Friday, October 31, 2008

Moses Strikes The Rock

(Numbers 20:12) Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Poor Moses! He went through an awful lot of trouble leading Israel. He put up with an awful lot of complaining and rebellion. Finally he lost his temper and lost his own opportunity to enter the promised land.

What are we supposed to learn from Moses' experience?

1) We need to believe God and act according to that belief.
God said that Moses failed because, "you did not believe me." Perhaps he didn't believe that speaking to the rock would be enough - he thought he needed to beat it a few times. Perhaps he didn't believe that this was enough of a rebuke to the people or enough vindication of himself and Aaron. At any rate, he did NOT do what God told him to do.

2) Our primary objective in every situation should be to exalt God as Holy.
It is very easy for us to think the situations we face are about us. They are not. We are all about glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. When Moses went after the rock he seems to have had a "I'll show you rebels a thing or two about who the prophet is..." attitude. In other words, he seemed more concerned about his own glory than God's.

So we feel bad about Moses, realizing that we are vulnerable to the same failures.

On the other hand we need to remember that actually arriving in Caanan was not the ultimate blessing. Moses still went to heaven. Many years later he communes with Jesus and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration. (Matthew 17:2-3) Moses was shut out of an earthly blessing, but he still had his heavenly reward.

Serving God is serious business. God will not be slighted.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Seminar

I just returned home from a three day seminar at Baptist Church Planters in Elyria, Ohio. The speaker was Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Seminary in Plymouth, MN. The topic was "Ecclesiastical Separation."

Don't say, "Ewwww!" Separation is really about Fellowship. This was a great seminar and we had great fellowship for those three days!

Dr. Bauder gave two axioms at the start.

Axiom #1 – Unity is always a function of that which unites.
Unity is a by-product of something else. In the Church, that something is belief in and loyalty to the Gospel.

Axiom #2 – Fellowship is what is held in common.
Quality of the fellowship is always determined by what you hold in common. If we have limited agreement - our level of fellowship will also be limited. The more substantial our agreement, the deeper our fellowship.

I am refreshed and exhausted. Now I need to dig out my office and catch up on my work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sleep Well!

(Psalms 4:8) I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalms 127:2) It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.
I think God built night into the world and built the need for sleep into our human bodies so that we could see our helplessness and be humbled before Him.

Sleep is a lesson in trust. You cannot protect yourself while you are asleep. You cannot run from danger or fight an attacker. You are blissfully asleep and essentially helpless. To do anything in your own behalf you need to wake up.

Because we need to sleep, we see our limitations. We cannot concentrate on anything for an indefinite period of time. We become fatigued. Our mind begins to falter. We can only continue after we recover through sleep. God is infinite. God is omnipotent. His knowledge of everything is exhaustive. His concentration never flags. We need to trust in Him. We can trust in Him.
(Psalms 121:2-7) My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quietness versus Silence

(Psalms 46:10) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
I am prejudiced toward action, but I need to spend time being quiet, knowing that God is acting for Himself. I need to be quiet and think about God - study His word - approach Him in prayer.

My hotel room is quiet... just the sound of the heater/air conditioner. White noise - they call it. I can also hear faint traffic sounds outside. Occasionally I hear a door open or close in the hallway - now some voices. (I'm not sure I ever experience perfect silence, since I have a perpetual ringing in my ears that keeps me company even when everything else is quiet. But even that tinnitus is a sort of white noise - a tintinnabulation like a chorus of Spring peepers.)

But it is quiet anyway. Quiet does not require silence. Quiet is the absence of distractions. If I turned on the TV - I would find that distracting. The communication coming from the TV would compete for my attention.

There are other kinds of noise. The computer I am using is on the hotel network - so I could access any number of things - e-mails, news sites, comics sites, U-Tube, God Tube, Facebook, etc. These things are not bad in their place, but if I let them intrude into my quiet they become noise - and they interfere.

Quiet can wear me out, but I need the quiet - some of it everyday.
I need the quiet for my Bible reading... otherwise I can't concentrate.
I need the quiet for my prayer time... so I can focus on God, His word, and His will for my life.
(Psalms 46:10) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Sparrows

I went grocery shopping today through the season's first flurry of snow. There is barely enough snow to recognize - you would think it was just a sprinkle of rain. It is pretty cold... not quite freezing, but there's a promise of cold days coming.

As I wheeled my cart out to the parking lot I noticed a few sparrows sheltering under my truck. One was fluffed up with its head under its feathers in a perfect ball, just behind my rear tire. All the birds moved out when I started unloading my groceries, but they didn't go far. They went to the cart rack in the next parking space and puffed up there. As I walked around the truck to get to the passenger side, all but one popped up and hopped off.

The one that was left stayed in a tight ball of downy feathers while I looked it over from three feet away. When I spoke to it, it raised its head and looked at me from one sleepy eye. Then, deciding I was no threat, it snuggled back down and ignored me.

I don't have much use for sparrows - but these were cute! I'm glad to know they are under God's care.
(Matthew 10:28-31) And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Glorious Mornings With God

(Lamentations 3:22-23) Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Everyday I fail the Lord in one way or another. I either do something I shouldn't or I fail to do something I should. I sin in my thoughts or with my tongue. I sleep when I should be awake. I think of myself when I should be thinking of my Lord.

The burden of my sinful imperfections is great, but I am not overwhelmed because God's mercy and compassion are new every morning! Great is His Faithfulness!

I love the morning - the early morning - the crack of dawn. The day is new. It is washed clean and new possibilities stretch out in front of me.

Instead of being burdened with the failures of yesterday, I am lifted up by God's grace for this new day. Today I can apply the lessons from yesterday. The traps I fell into yesterday can be avoided today. Because of my pain in yesterday's failures I will call out to God early in the morning - "do not lead me into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one."

God is so great and so good! Even when I do all that I should do, I will be but an unworthy servant! But He loves me anyway and works in my life. Today is a new day with God. With God all things are possible.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou always will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Praise God for yet another day to serve Him!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Book Review: This Little Church Stayed Home

I just finished this book by Gary E. Gilley. The full title is "This Little Church Stayed Home: A faithful church in deceptive times."

This is a great read for someone like me who believes the Bible is the authoritative word of God and that the Church is the creation of Jesus Christ and subject to His Own design requirements. We do not "do church" according to our own whims and fancies. We are the church and we obey God's instructions about form and function.

In his previous book, "This Little Church Went To Market," Gilley detailed issues with the way the "market driven" church had developed. In this book, he takes on the postmodern emerging church movement. I think his criticisms in both cases are clear, well documented and more than fair. Gilley does not impugn his target's motives - just their theology.

Nevertheless, I get the feeling Gilley is frustrated - or maybe I am reading my own frustration into his words. Why are so many prominent Christians so willing to turn a blind eye to such glaring errors? How can anyone be happy with Christianity that is only a worldly philosophy dressed in religious clothes? How can people declare their fealty to the Bible as God's Word while using it and abusing it in ways that undercut its authority?

While this book sounds many important warnings to true believers, I don't think it focuses enough on "a faithful church in deceptive times." It outlines important basic doctrines of Scripture and the Church, but does not do much to highlight the churches that are truly faithful to these doctrines.

Faithful churches can thrive. Small churches can be vibrant. Persecuted churches are often the purest. Sound churches can grow. Gilley implies these things, but doesn't give much time to developing them. I wish he would.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who are you going to believe?

Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Can we know true truth? Writers for the Emergent Church would say no. According to them truth claims should always be viewed with suspicion. According to them we cannot know that any particular proposition of the Bible is really true truth. They reject any claim that Christ is the only way of salvation - because that would mean the claims of the Bible are more true than the teachings of other religions and traditions.

Meanwhile, these guys are prolific writers. Each of them produces several books a year and blogs without number.

Please pause to enjoy the irony with me. People who claim that there is no absolutely true truth and that all truth claims must be considered attempts to manipulate, are writing pages and pages of truth claims of their own (and expecting people to pay them for it.)

What a bunch of squirrelly snake oil salesmen! "You cannot believe the truth claims of the Bible, you must believe my truth claims about that."

Does this sound familiar to you?
(Genesis 3:4-5) Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
You know how that turned out! This is equally audacious and just as dangerous.

They say, "Jesus is NOT the only way to salvation. People of other religions will also be saved by God." But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

I have trouble believing that they are sincere. If they believe truth is relative and one person's truth claims are not true for another person - how could they spend hours writing down such truth claims of their own and how could they sell such things in good conscience? It would be as immoral as it is illogical.

There is no question if you are going to believe someone's truth claims - because you are. The only question is - "Whose truth claims will you believe?"

I choose to believe the Bible.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


This week I enjoyed the OARBC annual conference at Skyview Ranch in Millersburg. God blessed us with good weather, a beautiful setting, great attendance, wonderful fellowship, uplifting music and challenging preaching.

The speaker asked an important question. "What do you daydream about?"

Our daydreams can tell us what is in our hearts. He suggested that "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" often reveal themselves in our daydreams. He pointed out that dreams of "success" (especially in ministry - church growth, acclaim, fame, praise...) are often a revelation of the pride of life.

He also talked about brokenness. We need to be broken before Christ and come to a place where we surrender completely to Him. If we do, we can be useful vessels. We can live to see God turn every hardship into a blessing. We can praise God at the top of our voice for a lifetime.

But what if we are not broken and surrendered to God?

We become bitter. We nurse our grudges and rehearse our wounds in a leanness of spirit that is always hungry for vindication. We are miserable as we replay our hurts blow by blow.

Our labor is not for the glory of God, but for our own validation - and there can never be enough success to satisfy us. We become grumpy and embittered. We might come to the place where we hate the work of ministry. Some are shipwrecked regarding the faith. Others are sidelined. Others cripple along, going through the motions with a grim determination but with little hope of joy.

Mercifully, God doesn't let us go unchallenged in our pride. He puts obstacles in our way to break us down. We are brought to the end of ourselves. We are presented with opportunities to put God in His right place and let go of our agenda for our own reputation. If we do that, we can get past our past hurts with joy because GOD IS GLORIFIED!

This message resonated with me. Praise God for His mercies! It is easy to think everything is about me. My success or my failure, my control, my reputation, my image, my ministry, my heritage - me, me, me. When we do this we are striving against God in the pride of life. But it is NOT about me. Everything is about God - that His name would be exalted as holy - that His kingdom would come - that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Glory to God in the highest!
(James 4:6-7) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Slothful In Work?

(Proverbs 18:9) He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.

This verse reminds me of a book a read several times as a teenager. The book was about one man's experience as a prisoner of war during WWII. He wrote about the various ways the prisoners worked to resist their captors, escape if they could and keep their morale up during their long imprisonment.

Some of the prisoners worked to culture wood dry rot. Then they sneaked it up into the attic of the old fortress in which they were imprisoned and put it on the rafters there. They reasoned that the war might last a long long time. If it lasted long enough, the dry rot would destroy the rafters and cause the roof to collapse - having the same effect as a bomb.

Slothful work amounts to the same thing as destruction. If you don't produce for your employer you can cause him to go out of business. If your mechanic is slothful in working on your car he can cause your car to be destroyed or even cause you to wreck. If your contractor (or his employees) are slothful, your house might collapse.

What about a slothful pastor? Might people be spiritually harmed if I am slothful in my study and preaching of the word? If I don't do the hard work of 2Timothy 4:2? Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Don't be slothful in your work!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Of Monks & Monkeys

In my recent reading I've run across several references to the resurgence of Christian mysticism and a related new monasticism. (The string of r words in that sentence alone might throw someone into a trance! Best to read it silently.)

What is this? Well - it boils down to people seeking a direct, unmediated, subjective experience of ecstatic oneness with God in which they might get a message from God. They practice ascetic deprivation and then "meditate" to empty their minds and free themselves of this world so they can be united with God on some new level.

So what are the issues?
  1. God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. (2Tim. 3:15-17) People who want to know God need to find out objective truth about Him from the Scriptures.
  2. The Holy Spirit of God instructs believers through the illumination of the Scriptures. (1Cor. 2:14-16) He revealed it originally and He illumines it to the mind of the regenerate person.
  3. The meditation the Bible talks about is not like that of Eastern Mystics (Hindu, Buddhist, Yoga, TM, etc.). In biblical meditation people are to think about the revelation of God and it's objective meaning. (e.g., Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2) Then they are supposed to apply that meaning (including directions for living) into their lives.
  4. The practices of the new mystics and monastics are UNBIBLICAL!
So where does this come from and why?
  1. Much of what is called Christianity has shallowed out into a religious themed party and/or celebration of a can-do attitude. But many people want something "deeper."
  2. We live in an age where autonomy is the highest value. People are much more interested in a subjective experience and a private message than they are in the objective propositions of the Bible.
  3. We are in a post-modern age where truth is thought to be relative and truth statements are viewed with suspicion. Many people will not submit themselves to the authority of the Bible or the preaching of it.
So what should we do?

(2Timothy 4:1-4) I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Is Deadline Day

(Proverbs 16:5) Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.
Just last night at the W.A.Y. (Whipple Avenue Youth) meeting we were talking about pride being the prototypical sin. If we could get a grip on this, think how we would be blessed.

If we were not prideful -
  1. We wouldn't care what other people thought or about real or imagined slights.
  2. We would be free from other people's power to manipulate us through flattery or aggression.
  3. We would not spend any time at pity parties. (They are unpleasant and just tempt us to give in to sin.)
  4. Our angry outbursts (and revenge fantasies) would be a thing of the past. We could concentrate on driving better ourselves.
  5. We could give ourselves to promoting God's glory because we wouldn't be worried about our own.
  6. We could give ourselves to humble service with complete joy and be thoroughly satisfied.
  7. We would be on God's side - and He would be helping us.
(Proverbs 16:18-19) Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Jesus is the solution to our pride problem. He condescended from heaven to become a man and die for our sins on the cross. By yielding to Him and giving Him the honor and glory due His name, we find ourselves in the right place... humbly bowing before Him and yielding up all our autonomy Him. Let Jesus rule ME!
(1Peter 5:5-7) ¶ Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Praise God we can throw ourselves on Him! He cares for us better than we could care for ourselves. Besides, He is omnipotent while we are very weak.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To Love Jesus Is To Hate Our Sin

We don't take sin seriously.

We don't think sin is all that bad. Everybody does it. Nobody is perfect. Often we can blame someone else for pushing us into it. (e.g., I wouldn't have road rage if the other people would drive better...)

Sin is rebellion against our Holy Creator. It is a treasonous betrayal of our All Wise God. It is spitting in the face of our Loving Savior. It is thumbing our nose at our Eternal Judge.

Besides that, sin is antithetical to our hope of eternal salvation.
(Romans 6:1-2) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
(1John 2:29) If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
(1John 3:6-8) No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
Jesus died to save sinners from their sins. If someone is not sensitive about sin in his life - in what way is he saved? If a person has no victory over sin in his life, but continues in the same patterns of sin - it is evidence that his profession of faith was just words - his supposed faith is dead.
(James 2:20) But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
We don't take sin seriously enough. Our goal is to glorify Christ! We will not get that done by repeating happy platitudes - suggesting we love Him and adore Him - while by our daily actions we dishonor Him and betray Him.

To love Jesus is to hate our sin - like He does.
God said, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." (Leviticus 19:2)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Daily Blogging?

I have been caught (again) in the profundity trap. I didn't have anything especially profound to write - so I didn't write at all. Well that is stupid. What makes me think that I EVER had anything profound to say?

So, I've decided to try to write something everyday. So stay tuned. Totally random and probably inane blogging. You are now at the right place.

I've decided I need to get out of my office more and into the community. I haven't figured out how to do that - but I'm working on it. I'm thinking of setting up a street corner stand like Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip. Free pastoral advice... Maybe down at the Canton centre mall. I could drink coffee and talk to the mall walkers. (I wonder if they have wireless access down there?)

I also need to get back to teaching for the Red Cross (before I lose my certification to teach). There are always things to do instead... but you've got to make time.