lord of Glory.  I hope you enjoy it.

video 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What is "the perfect work of patience?"

We've all heard the expression, "patience is a virtue," and although it's a cliché, it's borne out by common sense and our common experience. We all know that patience is preferable to being harried and frantic and constantly trying to anticipate the future. But when the Bible talks about patience, it has some very interesting, and unexpected, things to say. 

The word "patience" is used 34 times in the King James Bible. Sometimes it's synonymous with "longsuffering," as in Galatians 5:22, where it's part of the fruit of the Spirit. Usually, however, the words are not exactly synonymous; that's why different words are used in the first place. Longsuffering is usually an attribute of God (again, an attribute of the Holy Spirit in the verse just cited); patience is usually an attribute of men and women.

But we're not going to do a general study of patience right now. (I'm not enough of an expert on the subject!) Rather, I'd like to focus on a single verse, James 1:4: But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

(It must be noted that 90% of the modern versions of the Bible do not use the word "patience" here, preferring such terms as "endurance" or "perseverence," which are simply not the same thing. Several modern version use the word "it." But the overwhelming majority of Greek fragments, and manuscript evidence, say "patience." That's another example of the fraudulent and unreliable nature of the "new" translations, which are based on some outrageously corrupt "old" Greek manuscripts.) 

In the Old Testament, wisdom is often personified, and here patience is given the same treatment. When God personifies something like this, it's a pretty good indication that the concept is quite important to Him. And in this case, patience is very important to us, in ways that we might not expect.   Patience is a lot more than simply remaining calm in a traffic jam, or being able to wait to buy something we can't afford. It's even more than biting our lip when we want to yell at our spouse, or our kids. It's an attitude, a habitual attitude, and it doesn't develop overnight, like a mushroom. It takes awhile to develop and learn. 


But, assuming we develop it all, what's it good for? (Yes, it helps our blood pressure, and makes life more pleasant for those around us, but beyond that?) What on earth is James talking about when he says "Let patience have her perfect work?" What is her perfect work? We can get a hint from several other passages, in which we see the "work" of patience in other people's lives. In Philippians 3:13-15, Paul says: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. The word patience isn't found there, but another word from the verse in James is: perfect. In this chapter of Philippians, Paul is recounting some of his experiences, and, in reminding us to keep looking forward, not backward, he says something in an almost casual way: as many as be perfect.... 

So, maybe the "perfect work" of patience is ... perfection

Is Paul claiming to be perfect, along with certain other Christians? Apparently so. Does that mean that he has overcome sin, and is constantly Christlike in his actions? Clearly not: because, right before these verses, in verse 12, he says, Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 

Aha! Is this another one of those "contradictions" so beloved of the skeptics? Which is it, Paul: are you perfect, or are you not? 

And the answer is, Yes and no ... because there's more than one meaning of "perfect." 

Some Christians believe that our "old man" (Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9), our old sin nature, can be "eradicated" in our earthly lifetimes. That, sadly, is bad teaching. Romans 7 shows us that the battle between the old and new man rages until the day we go Home. In verse 12, Paul is saying, "I'm not perfect, in the sense of sinless perfection." But in verse 15, right after using the word "us," he says that some people are perfect. So it must mean something else. 

And any Christian who's received good teaching knows what it means: it means maturity in Christ. Paul was not sinless, but he was an experienced, scripture-oriented, mature Christian. Paul, through his many trials, had developed patience, and the perfect work of patience, in his life, was spiritual maturity. 

So can it be - - - so should it be - - - in ours. 

Not convinced by Paul's experience? Then let's look at another, very reverently. The Lord Jesus Christ never sinned a single time; unlike Paul, He was sinlessly perfect. But that doesn't mean (I say it reverently) that He didn't have to learn something. And God's word tells us what it was.

Hebrews 5:7-9, speaking of Jesus: Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Some people say that "perfect" means "complete," instead of "mature." No problem: spiritually speaking, I think that's a distinction without a difference. 


So, if patience has a "perfect work," it must be spiritual maturity, spiritual completeness. (It could be other things as well, but it's this, at least.) That's a good deal more valuable than a healthy blood pressure reading! So, how do we develop patience, anyway? 

Well, this is the rough part. You might guess, from the examples of how Paul and Jesus were made perfect. To get the context, Romans 5:1-5: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 

That's why we glory in our tribulations: because they produce patience. (It's also why I never pray for patience! When facing difficulty, I pray for grace.) And when patience is produced - - - and it's only produced by tribulation - - - then it can have its perfect work of spiritual maturity and "perfection." 

Becoming a Christian, receiving Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, is the easiest thing in the world; anybody can do it. But living the Christian life is a different story. There's nothing easy about it. 

But the alternative? Not having Christ in my life? 

I don't want the tribulation, Lord ... but give me grace. And thank You for Your word, and Your promise that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

What a promise!  What a Saviour!