Saturday, August 29, 2015

Barren

Sing, O barren.  - - -  Isaiah 54:1

Though we have brought forth some fruit unto Christ, and have a joyful hope that we are "plants of His own right hand planting," yet there are times when we feel very barren. Prayer is lifeless, love is cold, faith is weak, each grace in the garden of our heart languishes and droops. We are like flowers in the hot sun, requiring the refreshing shower. In such a condition what are we to do? The text is addressed to us in just such a state. "Sing, O barren, break forth and cry aloud." But what can I sing about? I cannot talk about the present, and even the past looks full of barrenness. Ah! I can sing of Jesus Christ. I can talk of visits which the Redeemer has aforetimes paid to me; or if not of these, I can magnify the great love wherewith He loved His people when He came from the heights of heaven for their redemption. I will go to the cross again. Come, my soul, heavy laden thou wast once, and thou didst lose thy burden there. Go to Calvary again. Perhaps that very cross which gave thee life may give thee fruitfulness. What is my barrenness? It is the platform for His fruit-creating power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of His everlasting love. I will go in poverty, I will go in helplessness, I will go in all my shame and backsliding, I will tell Him that I am still His child, and in confidence in His faithful heart, even I, the barren one, will sing and cry aloud. Sing, believer, for it will cheer thine own heart, and the hearts of other desolate ones. Sing on, for now that thou art really ashamed of being barren, thou wilt be fruitful soon; now that God makes thee loath to be without fruit He will soon cover thee with clusters. The experience of our barrenness is painful, but the Lord's visitations are delightful. A sense of our own poverty drives us to Christ, and that is where we need to be, for in Him is our fruit found.


- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

Monday, August 10, 2015

Do you want God's will? Really?

It's probably the most frequently asked question in the Christian life: "How can I find God's will? How do I know what God really wants me to do in this situation, or in my life as a whole?"  Anyone who's ever received Jesus Christ, according to John 1:12, has probably asked such a question within a week (or a day) of his or her conversion.  It's certainly one of the most important questions we can ask.  But .... do we really want to know the answer?

I once heard a young pastor say, "The Bible never speaks of how we can know God's will; it only speaks of doing His will."  The pastor was well-intentioned, and he was half right; but the first part of his statement was incorrect.  The Bible tells us quite clearly how we can know God's will. But the pastor was onto something: it involves a desire, and a determination, to do His will. 

A Christian, like anyone else, has so many important choices to make.  "Shall I attend this college, or the other one?"  "Should I marry this person, or not?"  "Should I move to another city to take a job, or stay here, and continue what I'm doing?"  "I feel like God might be calling me to a certain ministry.  How can I know for sure?"  The questions are endless, and any Christian knows that he or she needs God's wisdom, and God's guidance, to answer them.

This isn't a matter that can be fully explored in a single post on a blog. Books could be written about it, and, in fact, are written about it, on a regular basis.  Some of these books are useful; most are a waste of time.  But the one Book that has the answers - - - or, rather, tells us how to find the answers - - - is immediately available to all of us.


Not surprisingly, the Bible has certain principles, or guidelines, in this matter of "finding God's will for our lives." The problem is that we all too often ignore what it says.

The starting point, of course, is Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).  Until we've done that - - - really given our bodies to God, to do with as He pleases - - - the "will of God" is simply a matter of idle speculation.  We can have all the right beliefs, and have an intellectual loyalty to our Saviour; but until He's got our bodies, it's a moot point.  It'll be different in Heaven, when we're in a perfected state; but down here on the ground, our beliefs don't determine our actual behaviour unless we've given God our bodies.  It's our bodies that walk down the wedding aisle, or enroll in a school, or report for a new job. That's so fundamental that Christians miss it: they often think, "Well, as long as I believe the Bible, and profess the right things, I can pretty much do what I want with my body."  That's not only illogical; taken to extremes, it can lead to the kind of body/soul dichotomy that the Gnostics preached.

But most of us aren't going to become Gnostics.  We're just trying to live the Christian life.  And this matter of the will of God often puzzles us.

We reach a crossroads in our life: should I go this way, or that?  The Bible itself is perfect, and tells us exactly what we need to know: but the Bible doesn't tell me whether to live in Pittsburgh or San Diego.  It doesn't tell me whether to marry Sharon or Louise, unless Sharon or Louise are unbelievers: it's pretty clear about that!  It doesn't tell me whether to buy a new car, or repair the old one.  But that doesn't mean that God doesn't care about such decisions, and there's a specific verse that tells us how we can know such things.


Before getting to that verse, however, there are some others that we need to consider.  Because God has already told us His will in no uncertain terms; and, if we ignore these instructions, we can hardly expect him to give us guidance on these very specific matters.  How are you doing with these things?

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication (1 Thess. 4:3). There it is, big as life: the will of God for your life.  If you're ignoring that verse, don't expect God to tell you about the new car.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thess. 5:18). Are you doing that?  Are you thanking God, not just for the blessings, but for the trials and heartbreaks as well? It's not easy sometimes.  But if you're not doing it, don't bother asking Him whether you should move to another town.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men  (1 Peter 2:13-15).  I know, I know: I don't like it either. But if you're harboring rebellious thoughts, or are engaged in rebellious acts toward the government (tax evasion comes to mind), don't think that God's going to tell you who to marry.

I could list many more such verses, but the point is clear: God has already revealed His will for our lives in some very specific areas.  If we ignore those commands, what right have we to ask for guidance on the day-to-day stuff?

Of course, if you've never come to Jesus Christ in the first place, and been born again (John 3:3-5), then God isn't obligated to reveal His will to you in any matter. Because He's already said, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you haven't obeyed God's will that you come to Him for salvation, then that verse is all of His will that He's obligated to reveal to you.  

So, what's the verse that promises that we can know His will?

Jesus Christ speaking:  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).  In context, Jesus is explaining the authority by which He speaks: His doctrine, His teachings, were not something He'd made up, but were the teachings of God the Father.  But included in the verse is that fascinating promise:  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine .

If you're willing to do His will, He'll make sure that you know what it is. Our problem is that, very often, we wouldn't do His will, even if He made it perfectly clear.

God has a nasty habit, when we're praying, of breaking into our prayers, and changing the subject. A woman prays, "God, my husband is such a loser.  It can't possibly be your will for me to be married to such a spiritual weakling!"  And God replies, "How are you doing with that gossip problem, child?  How about that problem you were having with the credit cards?"  And the woman doesn't want to hear that!


A man says, "God, I've been offered a position teaching adult Sunday School.  Should I accept?" And God replies, "Son, are you still paying $500 for those season tickets at the university football games?  That money might come in handy for some missionary."  The man argues with God: "But Lord, that's my alma mater!  That's where I make business contacts!  And I can even witness for you in that skybox at the stadium!  Anyway, that's not what I asked you!" And God remains silent about the Sunday School class.


"If any man will do his will...."  That's the secret, and we can't afford to kid ourselves about it.  We can't claim to want God's will in one area, while ignoring it in another.  And, to return to the earlier examples: if God tells you to marry Louise, and you really prefer Sharon, will you obey Him?  If God tells you to stay where you are, when you really want to strike out in some exciting new direction, will you stay there?  Conversely, if God wants you to go in a bold new direction, will you do it, or stay in your "comfort zone?"

It's one thing to want God's will in a certain matter.  It's another to be willing to do it, whatever it is.  And if you're willing, truly willing (no playing games), then He has another promise for you: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21).

God wants us to know His will, even more than we want it ourselves.  And He's always ready to reveal it to us.  But it'll be on His terms, not on ours!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Planned Non-Parenthood: slavery was never this monstrous

During the long debate over legalized abortion in the United States, opponents of unrestrained abortion have often compared the controversy to the situation of chattel slavery before the War for Southern Independence.  In both cases, the laws of various states provided that one person had complete ownership of another: the slave-master and his slave, the pregnant woman and her unborn child.  The slaver could abuse or even kill his slave; the mother (or, rather, non-mother) could destroy her child at her slightest whim.  

The battle over legal abortion was won by the pro-abortion forces long ago, of course, and since that time, the encouragement to abort unplanned or unwanted children has been led by the organization calling itself Planned Parenthood.  This private organization, which receives most of its funding from U.S. taxpayer dollars, has long posed as a center for "women's health services," such as mammograms, contraceptives, etc.  It is no secret, however, that this was merely a ruse: Planned Parenthood performs no mammograms, for example, but merely refers women to private doctors who do the tests.  At the same time, the organization has successfully lobbied for laws allowing contraception and abortion for girls as young as their early teens, fighting against laws requiring parental notification of such practices, and many other "causes."  The main business of Planned Parenthood is, and always has been, providing abortions to any girl or woman who sought to end her pregnancy.  And in the past month, the details of that business have been revealed in all their ghastly, gory detail, by a team of investigative amateur journalists, who have stunned the nation with their discoveries.

Plaanned Parenthood is not merely killing unborn children.  It is dissecting those children, and selling their body parts to the highest bidders.  Slavery was evil ... but never this evil.

The Center for Medical Progress, founded by David Daleiden in 2013, has dedicated itself to exposing the unspeakably cold-blooded practices of Planned Parenthood.  Posing as buyers for the fictional company "Biomax Procurement Services," CMP personnel interviewed, and surreptitiously recorded, some of the very highest officers of Planned Parenthood, and are now publishing the videos of those interviews.  (A federal district court judge, of course, has ordered Daleiden's group to stop publishing the videos, but this order may be overturned.) In these videos, officers of Planned Parenthood, usually over a cozy luncheon and a glass of wine, dicker with the interviewers over the availability and cost of various parts of the slaughtered baby's body: the liver, the brain, etc.  In several interviews, it is revealed that great care is taken, during the abortion procedure, to preserve as intact a "specimen" as possible, so as to avoid ruined "parts."

No science fiction movie could be so unimaginable; no horror story could be more bloodcurdling. Here, at last, is the reality of the abortion industry in America.  The fact that federal law forbids the sale of human body parts does not impede Planned Parenthood in its gory pursuits; it merely makes them more secretive.

David Deleiden, and his staff, are genuine moral heroes.  They have exposed an abomination unimagined by those who bleat about "a woman's right to choose."  A simple Google search, or going to the CMP website, will provide further information on this matter, which has caused a true firestorm of controversy. For now, we simply present the first three videos, which speak for themselves.  A caveat: women whose lives have been touched by abortion might not want to view the videos, and they are hard for any normal person to stomach.


This is America in the 21st century: abandon Israel, glorify Sodomy, and chop up unborn children for merchandise.  "God bless America?"  I think not.

video


video


video

See also:
From Canada, a heroine
An Unexpected Statement

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!