Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? – V

January 30, 2015

Psalm 84:10-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Five blogs to cover three verses?!!  But there is so much packed into God’s Word that we could spend months on just one Psalm!  And I don’t know if with today’s blog we will get to the end of Psalm 84:10 through 12, but we’ll try.

      …a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.  I would rather be a door-
      keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For
      the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no
      good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of
      hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.

The last part of verse 11 says, “…no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  Remember from the last blog that the phrase just before what we are looking at today states, “…the LORD will give grace and glory…..”  And we saw that grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.  In brief, we deserve condemnation and hell – God gives us eternal life and heaven!  And with the life He brings to us, there are many other things spelled out or hinted at in several Bible passages:

•      Psalm 34:10 – “…those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.

•      Psalm 68:19 – “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation.

•      Psalm 116:12 and 13 – “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?  I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.

•      Lamentations 3:21 through 26 – “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul; therefore I hope in Him.  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

•      Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

•      James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

This doesn’t exhaust the scriptures about God’s goodness and giving, but you get the idea!  But remember, the good that God gives may not be the good that we have in mind!  I wrote a blog on March 8, 2013 called What’s God’s Purpose for Me?  In it I describe that His purpose for all Christians is to make us more and more into the image of His Son Jesus Christ! (see Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18; I John 3:2).  But in order to do that, He has to cut out a lot of un-christ-like-ness from our lives!  And that can hurt!  Being made more and more into the image of Jesus Christ is the ultimate good for any Christian, but it will cause pain!  And pain in our lives is not usually perceived by us as good!

But one thing I have learned along the way of 49 years of following my Lord, the more I submit to His Lordship (Psalm 84:11 calls it “…those who walk uprightly…”) – even if it causes pain in some areas of my life – the more my life is filled with Him and the fruit of His Holy Spirit – “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 and 23 – NIV).  And that is good!

Finally, in verse 12 of Psalm 84 we see “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.”  Blessed in the Hebrew is in the masculine plural.  So I guess you could say “…the man who trusts in…the Lord has the happies!  Well, let’s just quickly review the happies God gives to us as outlined in our scripture:

•      Psalm 84:10 – We go from living in wickedness to being declared righteous!

•      Psalm 84:10 – Our dwelling place is exchanged from the temporary tent of the wicked to the solid and eternal temple of God!

•      Psalm 84:11 – God becomes both the sun to light our way in life, and the shielding shade we need.  Also, we learned the shield is a symbol of surrender to Him as our Lord and Master.

•      Psalm 84:11 – He gives us grace – giving us so many good things that we do not deserve!  And He gives us glory – we actually share now and forever in the glory of God!

•      Psalm 84:12 – He does not withhold any good thing from us as we need it.

Truly, O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You…!

Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? – IV

January 28, 2015

Psalm 84:10-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Let’s continue to mine some Gems from Psalm 84:10 through 12 in the series Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller?:

…a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.  I would rather be a door-
keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For
the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no
good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of
hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.

In the last blog we looked at verse 11 and saw how God is both “…a sun and shield….”  But there is more in this verse…

•      Psalm 84:11 – “…the LORD will give grace….”  We have pointed it out several times in past blogs, but it is so important, here it is again:

                      Grace – God giving us what we do not deserve.

                      Mercy – God not giving us what we do deserve.

What do we deserve?  As we have shown in Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? – I, the one who is classified in God’s eyes as wicked…

      …is not trusting God first to lead and control his or her life!  And putting anything
      else in that first place where God belongs is idolatry!  Idolatry is the most egregious
      form of wickedness!  …if you are not putting God first in your life in all things, you
      are Living in Wickedness!

It says in Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell…!”  In II Peter 2:17 and Jude 1:13, the conditions of hell are elaborated upon:  “…the gloom of darkness is reserved [for the wicked] forever….the blackness of darkness forever.”  If total darkness forever is not bad enough, it is also written in Revelation 14:10 and 11, “…he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone….And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever:  and they have no rest day or night….”  If this is what the wicked deserve – and we are all wicked before God if we do not have Jesus Christ as our Savior – praise God He has mercy upon us!  Thank the LORD He does not give us what we deserve!

What we do not deserve – and yet by His grace He so freely gives to anyone who comes to Him in faith believing – is salvation in His Son Jesus Christ, eternal life (escaping from hell and gaining heaven), His guiding presence forever, His Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and the abundance of the fruit of the Spirit through us –…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 and 23 – NIV).

Praise God…the LORD will give grace… ”!

•      Psalm 84:11 – “…the LORD will give…glory….”  This is an interesting statement, especially in light of what is written in Isaiah 42:8:  “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another….”  So how is it that “…the LORD will give…glory…” to “…the man who trusts in [Him]” (Psalm 84:12)?

Jesus shows us the answer in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:24:  “Father, I desire that they also, whom You gave Me, may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me….”  John wrote in I John 3:2, “…we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  Paul, in I Corinthians 15:49, penned, “…as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [Jesus].”  And in Roman 8:17 the apostle says, “…if…we suffer with Him…we…also [will] be glorified together.

That is then! What about now?  In II Corinthians 4:6 and 7, Paul says this:

      For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone
      in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face
      of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excel-
      lence of the power may be of God, and not of us.

The “…treasure…we have…in earthen vessels…is the Holy Spirit dwelling in our human bodies! (see I Corinthians 6:19; II Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).  And the Holy Spirit is just like the Lord Jesus Christ, according to John 14:16 and 17.  M. R. Vincent, in Word Studies In The New Testament says this about the Greek word translated “…another…” in verse 16:  “The advocate who is to be sent [the Holy Spirit] is not different from Christ, but another similar to Himself.”  So since we have the Holy Spirit within us when we accept Jesus as our Savior, it can be said, “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27).  “For in Him [Jesus Christ] dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9).  So if the fullness of God dwells in us, this means we already share in His glory here and now!

Thanks be to God because…the LORD will give…glory…!

We are not even yet through with verse 11 of our scripture!  Maybe we can do that in Friday’s blog!

Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? – III

January 26, 2015

Psalm 84:10-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

There is more in this series, Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? than what I originally thought!  But that’s the way it often is as we delve more deeply into His Word.  The featured scripture is Psalm 84:10 through 12:

      …a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.  I would rather be a door-
      keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For
      the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no
      good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of
      hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.

I want to point out some Gems I have learned from the last two verses.

•      Psalm 84:11 – “For the LORD God is a sun….”  We have some idea from our everyday life how important the sun is.  The idea here is the light it gives, as in Proverbs 4:18 and 18:

      …the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the
      perfect day.  The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what
      makes them stumble.

As Christians we are guided by Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 and 9:5).  Jesus is such powerful light that John wrote in Revelation 22:5, “…there shall be no night there [in the New Jerusalem]:  They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light.”  And the apostle also wrote in I John 1:7, “…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  And where do we access this light?  Psalm 119:105:  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The written word reveals – and you might say, internalizesthe Living Word, Jesus Christ!

•      Psalm 84:11 – “…the LORD God is…a shield….”  A shield means the small kind of portable shield a soldier would carry into hand-to-hand combat – as it is used in Psalm 91:4:  “His truth shall be your [large] shield and buckler [small].”  I would imagine also – but I find no proof of it in historical records – that soldiers on the march through the desert, or camped out in it under the blazing sun, might use such a shield to offer themselves some shade.

So God is not just the sun, He is also the shade as needed, as it says in Psalm 121:5:  “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

But there is another meaning denominatively derived – a verb formed from a noun – from the first word shield in Hebrew that we considered, and I find it most interesting and relative.  It means surrender.  It is translated three time in the Hebrew text as deliver or delivered, as in Genesis 14:20.  Abram had defeated the armies of four conquering kings who had conquered Sodom and other area cities and had taken Abram’s nephew Lot and family captive.  As the patriarch returned victorious, with his extended family and spoil intact, he met and gave tithes to Melchizedek, “…the king of Salem [Jerusalem, and]…priest of God Most High.” (Genesis 14:18).  In verse 20 Melchizedek blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”  The idea is that the enemies had surrendered to Abram’s army!

Are we not to be delivered over unto God?  Are we not to surrender to Him?  This is what Paul had done, and he proclaimed that fact beautifully in Philippians 3:7 through 14:

      …what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  But
      indeed I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ
      Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count
      them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having
      my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through
      faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may
      know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His
      sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain
      to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already attained, or am
      already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which
      Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to
      have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are
      behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press
      toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You might say that this is the apostle’s purpose statement.  And Paul, in the next verse exhorts us, as growing Christians, to do the same: Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this same mind….

Is He your sun and shade?  Are you surrendered unto Him?  Think about it!

Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? – II

January 23, 2015

Psalm 84:10-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Let’s look at a couple of things from Psalm 84:10 through 12 which at first glance may not seem that apparent. Here is our featured scripture:

      …a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.  I would rather be a door-
      keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For
      the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no
      good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of
      hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.

Consider the comparisons the psalmist makes between living in righteousness and living in wickedness:

•      Psalm 84:10 – “…a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.”  What does it mean when it says, “…a day in Your courts…”?  At the temple there were four courts before one entered the temple building itself.  Within the temple building was first the Holy Place, which only the priests could enter as they daily served God.  The Holy Place was where the Table of Showbread, the Lamp Stand, and the Altar of Incense stood.  Then there was the Holy of Holies behind the separating curtain, the Veil, where was the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat guarded by two angels – all cast in gold – as its lid.  This was the inner sanctum, which only the High Priest could enter and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement.

But outside, as you approached the temple building, you would come first to the Court of the Gentiles – the court set aside for the non-Jews – where even they could come to worship Jehovah.  It is written in Isaiah 56:7 that “…My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  Jesus quoted this scripture when He cleansed the temple of those Jewish traders who were buying and selling in the Court of the Gentiles.  They were making it a place where no-one could focus on the Lord God (see Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).

Next was the Court of the Women, the closest Jewish women could come to the temple.  Then there was the Court of the Israelites for Jewish men – either native born or those from other nations who had fully converted to Judaism.  The fourth court was the Court of the Priests, where stood the Laver of Washing and the Altar of Burnt Offering.

The idea the psalmist is presenting here is one day in any court of the temple, being in proper relationship with God and worshiping Him is better than a thousand days anywhere else being out of proper relationship with God!  Being out of proper relationship with God means you are calling your own shots to direct your life.  You are living for yourself, and not for God.  Jesus summed up such a lifestyle this way in Mark 8:36 and 37:  “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

• Psalm 84:10 – “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”  As I thought about this statement, it came to me that the best the wicked – those living apart from God – can offer is the temporary structure of a tent!  A tent is something that is set up and then taken down – a dwelling that is not designed as something permanent!  So it is not as substantial as a ‘brick and mortar’ building – or something of that ilk.

It reminds me of the fairy tale of The Three Little Pigs and The Big Bad Wolf, which first appeared in print in the 18:40’s.  The first of the two little pigs built houses of straw and sticks respectively.  The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew the houses of the first two pigs down in a jiffy!  But the third little pig, being more industrious, built his house of bricks!  And the wolf could not blow it down!

It also brings to mind the last part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 through 27:

      Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken
      him to a wise man, who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended,
      the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not
      fall, for it was founded on the rock.  Now everyone who hears these sayings
      of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house
      on the sand:  And the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew
      and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.

Just as the third pig built his house of brick, and it withstood the onslaught of the wolf; just as the house of Matthew 7 is built upon substantial rock, and it fared well in floods and storms; so a life built upon the Rock Christ Jesus (see I Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 2:19 through 22; I Peter 2:4 though 8) will not collapse when storms of adverse circumstances come against it!

And there is one more comparison in this part of verse 10:  A doorkeeper was among the least regarded positions in the temple.  But to be in the lowliest place serving the Lord is better than the best the godless world can offer!

So choose the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, even if you seem to be assigned to lowly service.  It is always a better place with a brighter future than what the wicked have – those without Jesus as their Savior and Lord!

Doorkeeper Or Tent-dweller? – I

January 21, 2015

Psalm 84:10-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I am always fascinated by the less apparent meanings hidden in scripture.  Oh, it is not like they are so hidden that you have to dig and uncover them layer after layer, but they just are not that apparent when you first read them.  Such is Psalm 84:10 through 12 – a scripture I committed to memory a long time ago:

      …a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.  I would rather be a door-
      keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For
      the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no
      good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of
      hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.

One time I was thinking about this passage – meditating upon it – and I realized the stark comparison between living in righteousness and living in wickedness.  But first, let’s consider what these two descriptive phrases mean. We’ll take them in reverse order:

•      Living in Wickedness – What is the etymology of the word ‘wicked’?  It is thought to come from wicca, which according to The Online Etymology Dictionary is “An Old English masculine noun meaning ‘male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, astrologer, magician….’ ”  Originally, such a man was not looked upon as necessarily evil by society.  He – or his female counterpart, wicce – had knowledge in the use of drugs and herbs, societal lore, astronomy and astrology, wisdom of the ages, and used incantations and spells to bring about desired results – often good results.  Perhaps one of the most accurate pictures of what a wicca originally was is Gandalf, the wizard in J. R. R. Tolkien’s books The Hobbit, and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.  By the way, Tolkien wrote these books as an extended metaphor of Christianity lived out.

But wizzardry and witchcraft are forbidden by God in Deuteronomy 18:10 through 12.  This scripture may be summarized by Exodus 22:18 (KJV):  “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  Someone who practices incantations and spells to bring about desired results, as stated above, as well as associated wiccan practices, is not trusting God first to lead and control his or her life!  And putting anything else in that first place where God belongs is idolatryIdolatry is the most egregious form of wickedness!

So you might say, if you are not putting God first in your life in all things, you are Living in Wickedness!

•      Living in Righteousness – This means living in the right way before God!  And this includes confessing and forsaking wickedness of not putting the Lord first in your life in all things, and receiving the perfect righteousness of God Himself into your life by means of accepting His Son, Jesus into your heart and life – trusting only in Him to cleanse you of sin and give you eternal life.  You are then declared righteous before God!  This is the start, and it is called “Positional righteousness.

But we are to go on and mature in the Lord, growing also inPractical righteousness.”  This is where we learn day by day to become more and more obedient to God and so become more and more like Jesus Christ.  Paul has this in mind when he writes in II Corinthians 3:18:

      But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
      are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the
      Spirit of the Lord.

…glory to glory…the change takes place.  We are to become like Jesus Christ a bit more each day as we submit to God’s leading by the Holy Spirit within us.

Someday, as it says in I John 3:2, “…we know that, when He [Jesus] is revealed [at His Second Coming], we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”  We’ll be as perfect as the Son of God Himself!  This is called “Perfected righteousness.

Back to Psalm 84:  The psalmist is contrasting the two types of living here – the person who is living without God and His leading in his or her life, and the person who is!  Now which one are you?

On Friday we will look at just how the psalmist compares and contrasts these two lifestyles.

My Heart’s Desire

January 19, 2015

Psalm 37:3-6

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

What do you want? What is the chief thing you would like to do with your Christian life?  Twenty nine years after I became the pastor of First Baptist Church of Johnsonburg, PA, I was the spiritual leader of my sixth church, and I felt a deep need to do something meaningful for God.  Oh, I was preaching at the time in a small Presbyterian USA church.  I had been invited as a one-week speaker, and they kept me for three years!  But something seemed to be missing in my service to God, and I felt restless.

Our dear friends, Steve and Shirley, had come to my church to hear me preach one Sunday in the fall of 2001.  Then they treated us to dinner at a nice restaurant.  They were older than Hope and me.  Steve was retired from being a steel mill executive.  During our time at Sunday dinner, Steve asked me “So Chip, what do you really want to do?”  Maybe he had sensed my restlessness.

My mind went back to my first church after I had been there as pastor a couple of years.  I became acquainted with a young man who was about to be ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood.  He invited me to a Bible study that he was hosting at the Catholic Rectory where five or six young adults were gathering each week to learn more about the Christian faith.  I attended, and that first visit I thought I had blown it!  I kept insisting that evening that salvation was by faith alone in Jesus Christ, and…not by works of righteousness which we have done.” (Titus 3:5).  One of the guys attending that study, Earl, told me later that he could not get to sleep that night.  As he lay in bed, he kept hearing the words in his mind, “It’s by faith alone, and not by works!”  Finally, he got up in the middle of the night, knelt down beside his bed and – with a wide-open heart in complete faith – asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior!

About two months later, my young Catholic friend – yes, still my friend! – was ordained. Hope and I were there at Saint John’s Church in the front row as his guests.  But he was being transferred to another parish, and he was concerned that none of the other three priests serving at Saint John’s wanted to take over the young adults Bible study.  So he asked me to lead it!  And half a dozen young people of Catholic faith moved down to the Baptist parsonage for a once-a-week Bible study!

Oh the blessings of that time! How we got to know and love one another!  I remember one night we crowded 23 into the living room for our Bible study – and most of them were Roman Catholics!  We saw the faith of many young people both begin and blossom!  The head pastor at Saint John’s was beside himself concerning the ‘loss’ of all those Catholic young adults to the Baptists.  But he could never figure out why they didn’t leave his church.  They even became stronger Christians ready to serve, teach, and lead other Catholics to deeper faith in Jesus Christ!

So when Steve asked me about 25 years later, “So Chip, what do you really want to do?”  I had a ready answer:  “I would love to have another Bible study like the one we had in Johnsonburg in my first church.”  And I shared with him and Shirley much of what I wrote above.  Steve said, “Tell you what; you pick a date to come to our house, and I will have the people there!”  We picked every other Tuesday starting in November of 2001.  And for thirteen years now, this Bible study group has been a great blessing to me!  No, it is not all young adults there – but we do have two or three!  Then again, I am not so young anymore myself!  But we have seen several people come to Jesus Christ in saving faith, including Harry at 81 years old!  Willemena still attends when she can at age 94!  And I think the most we have had at one study was 23 – just like in Johnsonburg!  We average around 15.

It makes me think of a passage from Psalm 37:3 through 6:

      Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His
      faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the LORD; and He shall give you
      the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in
      Him, and He shall bring it to pass.  He shall bring forth your righteous-
      ness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

I try to “Delight…[my]self also in the LORD; and He [certainly has given me] the desires of… [my] heart.”  I have “Commit[ted my]…way to the Lord, trust[ed] also in Him, and He…[has brought] it to pass.”  God is so good and faithful!

Steve went on to his heavenly home several years ago.  He is now in fellowship with Harry and some of the others who have entered glory – including Steve’s sister whom we led to Jesus Christ when she was in a nursing home!  But Shirley still opens her home to us every other Tuesday where we gather in the family room downstairs and enjoy sharing, study, fellowship, and always some snacks!

Jesus said in John 10:10,I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  I believe it! For He has given me My Hearts Desire!

What Do I Do With Sinners? – V

January 16, 2015

Jude 1:20-23

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Let’s go back to the scripture chosen for the first two blogs in this series, What Do I Do With Sinners? – Jude 1:20 through 23:

      …you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in
      the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy
      of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion,
      making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;
      hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

We have been focusing upon homosexuality in the past four blogs because I was called to counsel a conservative Christian family who did not know how to react after their daughter ‘came out of the closet’ as a lesbian. But this blog and scripture applies to What Do I Do With ALL Sinners, and ALL types of sin? Now remember, we are all sinners before God, even the best of us! Isaiah was led by God to write in chapter 64 and verse 6:

      But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like
      filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have
      taken us away.

And Paul has told us in Romans 3:10, 3:23 and Galatians 3:22: “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one….’ …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….[and] the scripture has confined all under sin…” (emphasis added).

We have learned in the four previous blogs in this series that to properly deal with anyone caught in any kind of sin, we must first be close to God ourselves. Such closeness allows us to be in tune with the Lord and hear His leadings. Each person is different, and each situation has its own characteristics, but God knows what to say and do in everything! We are told in our scripture six things:

•      Jude 1:20 – “…build…yourselves up on your most holy faith….We build our faith by being in the Word and the Word being in us! (see Acts 20:32, Romans 10:17).

•      Jude 1:20 – “…praying in the Holy Spirit….When I counsel someone, I always have an ongoing three-way conversation – myself, the counselee, and the Lord! I am silently in prayer with Him asking, “Lord, How should I reply to what was just said? What should I say (or do) now?

•      Jude 1:21 – “…keep yourselves in the love of God….If I am in God’s love, I will then love others – even the worst and unlovely of sinners – as He has loved me when I was so unlovely!

•      Jude 1:21 – “…looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.God, in His mercy, has not given me condemnation and hell – that which I deserve! God, in His grace, has given me forgiveness and eternal life – that which I don’t deserve! I am to offer the same to other sinners like myself – and that is to be the basis of our witness of the gospel to others!

•      Jude 1:22 – “And on some have compassion, making a distinction….The New International Version translates it this way: “Be merciful to those who doubt…,” and this makes more sense than the New King James Version. I read it as meaning, those who doubt about the choice of continuing on in their sin or not – that is, they just don’t know what to do – be merciful to them, and don’t condemn them.

•      Jude 1:23 – “…but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire….” If we really care about someone who is in danger, we will try to rescue them out of that situation. This is especially necessary if they do not realize the danger of it.

•      Jude 1:23 – “…hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” This is how Jude is saying that we are to hate the sin, even while we are loving the sinner. God hates sin, but He sure loves us – and we are all sinners!

Christians seem to get into trouble because we call certain things as God sees them according to the Bible. The world does not want to hear that what they are doing is sin before God, and that He condemns such practice. But I will not waver on this point of Biblical declaration! What I do ask is that any person who is caught up in sinful action that I might challenge – please realize I do care for you, I do love you, and I am concerned for your well-being, both for eternal destination and for your life here and now.

What Do I Do With Sinners? – IV

January 14, 2015

Philippians 4:13

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Again as suggested in the last blog, this time we might called it What Do I Do With Myself – A Sinner? Today I will deal with how someone can handle homosexuality in their life if the Holy Spirit has convicted them that it is wrong before God.

I have heard the arguments that “I was born this way,” as opposed to such a tendency being learned. The logic that one was born with the bent toward being gay or lesbian seems to be the strong argument of the two in favor of pursuing homosexuality. This is based on the thinking that if it is something learned in our experience, then it can be unlearned. I really do not think it matters whether being a homosexual is hardwired in the genes or is a learned thing! And here is the basis for my thinking:

I am (or was) an alcoholic – a binge alcoholic. I say ‘was’ because I no longer have even the temptation to drink! I had my first alcoholic beverage at the age of twelve, and by the time I was 15, I could drink most people under the table! It seems that there is something in my gene makeup that predisposes me to getting hooked on alcohol! Another example from my life: My paternal grandfather was quite a ladies’ man, as was my father. I have that same tendency. How can that be hardwired into my being? It says in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:5, “…the iniquity of the fathers [is visited] on the children to the third and fourth generation….” Now I don’t know about the generations before my paternal grandfather – and I never even knew him – but in a spiritual way, the sins of generations before seem to be somehow ‘wired in’ to the makeup of succeeding generations!

Let me give one more illustration. I was in the occult for about four years. I was not into ‘the dark side’ of the occult, but nevertheless – and before God – it was not something good! I was heavily into spiritism (communication with the dead), ouija boards, automatic writing, even studying and practicing to become a trance medium. I attended – and even led – many seances, studied hypnotism and used it in occult experiments, and I delved deeply into astrology. I practiced what is referred to as ‘white magic,’ although all magic has a very dark side before God! What I did not know until well after my immersion into the occult was that my mother, 30 years before, had practiced table-tapping as a means of communicating with the deceased. And her mother, whom I never knew, was a type of trance medium! My mother also told me she had a great aunt who – by my mother’s description – was a practicing witch! She was said to sleep with a live black widow spider on her pillow!

So maybe I came into my interest and practice of the occult ‘legally,’ the sins of my mother, and my grandmother, in this case, being visited upon me!

What has all this got to do with the gay and lesbian issue? Well, you might say I was born with the predilection toward the occult, toward being a womanizer, and toward becoming an alcoholic! Does it give me the right to practice such things because I was ‘born that way’? What would have happened to my marriage to my wonderful wife of 46 years if I had just given in to my hardwired desires? What would my life be like if I was even still alive after 56 years of being an alcoholic? Where would I be spiritually if I had followed my apparently ‘natural inclinations’ toward the occult?

The point is that we all have tendencies that seem to lead us in certain directions! We all have things against which we struggle! We all seems to experience what Saint Paul called…a thorn in the flesh…” (II Corinthians 12:7) – sometimes more than one!. In order to live our lives as we should before God and man, there are some things we just are not allowed to do! There are some things – whether inborn or learned – from which we must abstain!

Is it a struggle for me not to drink, or run after women (in my case I was hooked for years on pornography after being introduced to it at age 14 by my assistant scoutmaster) or pursue my occultic leanings? Not any more! I have learned that the longer I abstained from something, the easier it got – even if that something had a solid hold on me! Also, I accomplished these victories by God’s power! It says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And the Lord told us in John 8:32, 34and 36:

      Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is the slave of sin….[But]
      you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free….Therefore if
      the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

…whoever commits sin is the slave of sin.Enslavement to any action outside of God’s blessing is not good for anyone! And there is something that God has designed concerning offering your body to another: “…the two shall become one….” (Matthew 19:5). There is a close bonding when such actions take place. It was meant in God’s sight to be for a man and a woman in marriage. Anything else will enslave us to sin!

But…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.We can have freedom in Jesus Christ to be all that God intends us to be!

There is something else I have found. Those who have studied the issue say that if you practice something for 30 days, it becomes a habit. And if a habit is pursued long enough it becomes something that is just done automatically – it becomes part of you!

It is not easy to change something that is such a deep part of our being. But it can be done! I want to be in God’s favor and blessing. And I hope you do too!

What Do I Do With Sinners? – III

January 12, 2015

I Thessalonians 4:3-7

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Instead of What Do I Do With Sinners? this blog might be called What Do I Do With Myself – A Sinner? And one of the most common sins manifested in humanity is sexual immorality! Why is that? Because sex is so basic to our human natures. We are all sexual beings – some more driven by sexual appetites than others. We all seem to find outlets for our sexual drives.

Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica concerning this, and our scripture is taken from I Thessalonians 4:3 through 7:

      …this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from
      sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own
      vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust like the Gentiles
      who do not know God; That no one should take advantage of and defraud
      his brother in this matter: because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we
      also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness,
      but in holiness.

Sometimes we struggle to discern the will of God in matters that face us. What God wants as we seek our life’s work, where to live, whom we are to marry, and so on is not always easy to figure out. God does not give written specifics concerning every decision we face. God’s will and direction with such issues often comes through much prayer, counsel, studying His Word for principles or examples, and listening to the Lord’s…still small voice.” (I Kings 19:12).

But other times God’s will is very plain, as in our scripture: “…this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (verse 3). Another word for sanctification is found at the end this passage in verse 7: “…holiness.This is what God wants – sanctification unto holiness! I Peter 1:15 and 16 says it very plainly: “…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ [Leviticus 19:2]” And God wants sanctification unto holiness in things sexual in the individual Christian’s life!

It says in our scripture in verses 4 and 5, “…that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust like…[those] who do not know God….” The vessel spoken of here, might mean the partner with whom you share your body. But it might also mean your own body, which is the vessel – the dwelling place – of God Himself through His Holy Spirit residing in you (see Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19; II Corinthians 1:22). How we treat our bodies is a serious issue before God! In I Corinthians 3:16 and 17 Paul writes:

      Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God
      dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.
      For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

God destroying the temple – or body – does not mean the soul occupying that body is going to hell. There are a lot of Christians who seriously rebel against His commands in many areas of life. If such an one has really received Jesus Christ into his or her heart and life as Savior, he or she “…has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [concerning the soul’s eternal destiny in heaven or in hell], but has [already] passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). However, that one will not receive the rewards in heaven the Lord has reserved for His faithful followers. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:10 through 15 that the foundation of Jesus Christ in one’s life (verse 11) is just that – a foundation, a start. In verse 10 he admonishes his readers, “But let each one take heed how he builds on…” that foundation. You can build something for God’s glory that…will receive a reward.” (verse 14). But if what you build on the foundation of Jesus Christ in your life is not for God but for your own glory, pleasure and pursuit – what Paul calls, “…wood, hay, straw…” (verse 12) – “…it will be revealed [tested] by fire…” (verse 13). “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through the fire.” (verse 15). You might say, some Christians will be saved by ‘the skin of their teeth,’ – getting into heaven with the smell of smoke on them, smoke from fire of Jesus Christ’s judgment as He reviews how we have lived our Christian life!

But what then does it mean that “…God will destroy him…” (I Corinthians 3:17)? Later on in I Corinthians, Paul deals with “…the Lord’s Supper.” (I Corinthians 11:20). These Corinthian believers were not treating it as a holy thing, coming to communion with blatant and unconfessed sins in their lives. (see I Corinthians 3:1 through 4; 4:6 and 7; 5:1 and 2; 6:1 through 8; 11:17 through 22; 15:12). They were receiving the bread and cup of the Lord “…in an unworthy manner…not discerning the Lord’s body [the seriousness of His sacrifice on our behalf]. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [have died].God will not allow His name and reputation to be continually dragged through the mud! Any believer who continues to blatantly sin, He may even take their physical life from them! This applies to whatever the Bible identifies as sin – including homosexuality and other sexual sins!

Remember this – and we will continue to explore how we are to respond to this serious matter in our next blog – if God calls us to holiness, He will provide the way, the power, the means to achieve such sanctification!

What Do I Do With Sinners? – II

January 9, 2015

Jude 1:20-23

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Let’s continue with this subject that is controversial to many people – What Do I Do With Sinners?  And what we are specifically looking at is the issue of gay and lesbian lifestyles.  As I said in the last blog, this issue came to the fore because a friend who is a conservative Christian – as is his wife and son – asked me to counsel them on how to handle the situation where their daughter came ‘out of the closet’ claiming to be a lesbian.

Is homosexuality a sin before God?  Yes, according to the Bible. (see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:21 through 28; and I Corinthians 6:9 and 10).  But, as with any other sin, Jesus Christ can set us free! (see John 8:31 through 36).  We are all sinners – according to such scriptures as Romans 3:10 and 23, but Jesus paid for all our sins on the cross.  Now, by faith believing and accepting Him into our hearts and lives, He redeems us, cleanses away our sins by His own blood, and makes us acceptable before God as His own sons and daughters! (see John 1:12; Ephesians 1:6).

How are we then to relate to others who have not yet come to the Savior?  In other words, as a Christian, What Do I Do With Sinners?  Jude 1:20 through 23 has the answer:

      …you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in
      the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy
      of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  And on some have compassion,
      making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;
      hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

This scripture says we are to “…on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (verses 22 and 23).  Here is the rendering of these two verses from The Amplified Bible:

      And (refute [so as to] convict some who dispute with you, and) on some
      have mercy who waver and doubt.  [Strive to] save others, snatching [them]
      out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the gar-
      ment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality.

Compassion and mercy on those who waver and doubt, pity, with fear snatching them out of the firethis is not hating sinners!  You can only have compassion, mercy, pity and fear if you love them have a genuine concern for them!  In the case of homosexuality, love and concern exclude homophobia, hate and gay-bashing!  Yes, our scripture says to hate “…even the garment defiled by the flesh.”  But we are not to hate the person!  According to Romans 5:8 and Colossians 1:21, Jesus Christ loved us enough to lay down His life for us…while we were yet sinners…alienated and enemies in…our mind by wicked works….”  If He lives in us and through us, are we not to do the same with others?

How are we to accomplish this?  How do we love those who sometimes seem very unlovely?  Jude has the answer in verses 20 and 21:  “…you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ….”  Five things:

•      We are to keep in mind that we are beloved of God. (Jude 1:20).  It says in I John 4:9 through 11:

      In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only
      begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love,
      not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propi-
      tiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one
      another.

This is not just talking about loving other Christians.  If “…He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…,that happened before we were Christians!  So when we are told,…we also ought to love one another…,it means we are to love sinners just like God loved us when we were sinners!

•      We are to “…build…ourselves up on…our most holy faith…” (Jude 1:20).  How is faith built up?  Acts 20:32 says, “…the word of His grace…is able to build you up….”  Since “…faith comes…by the word of God…” (Romans 10:17), get in your Bible!  And stay in it!

•      We are to “…pray…in the Holy Spirit…” (Jude 1:20).  Paul wrote in Romans 8:26, “…the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us….”  When we don’t even know how to pray or what to pray for, just start praying, and ask the Holy Spirit to take control!

•      We are to “…keep…ourselves in the love of God…” (Jude 1:21).  When we constantly remind ourselves that God loved us – and loves us – so much, then there will be no room for hating either sinners or other Christians! (see I John 4:19 through 21).

•      We are to “…look…for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Jude 1:21).  Mercy is not being given what we deserve.  As Jesus said at the end of the Parable of the Good Samaritan – Luke 10:30 through 36 – since the Samaritan showed mercy on the Jewish man beaten by thieves, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37).  In other words, if we have experienced God’s mercy, we will show others mercy!

But exactly how do we win over to Christ sinners in general, and gays and lesbians in particular?  We will tackle that in the next blog.