Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holy – 1 of 3

~ A “Unique” Concept ~

Holy. It is hard to imagine any other single word so closely coupled with the nature of God. Perhaps it is equally as hard to imagine any other single word which has such a strange reaction in the hearts of mankind.

It is also difficult to imagine a more critical concept for the Christian to come to grips with than the holiness of God—and its implications! There is no other attribute so central to the very character of God than the fact that He is a holy God. For example, we are told, "Holy is His name" (Psalm 111:9; Isaiah 57:15; Luke 1:49), and God is frequently referred to as "The Holy One" in the Old Testament.

One key reason that understanding the meaning of a holy God is so critical for the Christian is that we have a direct command to "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). This is actually a reference to many Old Testament Scriptures. How can any one of us obey that command until we first understand what holy means?

It would be a drastic mistake to think that because someone has studied holiness or written about it, that they have somehow achieved a level of holiness which is above the normal. In fact the experience of many of the saints of God has been that the more they begin to understand the nature of the holy God, the more they realize their awful sinfulness. The effect is similar to the effect of shining a brilliant light upon a fine diamond which has been placed against a dark background. The more we see His nature, the more we see the blackness of our own hearts.

God's people, the Jews, understood the majesty of the holiness of God. The early translators of the Bible understood His majesty. The Old Testament translates the word "Adonai" as "Lord"—the name of our sovereign God; but when it comes to "Yahweh"—the name of our sacred God, it uses the word "LORD" in all upper case in order to signify the majesty of the holy God. Lord is the title of God, while LORD is the name of God.

Uniqueness of the Attribute of Holiness

Holiness provokes a defensive response in mankind, even a hatred in the minds of some. The greater the holiness, the more natural unredeemed man recoils from it because man is defiled through and through with the sin nature. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

It is true that man often admires goodness and high moral standards—but only at a distance! The Jews admired their prophets at a distance. Today, many men and women admire Jesus Christ from a distance. He was a good man, they admit.

God would not even allow the Old Testament saints to see the face of the Holy One. Remember when His faithful servant Moses—who had seen God perform some astonishing miracles—asked to see His face, his request was denied.

"And the LORD said, 'I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,' He said, 'you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.' Then the LORD said, 'There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen’” (Exodus 33:19-23). When Moses returned from the experience of seeing God's back side (literally: hind quarters), his face was radiant (Exodus 34:29-30).

The Christian awaits that ultimate experience, to see our Lord Jesus Christ face to face when He welcomes us into our heavenly dwelling place. In that future day we will see God as He is. We will see Him in all His fullness. In all His brilliance and radiance, we will see God face to face! In that day we will understand fully for the first time a "holy" God.

In heaven we will become whole, we will have integrity, we will be "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:9). In that day we will for the first time have it all together. But we won't even be cognizant of it because we will be so enthralled, so enraptured, so completely fulfilled with Christ, our bridegroom.

Friday, November 26, 2010

EXTRA: The First Entry in “The Journals of Jim Elliot”

~ Guest Blog from Derek Ashton ~ 

The following is used by permission from Derek Ashton, host of the excellent THEOparadox blog site. To view his full post, “The First and Last Entries” click here. He writes: 

Below is an excerpt from the first entry in Jim Elliot's Journal. 

January 17, 1948 ~ What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself.  For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies…

Help me, Lord, not to "mourn and weep" only for those things, once precious, which You teach me are but dead (whether desires, pleasures, or whatever may be precious to my soul now), but give me a willingness to put them away out of my sight (Genesis 23:4).  Burying places are costly, but I would own a Machpelah where corpses (dead things in my life) can be put away. 

…Out of such humility came fierce preaching and a willingness to die for the cause of Christ.

Certainly a passionate, Scripture-saturated preacher! Some thought-provoking things here. And some real challenges, too.

[Within Mr. Ashton’s blog are three parts of a sermon preached by Elliot in 1951. The Jim Elliot sermon which you can listen to on Derek Ashton’s site is entitled “The Resurrection.”]    

BLOGGER BOB’S COMMENT:  I had the privilege of knowing Jim Elliot very well when I was a young boy. Years later it was my privilege to transcribe and edit some of the messages he spoke prior to leaving for the mission field.  They were transcribed from an old wire recorder (a forerunner to magnetic tape).  These messages really show Jim’s love and zeal for God as well as his insight and wisdom.  For more information on the transcriptions entitled “JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks To You” (ISBN 9781615797646) click on the JE tab at the top of this blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

America’s Abundance

~ A Timeless Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln ~

“It is the duty of the nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subject to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justify fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins; to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us.

“It has seems fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

BLOGGER BOB’S COMMENT: It certainly would appear that our 16th President knew and appreciated the source of America’s blessings!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does God change His mind?

~ The Answer Might Surprise You ~

This is an interesting and complex question. Scripture is clear that our God is an unchanging God; however, on one hand we read that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), but there are some other accounts in the Word of God which appear to contradict this. We read passages which state outright that God changed His mind (Exodus 32 for example).

Comparing these and other passages could cause one to question some of the beliefs of the Christian faith. For example, we believe the Bible was inspired, literally “God-breathed,” and is without error in the original manuscripts. We believe that God is completely consistent and cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). We also believe that God is all-knowing—“omniscient.” God is not bound as we are by time and space—He can move forward through time instantaneously.

Another aspect of this question is with regard to prayer. If God does not change His mind, then why do we pray? What is the purpose of prayer if everything has already been determined?

The Explanation ~ It is important to recognize that while the Scripture is perfect in its original form, it has been translated by imperfect humans over the centuries—sometimes with gross errors, sometimes with minor problems, and often with difficulty in transferring the correct thought from one language to another. This is key. In many instances where modern translations say God changed His mind or that God repented of His prior decision, it is due to translation problems. The Hebrew word nacham (“nawkam”), often translated into English as “changed His mind” or “repented,” is an incomplete translation. A more correct English wording would be “made a change in direction.” In other words while the original manuscripts are faultless, translators and language equivalency can be faulty! This can make a huge difference. To say someone changed his mind is quite different than saying someone changed direction.

Another key is to realize that when God says He does not change He is referring to His nature and His absolute decrees. Since He has given free will to mankind, He often allows us the choice of obeying and being blessed or going our own way and reaping the consequences.

God will not change His mind in reference to His oaths or outright decrees (Psalm 110:4 is an example). In instances of God providing direction, He often states the results of disobedience. In situations where human free will is involved, He leaves open a “change in direction” if there is obedience. This concept also provides insight into why we are commanded to pray. James 5:16 tells us prayer can achieve much.

Exodus 32 and other similar passages should be understood with these factors in mind. In the original language God tells Moses he may as well get out of there because at this point God planned to destroy the people because of their ongoing worship of idols. Such worship was something He had previously said was a capital offense (Exodus 22:20). It was as if God was providing a test for Moses.

Moses’ actions showed he did really care and love the people. Moses responded in prayer, earnestly pleading with God for the lives of the people. He responded with spiritual leadership and took his responsibilities seriously. It was on this basis that God instituted a change of direction—from what He had warned Moses was going to happen.

Earlier God had not made a final decision but had outlined to Moses the course of action currently in place. Moses responded appropriately, and therefore God was able to change His direction while remaining true to His nature. Part of the mystery in all this is that we know that God knows the end as well as He does the beginning—yet interwoven is the free will of man, in this case the free will of Moses.

Rather than a case of God not following through with His commandments, Exodus 32 actually shows a fulfillment of God’s earlier promises to show love and kindness to His people when they turn from their sin and approach Him in humility and obedience.

Consider two additional factors. First, God through His Word sometimes communicates with us through the use of anthropomorphism—using illustrations that fit our human understanding. Second, God, by definition, is so complex and above our full comprehension that we will never completely understand Him this side of heaven.

Summary ~ Does God change His mind? Not in the sense in which the question usually refers!

Does God change His direction and His actions based on the choices we make? Yes.

Does God know ahead of time what decisions and actions we will take? Yes.

Is God’s nature and character absolutely constant and unchanging? Yes!

Friday, November 12, 2010

EXTRA: 3 Great Christmas Gift Suggestions

~ Everyone Appreciates a Great Book ~

Here are three great book suggestions for three kinds of people.

(1) For those who enjoy a truly inspiring book, consider…
ONE PRECIOUS PEARL: God’s Design for His Church (ISBN: 9780741462329)
This ground-breaking book provides a clear interpretation of a misunderstood and rarely taught New Testament parable. Fascinating analogies teach profound truth in simple language. Written in short easily digestible segments, it is ideal reading for the person on the go. After reading this book, the reader will never look at a pearl or the church in quite the same way.

Early reviewers say: “…content is superior throughout… I have learned a great deal about the concept of a pearl and have appreciated more the concept of the Church as the Pearl of Christ.” (Ronald Barclay Allen, Senior Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary) ~ “I will never think of a pearl in the same light again. I absolutely love the way you have drawn a parallel between the pearl and the Church. This is inspired!” (Elizabeth Hightower, Women’s Ministries Leader, Laurelwood Baptist Church) ~ “We have been Christians for over 40 years, but never have been so enlightened and enriched as we have been by the in-depth study of the One Precious Pearl. You have given us new meaning and insight.” (Jerry & Maureen Shoop, retired Senior Pastor)

Just released November 12, 2010.
Currently available from Infinity Publishing (soon available at Amazon and other online sites).

(2) For those who want to increase their intimacy with God or to be more confident in decision-making, consider…
THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH: Understanding God’s Will for You (ISBN: 9781606474303)
For more information check out the TWBDOE tab at the top. The latest independent review of this book is by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Check it out here.

(3) For those who have an interest in Church history or Christian missions, consider…
JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You (ISBN: 9781615797646)
For more information check out the JE tab at the top.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Everyday Christian Life

~ Quick Check: How Are You Doing? ~

The “normal” Christian life—life as God wants it—includes a number of everyday activities. Unfortunately the “average” Christian life falls short of God’s desire for us. Here are a few of the daily activities of a normal Christian.

Daily reading of the Word of God ~ “Ezra read from God’s Word daily, from the first day to the last day” (Nehemiah 8:18). ~ Are you growing daily in your knowledge of God because of a regular pattern of being in God’s Word?

Constant prayer to the Lord about everything ~ “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere” (1 Timothy 2:8). “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). ~ Are you in continual prayer?

Constant praising of the Lord ~ “There will be constant praise for Him. His people will bless Him all day long” (Psalm 72:15). ~ Are you in a constant worshipful attitude? Are you continually aware of all the blessings God sends your way?

Daily exhortation of one another ~ “Exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). ~ Do you regularly go out of your way to seek opportunities to encourage another Christian? Are you mentally and emotionally helpful to your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Daily cross to bear ~ “Then Jesus said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels’” (Luke 9:23-26). ~ Is it your habit to put God’s will ahead of your own will?

Daily renewal of our spirituality ~ “We do not become discouraged—utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear. Though our outer man is progressively decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being progressively renewed day after day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). ~ Did you grow in your spiritual strength yesterday? Are you today? Will you tomorrow? Essential parts of the solution to spiritual growth are the regular activities listed above.

CONTEMPLATE: How are you doing in your Christian life? Would God evaluate your progress the same way? If you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Friday, November 5, 2010

EXTRA: The Little Old Lady From Pasadena

~ Guest Blog from Greg Laurie ~

The Bible tells us that, one day, all Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. Don't let that frighten you, because this particular judgment happens in heaven, which means you made it!

The Bible says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV).

It will be about how you lived your life and what you did with your time and resources.

Perhaps we can better understand this judgment if we compare it to an awards ceremony like the Oscars, Emmys, or Grammys. Rewards will be given out for faithfulness on this day.

We may expect that the great saints whom God has used over the years will reap all the awards—people like Corrie ten Boom, Jim Elliot, and Billy Graham.

But we may be surprised by the rewards won by "the little old lady from Pasadena!"

Yes, there really was one, and her name was Pearle Goode. When Billy was doing his crusade in Pasadena, he attributed the success of these events, going back 56 years, to prayer.

If the Graham team had anything close to a personal intercessor, it was Pearle Goode of Pasadena. For many years, she prayed in secret for Graham until he heard about her and made provision for her to attend his crusades so she could pray on-site.

Goode lived to be 90. At her funeral, Billy's wife, Ruth, paid her this tribute: "Here lie the mortal remains of much of the secret of Bill's ministry."

Pearle Goode wasn't a preacher, missionary, or author. She didn't have a hit song on Christian radio. But Pearle did her part, just as surely as Billy Graham did his.

While Billy was out preaching, Pearle was praying. While Billy was doing his part, Pearle was doing hers.

Don't worry about what God has called someone else to do. What has He called you to do?

We all have a part to play in getting the gospel out. Make sure you do yours.

Used by permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Pray

~ Prayer Principles – Philippians 4 ~

Packed into six short verses of Philippians 4:4-9 we find Six Attitudes of Prayer.

Rejoicing ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4). In prayer we should always be rejoicing. We do this by focusing on our Father rather than our problems. It is a great practice to start prayer by focusing on God, His love, and His attributes. “Rejoice always … for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Humility ~ “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand” (4:5). The very act of prayer should be a humbling experience. By focusing on God we realize how inept we are and that we have no right to approach the Father—except by the blood of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Expecting ~ “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). Anxiety has no place in prayer—expect God to do what is best in your long range interest. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28-29).

~ “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). Focus your thoughts not only on God the Father but also on His Son Jesus Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus … He humbled Himself … and became obedient ” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Realism ~ “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (4:8). As you pray, try to see things as they are, not as you perceive them to be. Never assume motivations for others. Remember that you are not as bad, nor as good, as some people tell you. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29).

Application ~ “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (4:9). Just do it! Feelings follow actions. Do what you know to be the will of God for you while waiting for any further specific instructions. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

ADDITIONAL COMMENT: The book Thy Will Be Done On Earth (see the TWBDOE tab at the top of the page) contains an informative chapter on prayer from a different perspective including God’s four answers to prayer.