Saturday, December 23, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Actually it's a contrast of 2 people in similar circumstances who went down 2 different paths. They were both fighter pilots in WWI - their names were Ernst Udet and Edward Mannock.
Udet flew throughout the war and in the beginning he showed mercy to many enemy pilots. He initially would fly behind them and force them to land rather than actually shoot them down. Later this act of mercy was repaid when he was involved in a dogfight with a famous French ace. Udet's machinegun's jammed and while he was struggling to unjam them the Frenchman manouvered behind him and had him in his sights. However when he noticed his enemies predicament he broke off his attack pulled alongside Udet and saluted him before heading for home. By being merciful Udet reaped mercy.
Edward Mannock was another very adept fighter pilot who after losing a friend in combat became so filled with hatred towards the enemy, that he would not only shoot them down but would shoot the fuel tanks so that the pilots would have the choice of burning to death or jumping (without a parachute) from the burning plane. Not surprisingly, after he started to do this he began to have nightmares of himself burning to death in a plane. To counter this he began to carry a pistol on him and say that he was going to use it rather than burn to death. In the end his plane was shot down and did go down in flames, it is unknown whether or not he used his pistol.
I think these examples show that we do reap what we sow, whether for good or evil. It also shows how when someone gives themselves over to wickedness, evil spirits begin to lead them to their destruction and will even taunt them concerning their end, and if there is no repentance that's where they go.
If we must err in this life, let it be on the side of mercy.
Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I feel really guilty, but I haven't had much internet access where I've been.
I'm currently staying with Pastor Dan Caram, and will be here in Erie, PA, until mid-January. I will then head to Malawi for 7-8 months. Starting mid-February I will teach Romans for a week at the Bible School there (Romans is a little beyond my depth I fear, but I'll do my best). I never really think of myself as a teacher but others are encouraging me, so maybe I am being stretched a little.
Anyway that's the news... Maybe I can write a quick article a little later...
Monday, November 20, 2006
There we see in Revelation 17:1 the unfaithful church, and in Revelation 21:9 the faithful church, the Lamb's wife. I love to take certainty in the inevibility of it. The great thing is that we know who wins. Christ will have a spotless Bride, that is unfailable, inevitable and certain. The Church can look as motley, weak and confused as anything, yet Christ will have His Bride.
False prophets can preach false doctrine and drag away souls from the true faith and yet Christ will have His own. The greater the gates of deception that are built, the greater glory God will have when they are stormed. The truth will have to be contended for as never before in the coming days, but the truth will prevail. I can take comfort in that.
Even if friends of mine veer off, or even if I were to veer off the truth would still prevail. That effects me in 2 ways: firstly, it encourages me to make sure I am on the side of truth, that I walk with God. Secondly, it means that I don't have to worry about the state of other areas of the Church, I just need to tend the area God has given me. I just need to be truthful and honest to those in my sphere of influence.
Glory to the Lamb of God!
He was one of John G. Lake's early converts and many believe he was the one that received Lake's mantle for healing. He is credited with over 10,000 healings and miracles during his ministry. Lake himself, wrote of one incident where a baby had a broken neck and he had no faith to see it healed, so he left so as not to rob Elias of his faith. The baby was healed, and Lake had to repent of his unbelief. He realized that his greater medical knowledge of the seriousness of the condition was actually a hindrance in this case.
He started a Bible School called Patmos Bible School in Potgietersrus, this school trained thousands of Christian workers that spread the Gospel throughout the rural areas of South Africa. It was never formally recognized as a Bible School for training Pastors, by the AFM, so most of its graduates were forced to do the ministerial work without any recognition by their denomination.
Elias was obviously a man of exceptional humility. Most people who have worked that many miracles and are doing a good work for God would have a hard time staying in a denomination that held separate baptismal services for whites and non-whites, and as a structure made it clear that the non-whites were second-class members. Yet Elias not only stayed true, but he refused to be sidetracked from what he believed his call was to dabble in politics, or fight against the racism in his denomination.
That's the thing I like best about him and why I thought he should be better known. Don't let anything sidetrack you from your call. If people are unfair, ignore it, do what God has called you to do. He's the one we are working for after all.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
In 1 Cor. 4:9, Paul says, "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."
The language here has to be understood in the time of that day. Most of us today do not understand the concept of public excecution, but in the days of the Apostle Paul when a man was condemned to execution, he it was public and many people would stand and watch. The word "spectacle" meant one who's death was on display. One on who all could gaze and wonder how will this one die? Will he cry for mercy, will he be defiant, will he mock his fate? What will he do?
In another place Paul says that he was like the offscouring of the earth, like the filth that is scraped off of cooking pots and thrown away when they are washed. That was the contempt with which Paul was treated. How did he undergo this? Why did he endure it?
Part of the secret lies in the second part of our text, he was a spectacle to the world, angels, and men. He had others watching him. Firstly, he had the world, he was placed on display by God to bear witness of the truth to the world. He had to always act in a manner which showed Christ, in life or death. He had to overcome the world through his faith. He was on trial here, a trial by ordeal.
Secondly, he was being watched closely by angels, both good and fallen. Paul writes in Eph. 3:8-11, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The Lord has an eternal controversy with His adversary. Fallen angels are greater in power and strength than man, they have a wisdom that is beyond man's as well. They should conquer us in any degree, but when we manifest the wisdom of God as Christians, God enables us to defeat them. This gives God glory and humiliates them. It reproves them for their own sin against God, which they committed without a tempter. It reproves their self-will, because here are creatures of a lower stature and weaker will yielding to God. When we trust in God and endure difficulties by God's grace, we stop the adversaries mouth. It also is part of the process that qualifies to rule in the world to come which God has not given to angels (Heb. 2:5).
Lastly we have the great cloud of witnesses looking on(Heb. 12:1). Those who have run their race are cheering us on. I think heaven will be a wonderful place. The communion of the saints will be very real there. There are some saints that by God's grace I am going to meet and thank for the impact their writings had on me, even though I never met them. I am part of their reward, and they have an interest in my race. They desire that we press further than they did, because it is part of their reward.
One day in heaven, we will see each other, and we will there know what we went through on earth was worth it. We will be able to talk of what the Lord brought us through and give thanks to God. We will be able to see our scars we received for the Gospel and remember that we followed Christ in the day of that battle.
May we all be able to rejoice on that day, because we have wholly followed the Lord. And may we hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
He was in the Prussian diplomatic corp, they posted him to Turkey, just in time for the Uprising by the Young Turks. The whole diplomatic corp had to be evacuated. Then they sent him off to China, right on schedule for The Boxer Rebellion. He had a souvenier from that one, it was an ash tray with a bullet hole in it, from when he was under seige. Then they sent him to Belgium, he liked Belgium and used to entertain his guests with stories of his adventures and end off by saying, "But this is Belgium, and nothing ever happens in Belgium." Then on August 2nd, 1914 came the fateful telegram...
It ordered our ambassador to deliver an ultimatum to Belgium, one he knew would be refused, war would be declared and yet again he would have to leave the country he was posted in. I am sure he had some reservations, it certainly would not be a duty that he relished, but he was an ambassador and that means he does not give his own opinions or feelings, but he speaks on behalf of another.
The Apostle Paul brings out the fact of our being ambassadors in 2 Cor. 5:20, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God."
As ambassadors we are not at liberty to declare our own feelings, we are bound to declare what we are told by the one we represent. If we have Biblical reason to feel that God is angry with someone, we cannot tell them that they are fine and God is happy with them that is being a false ambassador. If our Prussian friend had done that, it wouldn't have helped Belgium at all, and it would have gotten him in deep trouble with his superiors.
We need to tell the world, "you are at war with God, you are God's enemies... You need to be reconciled to Him." Show them God's ultimatum.
One interesting example of an ambassador calling for surrender is found in 2 Kings 18:17-25. Now this ambassador represented the most powerful nation of his day, but he denied the power of the God of Israel and it was his undoing. But notice how he calls for surrender, he looks at every source of hope and trust the people could rely on to resist him and he discounts it.
This is somewhat like what Jonathan Edwards used to do, take every possible excuse someone has to think they are good enough to make it to heaven apart from Christ and show them its impossibility. Show them the futility of fighting God, and show them they have no option but surrender.
I recently heard a preacher giving an interview, and in that interview, when asked if those who do not believe in Jesus can go to heaven. He said, "They have no assurance of heaven."
I am sure this was done so as to sound more friendly and kind to the unsaved. But if salt doesn't sting it, it ceases to be salt. People who refuse to believe in Christ go to hell. I didn't say that He did. Telling people they are alright or have a chance without Christ is being a false ambassador. Those people will not thank you for soothing them with lies when they stand before the Judge of all.
Let's be true ambassadors. We don't have to be obnoxious about it, but firm.
In France this movement was lead by Calvinistic Roman Catholics called Jansenists. In Germany, the Lutheran holiness movement was called Pietism, this influenced the Moravians, Zinzendorf was Spener’s god-son, who in turn influenced John Wesley and the Methodists and Alexander Mack and the Brethren.
These groups differed greatly in some respects of their theology, but what they all had in common emphasis in a need for a personal holiness and obedience to God in the daily walk of life.
Phillip Jakob Spener was born in 1635 in Upper Alsace. In 1651, he went to Strasbourg to study. After his studies he became a tutor, before visiting other universities in Basel, Tübingen, and Geneva.
He returned to Strasbourg in 1663, and became a lecturer. In 1666, He became the chief pastor of the Lutheran church in Frankfurt. Here in 1675, he wrote the work which gave Pietism its name, Pia desideria, or Earnest Desires. He underwent a lot of opposition and persecution for his beliefs. The one which apparently upset the orthodox Lutheran academics of his day most was that one needed to experience regeneration before you could truly be a theologian. The fact that this was so controversial shows something of the state of the church in Germany at this time.
In 1686 he encouraged August Hermann Franke in his dream of a Collegium Philobiblicum, in which graduates met for regular and systematic Bible study and exegesis of the Scriptures in a practical way. In 1694, he helped to found the University of Halle. In 1695, the theological faculty in Wittenburg charged him with 264 various theological errors, the disputes dragged on and ended only with his death in 1705.
His influence and the influence of Pietism lived on. It was largely responsible for George Muller’s work among orphans, as well as all the other movements I mentioned earlier.
Here are His six main proposals he made in Pia Desderia:
1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("a church within the church").
2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church
3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement
4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them
5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life
6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life.
With that I close.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Thomas Chalmers was a well known Scottish Theologian, who became the first Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. He is best remembered for his being one of the first in modern times to espouse the Gap Theory of Genesis. He also is known for his influence upon men such as William Burns, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Horatius and Andrew Bonar.
He was born in 1780 in Fife. At 12 he began his studies at the University of Saint Andrews, he finshed after 7 years and was licensed as a preacher at the age of 19, the usual qualification of 21 years was waived due to his "rare and singular qualities."
The ironic thing is that at this time Chalmers was unconverted. The church in Scotland was at a very low ebb, and Moderatism was the main form of Christianity. Moderatism basically was a preaching which emphasized practical morals, but avoided preaching on the atonement or justification. It's main tenet could be summed up as a "don't upset people" approach to Christianity.
For several years Chalmers studied and lectured in Mathematics, Chemistry and Economics. Then sometime in 1810-11 he became converted. It was a noticible conversion that drew accusations that he had lost his mind. By 1815, he was preaching in such an effective manner at Tron Church in Glasgow, that many merchants would leave work for an hour to listen to his Thursday sermons, some giving their workers this time off as well.
He devoted much time and effort to the erection of new churches in areas of Glasgow that did not have them. He was transferred to one of the new churches (St. John's) in 1819. During his time there he was involved in devising good ways to tend to the poor in the community and succeeded admirably.
In 1823, He became a lecturer of Moral Philosophy at the University of Saint Andrews. The University was not evangelical, but it hoped that students would come to hear Chalmers. His popularity drew students from all over Britain. He was determined to teach a Christianity which embraced economics, and indeed every aspect of life.
Not only were students encouraged in home missions and social needs, but visiting missionaries from China and India imparted vision to the next generation of the need for the gospel to go to the uttermost parts of the earth. Among the missionaries who came from this group was Alexander Duff, who left for India.
In 1828 He moved to Edinburgh and became a lecturer of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, it was during his time here that he influenced Robert Murray McCheyne and the Bonar brothers. They would be influential in the Evangelical movement that was beginning to take shape.
An Evangelical revival was beginning to take place in Scotland and some of the ministers were not overly happy with the disruption of their quiet and peaceable, if somewhat fruitless, lives. The Evangelical party became more and more distanced from the Moderates.
The break came in 1843, when after years of attempting to resolve the differences with the State. At the time pastors were appointed by the wealthy lords in the parish. If the congregation was unhappy with the choice they could vote against it. But it became clear that the State was not going to allow objections, in several cases they upheld the appointments regardless of the misgivings of the parishioners. Since the State subsudized the church it felt that it had a claim to a say in the placement of ministers.
Chalmers and those who followed him realized that an issue of the Gospel was at stake. Would they continue to take State money and compromise on principle, or would they take a stand and cast themselves on an uncertain future, and trust God to take care of them.
Chalmers had been moderator of the Church of Scotland, and had once said words to the effect that he was interested in the course of action which most promoted the Christian good of Scotland, not just his particular denomination. The greatest Christian good was that Christ and not the secular power should be Lord of His Church. Therefore his only course of action was to leave the established church and start another one.
Cynical newspapers stated that those who would risk their fixed salaries for a point of prinicple would be few and thought that those who would leave would be at the most 100, but on the day of the 18th of May 1843, it was over 450 ministers that voluntary resigned there positions on the priniciple that the church had the right to ordain its own ministers.
This was the beginning of the Free Church of Scotland. these men became influential in the 1859 revival in Scotland and in Moody's later revival meetings.
Chalmers was appointed the first moderator of the church, he set up a system whereby the smaller struggling churches could be helped by the larger ones. Four years after the Disruption, Chalmers passed away, having established the Free Church on good footing, ready to be an instrument of God's revival in Scotland.
What I like about Chalmers was his earnest desire for Christ's kingdom to be advanced even if it didn't advance his own cause or his own organization. The other thing he showed was a firm resolve to not let any intruding power reign in the church, but Christ alone, through His chosen ministers.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Thou stone of God's own mill,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
Fine wheat, make finer still
Grind on, O wheel of God,
Grind thou night and day,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
In grinding grind away
Grind on, O wheel of God,
Remove all dirt and grime,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
And make me wholly Thine
Grind on, O wheel Of God,
And happy I will be,
Grind on, O wheel of God,
And form thou, Christ in me
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I recently had a thought on this that I’d thought I’d share.
What is the faith of the Son of God? How does it show itself?
I am sure we could all look at the mighty miracles that Christ did and all the faith He manifested in those. But that is not the epitome of His faith. Yes, His faith worked miracles, but His faith was an implicit trust in the Father, that the Father is good and that He will always do what is best. It’s the faith that Adam and Eve lost in the garden when they began to believe that God was holding out on them something that was good for them. And every one of us has suffered from a lack since then.
When Jesus came He had that faith and it was manifested in crystal clear form in His life. He knew that His God and Father would take care of Him. He never doubted that, even though the devil tempted Him three times with, “If you are the Son of God.” They all questioned His faith, “If Your Father really loves you…prove it.” He overcame those temptations and prepared for the cross.
As He was on the cross His faith was again tested as the enemy used those around Him to say, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” “If He will have Him.” In other words the enemy was trying to sow doubt, “If you lay down your life, will God really take you, will He really raise you up.”
Jesus not only endured all the physical agony of the cross, but He also had to fight through all the doubt that the enemy was striving to create in Him. No one was with Him, even His mother and the disciple John who were there to witness probably did not know what was happening, they may even have had doubts. Jesus, however, fought the good fight of faith.
He laid His life down with the words, “It is finished.” As He did that He staked His all on the fact that God would deliver Him and raise Him from the dead. He had no backup plan, once He was dead, He was dead. That is the faith of the Son of God. That is the faith that we fall far short of, but that God wants to bring us into.
Let us also aim for this faith, to allow God to work it in our lives.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
John 3:29-30, "He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Then my joy is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease."
I thought I'd just write a few thoughts on these two verses...
When John the Baptist spoke these words, "friend of the bridegroom" was actually a title. It was similar to our "best man" in some respects. I think it's important to understand this because all minister's are in essence called to act as "friends of the bridegroom."
The friend of the bridegroom was someone who was appointed by the bridegroom. He was usually someone that the bridegroom knew well, a close acquaitance. When a man wanted to get married, he would send this person on his behalf to negotiate with the bride's family. He also would act as the go-between during the time of courtship, as open communication between the two parties was rarely, if ever, allowed. He also was the guardian of the brides virtue. As you can see this was a very important and trusted position. The Apostle Paul used an analogy to this position in 2 Corinthians 11:2, when he said that he was jealous over his converts with a godly jealousy.
The simularities between a "friend of the bridegroom" and a minister are several. Both are chosen by the Bridegroom for this role, not self-appointed. Both speak on behalf of the Bridegroom who is not physically present. Their aim is to guard the bride and help her to be true to the Bridegroom until He comes to take her away. Their success or failure lies in if they are able to stay out of the picture and promote the happiness of another.
Conversely, I think we can all imagine how angry a bridegroom would be if he found that his friedn had abused his position and had used it to steal the affections of the bride for himself. That is a picture of how Jesus feels when His ministers take His glory and woo people after themselves.
If God has given you a ministry and you read this, just consider it a little while then say with John, "I must decrease, that He might increase."
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Have you ever thought about this though? We all like to consider ourselves as master of our own destiny, "I am the captain of the ship..." and all that... And yet, we cannot even keep ourselves from getting the flu. I mean, come on, who ever wished, "Man, I feel great today, I need a good dose of the flu to give time off work and knock me on the couch for a few days." (Please let me know in the comments if you have, I would consider you a unique specimen in my study of the human condition). Also we tend to think we have complete control of our lives, where we will live, what we will do, but history shows us that is not the case.
If we are the masters of our destiny then why can all of the sudden people who were friends be split apart and even kill each other when their respective nations declare war. The American Civil War is full of these this, people who were friends, who circumstances and allegiences made enemies. Were they really masters of their fate or were they merely humans trapped in their own world and unable to escape it, able only to choose which side they were on, but not to choose whether there should be a conflict or not.
Another prime example is the Cherokee nation. The Cherokee basically moved to Oklahoma in 4 ways. The Chickamauga had fought the settlers in Kentucky before being forced out into Oklahoma, part of them later moved into Texas. The majority of the tribe stayed in Georgia until 1835 & 1837 when they moved to Oklahoma. In 1839 Texas forced the Cherokee there into Oklahoma, which means that it didn't matter what group you were part of that was where you ended up in 1839, all that changed was the way you got there. The 1835 group was a group of around 2,000 who had surrendered their lands for a settlement payment. In some ways they should have faired better but they were so hated for having sold out that of their 4 main leaders 3 were assassinated. The 1837 group numbered 11,000 after their forced eviction and losing around 3,000 to disease, cold and hunger on the "Trail of Tears." Each of these factions chose what they thought was the best course of action for them and their people, and yet in the end it didn't matter at all.
I could write more, but if you look at human history, it is like a wave of humanity crashing against the rocks of destruction, and just when one wave has finished the next generation comes and insists they will do better. They will not be dashed on those rocks. They know more, they are better prepared than others. Friend, of all of humanity who has gone before you, are you so much smarter, so much more talented, so strong that you will succeed by your own will and cunning where so many have failed.
"O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).
I once heard a story of a mighty battleship that was sailing the seas in heavy fog, it caught sight of a signal light in the fog bearing down upon it, so the captain signaled, "Change your course." The signal light replied, "Change your course." The captain was upset and huffily signaled, "I am a battleship, change your course." The other light replied, "I am a lighthouse. It's your call."
Friend, you don't need to fumble about in this life on your own. Jesus Christ came into this world and died to bring you into a relationship with God so that you can have peace with God and be lead by Him. He will lead you away from the rocks of destruction. Will you obey His light... It's your call.
John Bunyan was born in Elstow, Befordshire, England in the year 1628. He had little formal education, and became a tinker which was a very menial occupation and yet he became one of the best known English authors of any age. His Pilgrim's Progress has been translated into more than 37 languages and at one time was even widely read in the muslim world. What made this man what he was?
From 1644-1647 he served in the parlamentary army during the English Civil War. His experiences there form his backdrop to The Holy War.
He was converted through reading Puritan literature and began to preach as a lay preacher in 1653. His account of his struggles with divine truth and his conversion are written in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, which he wrote during his first imprisonment for preaching. This imprisonment began in 1660 and lasted 12 years and at any point he could have been released merely by signing an agreement that he would no longer preach. He was released in 1672 and then briefly reimprisoned. It was during the second imprisonment that he began writing Pilgrim's Progress.
He also wrote many other works including a vision he had of both heaven and hell. He apparently had a strong prophetic anointing and much of his Pilgrim's Progress apparently came to him in the form of a dream or vision.
One encouraging thing I love about his life is his strong courage and love for God and the calling upon his life. He knew God had called him to preach and he was going to do it even if he if it cost him his freedom.
The other thing I love about him is his determination to find God. I would recommend reading Grace Abounding if you want to know more about his life. As related there he suffered deep bouts with depression and despair, wondering if he was saved or if Christ would even want to save him. This time lasted for a few years, and apparently during some of it he was preaching. He once said that even as he would proclaim that Christ could save and he knew it to be true he had all these doubts that Christ would save him. Yet he continued to preach, why? Because he was firmly persuaded that if Christ wouldn't save him, no one else could so he had no other options. As you can see Bunyan clearly had faith, though he couldn't see it at the time. He had no other hope only Christ and he was fully commited to Him, but he had a great inward struggle.
It was as a result of this struggle that he was able to so clearly mark the way for his fellow pilgrims in his books. He fought his personal giant Despair and had been locked in the dungeon, but like his character Christian, he had been freed.
In the second part of his Pilgrim's Progress he writes of the final destruction of Doubting Castle and the giant Despair. That was really what God had done in his life, not only had he personally escaped despair, but he became an instrument for destroying it in others.
Dear reader, if you have ever doubted your own salvation or been troubled by thoughts of blasphemy and wonder how you could ever think thoughts against your Saviour, you are not alone. Others have fought these battles, they conquered and you will too. Trust in Christ, let Him correct you, lead you, defend you, succour you. Let Him and Him alone be your trust. He will fail none who place their confidence in Him, He promises that and stakes His honour upon it. He delights in taking the weak and making them strong.
Trust in Him today.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Teleioo is derived from "teleios" which is usually translated perfect in the KJV with one instance of it being translated as "man" and once "of full age". It carries the thought of both perfection and maturity. I want to look at this word from one specific facet found in two verses, Hebrews 5:8,9.
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."
These two verses refer to Christ being made perfect through the things He suffered... Now we know that Christ was born without sin so in that sense He was already perfect so what does this expression mean here?
Here's my take on it. I believe that the word "perfect" can be related to use, for example, I am not extremely handy with tools, sometimes I struggle trying to use the wrong tool on a given object. ie... pliers instead of a wrench on a nut, sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. So one day as I was battling on something of that kind one of my friends saw my struggle and loaned me one of his tools (in this case it was a phillips screwdriver instead of the flat one I was using) and I said, "Thanks, that's perfect!"
In one sense that is what perfection is - being perfectly formed to handle the task that God has for you at that time. Jesus had to suffer to be tempted in every point and to fulfill all the prophecies that had been spoken of Him. In that sense suffering perfected Him by preparing Him to be our great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 4:15).
In the same way God has tasks and stages in our lives, His dealings with us are two fold, He has something that He wants us to do then and He also is dealing in our lives bringing us to the state of readiness to complete that task and also to be able to go on to the next stage. To use another analogy there is some behaviour which is cute in a four-year-old, that loses it's cuteness in a ten-year-old. In the same way as we grow in the Lord there needs to be a maturing so that we can effectively minister at the new level.
I don't know how many of you have had a screwdriver which had a head that was worn away. The sort that can sometimes work, but other times it just can't turn the screw or it even strips the screw head. That's what happens if we don't let God mature us through suffering, we can become a screwdriver that is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. We become limited in our use to God. Paul speaks about this in 2 Tim. 2:19-21, where he mentions vessels of honour and dishonour. We can disqualify ourselves from our full destiny in Christ by not being found ready for a task when it comes. Even worse we can become a vessel of dishonour, God still loves us and uses us, but it is for a much lower purpose than was originally intended.
Eventually if a tool is very badly damaged, it can't be used any more, it is thrown away. That is what the word "adokimos" refers too. It is usually rendered "reprobate", concisely it means "not fit for the intended use." This is a solemn warning to all of us.
When the Bible speaks of a reprobate mind what does it mean? Well, our minds were intended to contemplate heavenly realities, meditate on God's Word, and think of God. When someone is given over to a reprobate mind, their mind has so degenerated that they can no longer do any of these things, they may be brilliant by worldly standards, even be considered geniuses, or mental giants, but yet their mind can not do the one thing that a human mind should... contemplate the true nature of God.
May God grant that we stay on the path of progressive maturity and increasing usefulness, and away from the path of increasing disfunctionality and ultimate uselessness.
A friend of mine read this post and had a couple of questions so here are a few clarifications on those questions:
1. Are vessels of dishonour saved?
I would say, "yes", because my text says in a great house... I read that as saying that these vessels of Dishonour are in the house. Ie... they are in the household of faith. There are some Christians that God loves to bring out and parade to the world, kind of like His good china porcelain. Others are like dishes that He can still use but not in front of visitors.
2. Are reprobates saved?
I don't know, I didn't think my article could be read this way, but maybe I wasn't clear. No. Paul states clearly in 2 Cor. 13:5 that they aren't..."Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Okay, so let me make that clear there are various levels of honour and dishonour, in our text their are 4 levels: Gold, Silver, Wood, and Earth, but a reprobate person would be in my understanding a cracked earthen pot. One that has gone beyond any use to God in His kingdom.
I have no desire to state where that line is for any given person, I just want to be personally sure that I am allowing God to purify me and prepare me to bring honour to Him, and I am encouraging others to do the same.
As we look at the history of humanity there are 3 questions that human beings have always struggled with... 1. What does it mean to exist? 2. If I exist then what is the purpose of existance? 3. How do I ensure my continued existance?
Let's answer the first question shall we... Okay, first take a hammer and hold out your thumb. Then take the hammer and gently apply the metal end to the the tip of your thumb. Do you feel pain? Eureka... you exist. I know that sounds simple, but if you didn't exist, then how could you manipulate the hammer in the first place? Never let pseudo-intelectualism confuse you. Suffering, joy, pathos, etc... all prove your existance. How can you suffer existential angst if you don't exist? So you exist, at least in the corporal and psychological sense. Though actually true existance is to be seen and known of God... we exist as we are in Him and as He sees and knows us... In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Second question, what is the purpose of existance... That one is even easier, because I don't have to think that one through. A much greater mind than me (God) has already told me that in His Word... In Revelation 4:11 It tells us that we were created for His pleasure. We exist to show forth God's wisdom, His goodness, and His love, to enjoy fellowship and communion with Him. Okay let's go on to the last one...
Throughout history man has striven for immortality, to continue to exist or at least to be remembered when they are gone. For centuries man has tried in various ways to ensure this through many methods, some erected monuments to themselves, some named cities after themselves, some men have through their superior might and intelect pushed themselves to the forefront of world history and established empires, some focus on leaving a family behind that will remember them and perpetuate their ideals and values. But all of these methods can fail...
Cities have fallen to ruin, empires collapsed, whole nations let alone families have sunk into oblivion with no remembrance of what they were even called let alone who they really were. How can we guarantee that we will continue to exist? There is one way. It is the one thing that makes sense in this world. There is only One Being that truly deserves to be remembered, God. He created man and loves man. He sent His only Son, who became a man and lived on the earth, and died on the cross to reconcile man to Him. Rather than oppressing or abusing others in an effort to gain immortality, Jesus laid aside His immortality to become a man and die on the cross. That is why He deserves remembrance... and eventually this old earth will pass away and the new heavens and the new earth will be created. When that happens the former earth will no longer be remembered, and those who fought and strove to be remembered will be forgotten with it (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).
Only those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour will enter into this new earth. Not only that but God will remember them, and the good works they have done while on this earth will follow them (Revelation 14:13).
All others will be cast into hell. There they will be forgotten and forsaken by God, and though they will have all the self-existence of physical torment and guilt of knowing their own sins, they will no longer be seen of God or known of Him. In that sense they will no longer exist, they will have failed in their existence, their life was truly in the final analysis worthless...
To which group will you belong dear reader on that day, will you be one who acknowledges Christ and His purchase of you on Calvary, who will be rewarded for your good deeds, or will you be one who denies His right to your life, and who seeks your own honour and glory rather than His.
May God grant you make the right choice.
God bless you,
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I am trying to just bring various Christians to the knowledge of my readership and some of the character qualities I think we can learn from them. Just because I post something on someone doesn't mean I endorse everything about that person or every view they espoused. The ones I write on will be those that I feel were true Christians in an evangelical sense of the word, whether they actually belonged to an evangelical church or not (a few examples of people I would consider in this light would be Roman Catholics like Fenelon, Mdme Guyon, Thomas A Kempis, etc...) My main criteria for these postings is does what these people have said and written bear the imprint of Christ upon their lives. Was their fruit good? Was the Spirit of God visibly at work in them producing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives?
In Heb. 1:3, Christ is said to be the express image of God. The Greek word for express image is the basis of our English word, "character", and had a two fold meaning, 1. it was a likeness of something. 2. It was the tool used to form this likeness.
This is the essence of character. 1. Did these people bear the image of Christ as He was formed in them by the Holy Spirit? 2. Did they further become instruments for impressing others with that same image? 3. Did their life and doctrine promote holiness and seeking after Christ?
These are all things I consider as I write these posts.
May God grant us all that we might have His character.
Now... the title for the first Iconoclast Of The Month goes to Girolamo Savanarola.
Why Him? Well I've liked Savanarola ever since I read a translation of one of his sermons that was in a sermon collection book my dad had. I personally think he gets a bad wrap in history too, the Catholics call him a heretic, and most Protestants (especially Baptists) won't touch him with a ten foot pole with a feather on the end. However Martin Luther credited his own conversion to Savanarola's ministry and it undoubtedly influenced Florence for the good.
Savanarola was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1452, he was executed in 1498. He became a Dominican priest and was well respected for his learning and preaching. Following a vision he saw of the sword of the Lord descending on the earth (Note the Latin quote in the title), he began to preach a message of repentance.
He definitely had a ministry of evangelism. People flocked to hear him as he denounced the sins that were so prevalent in Renaissance Italy. In the sermon of his that I read, he likens himself to the donkey in the story of Balaam and the donkey. He sees the Angel of the Lord ready in judgment and is striving to go to the field, which is the Word of God, but Balaam, the Catholic hierarchy is trying to drive him forward. He speaks in his own defence and says that like the donkey, they had known him and how he formerly acted and if was acting differently it was because he had truly seen something. He also stated in this sermon that no outward work could save a man, not even prophesy or working miracles, but only true faith coupled with the love of God in the heart.
He incured the wrath of Pope Alexander VI, when he wrote him a letter urging him to repent of hos wicked ways. The Pope forbade him to preach again, when he disobeyed that injunction he was excommunicated. For a while, the city of Florence stood with him, but eventually they turned on him. A trial by ordeal was ordered in which one of his underlings was to walk through a fire to prove that he was of God. There were delays over the details of this and in the meantime a rain storm put out the fire. This enraged the crowd who wanted the whole thing settled, Savanarola was arrested and tortured. During his torture he signed a confession to heresy, which he later recanted asking God to forgive his weak flesh. When he was ceremonially stripped of his priestly rank, the officiator said, "I separate you from the church militant and triumphant." To which he replied, "Militant not triumphant, you have no power to separate me from the church triumphant to which I go." He was suffocated and burned to death, with 2 of his followers and their ashes were then thrown in the Arno river.
Savanarola is a controversial figure and some of things he did such as his burning of the vanities and other measures were doubtless unwise and wrong. However he greatly resisted the spirit of immorality in his age, and fought for the true gospel as it had been committed to him. At his death a by-stander was heard to remark at how glad they were that now they could again live in their homosexual lifestyle now that he was dead. He is often criticized for his prophecies, but the majority, if not all were fulfilled thirty years later when French and German troops fought throughout Italy creating desolation everywhere.
Perhaps he was not the strongest light, but he found his hope in the One who promised that a bruised reed He would not break, nor quench a smoking flax. He was a mere comma, a brief pause in the moral decline of Renaissance Italy - the salt that retarded it's corruption.
You and I may not be periods, perhaps we are only commas, perhaps we cannot permanently effect those around us, but let us stand up for right. Let us be a comma, let us say, "You can do what you like when I'm gone, but while I'm here..."
God bless you and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I promise to give my readership (right now me & 2 others) interesting reading on various figures from church history and virtues I feel they personified and should be emulated. I also will probably throw in some figures from secular history and wing in a Bible verse study/devotional now and then.
If you find any of these things interesting, swing by again when you have the time.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Well here it is... My first blog (possibly will also be my last).
It is my general opinion that the web needs another blog like I need a hole in the head. And yet here I publish, this makes for an interesting study of human nature in quandries and contradictions.
The blog name reflects this... wie ein kropf is German basically meaning like a goitre, and used the way we would say "like a hole in the head." Since Kropf is also my last name I thought it a fitting title for my blog.
We really need this like a hole in the head and yet... here it is.