Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Bring Out the Big Guns"

Schwerer Gustav (public domain photo courtesy of
800 mm rail gun.
     During World War II, a huge cannon was built by the Germans to break through the French Maginot line on the eastern border between Germany and France.  This system of underground forts was made up of seven layers of concrete and special armor plating to defend from any attack by Germany following WW I.  The French were determined to protect themselves against another invasion.  The Maginot line went from Belgium in the north to Switzerland in the south.  France believed that Germany would never violate the neutrality of these countries so the special fortification didn't extend beyond that.
     However, around 1937, Gustav Krupp developed a gun of phenomenal size called the Schwerer Gustav which was capable of sending shells 29 miles away.  The gun was 30 meters long and sent 7 ton shells racing to destroy targets.  Adolf Hitler was impressed that this railway cannon could blow through 36 feet of earth and concrete and go another six feet through armor plating.  This would solve his problem of how to invade France through the Maginot line.  After invading Belgium and the Netherlands, though, Hitler had no need for the cannon as he had easy access through these countries to France who quickly gave up in surrender to Germany.  Nevertheless, the cannon was deployed and used during the invasion of Russia and destroyed the town of Sevastopol leaving it in utter ruins.  Fortunately for the Russians, the cannon needed refurbishing after firing on this area so it was sent back to be repaired.  A second huge cannon named Dora was also constructed to carry on the battle but was never used.
     While these "big guns" were impressive in their day and time, there is a weapon far more powerful than any devised by man then or now.  It is called prayer.  When we call upon God through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ our righteousness, He will hear from heaven and answer.  Knowing that He is our Creator and the Sovereign over all the affairs of men, we can rest assured that we have tapped into the greatest power source that exists.  This does not mean that God will give us everything we want but He will supply all that we need according to His divine will.  So how do we pray?
     First, we need to realize that prayer is simply communicating with God daily.  According to I Thessalonians 5:13, we are to "pray without ceasing".  Romans 12:12 reads:  "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."  In both cases, these Scriptures tell us that we are to look to God through prayer on a regular basis.  Prayer does not have to be spoken aloud, but it can also be inward allowing us to pray all through our day.  No where are we given a prescription for how often we are to pray, but we know that the psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 prayed seven times a day (Psalm 119:164).  Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10) and our Lord prayed often all night long.  Even though we have no specific directions for when or where to pray, we are told to bring all our concerns to God in prayer and not worry about them but give God the thanks for His many blessings (Philippians 4:6-7).
     There are a few things which our Lord did tell us to avoid during our times of prayer.  We are not to use vain repetitions as the pagans do when they pray (Mathew 6:7).  Likewise, the Lord told us not to stand on the street corners while we pray as the hypocrites often did to draw attention to their piety (Mathew 6:5).  Instead, we are to pray to the Father in secret.  This time for private prayer and meditation on the Word are invaluable to us as believers.  However, corporate worship, prayer for one another, or grace at the evening meal are times when we vocally proclaim our prayers to God before others.
     Prayer not only draws us closer to the heavenly Father but it also changes us.  It is hard, if not impossible, to pray for someone and continue to dislike them.  We may have enemies or those we do not care for but once we begin to intercede for them, God often brings about a change in our own hearts.  This is part of the miracle power in prayer as we give the Lord access to our own hearts and minds.  
     Our prayers can also unleash the miracle working power of God into a situation.  Take for example the prayer of Elijah the Prophet.  James 5:17 tells us that Elijah prayed that it would not rain and it did not for three years yet he was a common man just like us.  In my own life, I prayed that God would heal me of polio when I was six years old.  I told Him that I just wanted to go home again and after six weeks, I was able to go home and recuperate.  God has been good to me and answered that prayer.  However, there are times when God does not heal us or intervene in the way we think He should.  This is when we must realize that He knows the beginning from the end of all things.  He works all things together for good even if we do not see it at the present time.
     With the state of our nation, the world and culture at large, we need to be a people of prayer.  We need to unleash the "Big Guns" of prayer and ask the Father in heaven to heal our land, our lives, and our culture.  We need to ask His forgiveness for our sins that Christ might be glorified in our lives.  Likewise, we need to pray for the salvation of family, friends and leaders.  Our God, our Father, Our King hears the prayers of His people who call upon Him in Jesus' name.  All we have to do is cry unto Him and then watch what He does.  He is faithful, unchangeable, trustworthy and holy.  His name is justice and peace in this dark and sinful world.  Jeremiah 33:3 says:  "Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known."  We have our invitation.  Now lets get busy and pull out the "big guns" of prayer.   Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on how God has used prayer in your life and the lives of others.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lest We Forget Our Foundations

     This past Sunday being Reformation Sunday, I wrote an article for our church newsletter concerning a reformer who brought about the birth of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
While not all of you that read this blog may be Presbyterian, we owe a debt of gratitude to all who stood for the truth of God's Word beginning with Martin Luther.  This is just another story of a man who was reformed and always reforming by the Word of God.  He paid a great price in his ministry and so I offer this story to encourage you today.


The statue of John Knox who also preached in the Church of the Holy Rude

     My father used to say,  “ A house is only as good as its foundation.”  I recall that in Scripture Jesus made this point in the parable of the house built upon the rock by the wise man and the house built on sand by the foolish man (Mathew 7:24-27) .  He likened the wise man to one who heard and followed what the Lord taught and the foolish man to one who did not obey.  Our foundation, then, is critical in this day and age of relativism.   If the church is to stand, we must never forget our foundation.  Perhaps, this is what led me to do some research on Ebenezer Erskine, one of the founders of the Associate Presbytery in Scotland from which our denomination was birthed.
     Ebenezer Erskine was born on June 22, 1680 Dryburgh, Scotland.   His father was the Rev. Henry Erskine who had served as a Presbyterian minister in the north of England until he was forced to leave his church along with other Puritans when the British passed the “Act of Conformity”.   At the age of fourteen, he entered the University of Edinburgh, receiving the degree of M.A. in 1697.  He was licensed to preach the Gospel by the presbytery of Kirkcaldy in February 1702.  In 1703, he was ordained minister of Portmoak and extended a call by the elders.  His brother Ralph also pursued and was ordained into the ministry. 
The statue of Ebenezer Erskine outside the Church of the
Holy Rude in Stirling, Scotland
     At the beginning of his service to the Lord, Ebenezer was not attractive as a preacher.  He memorized his sermons and feared forgetting something so he never looked at the congregation.  However, two years into his ministry, the Gospel became real to Him and he began to preach from the abundance of his heart.  Christ crucified became the sum and substance of his preaching.  His congregation grew and many came from as far as 60 miles away to hear him preach.  As a result of his faithful preaching of the Gospel, many came to receive salvation in Christ.
     During the course of his ministry, Ebenezer Erskine, his brother Ralph, Thomas Boston and a number of other pastors became embroiled in a controversy over a certain book “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” written by Edward Fisher in 1646 who had a M.A. from Oxford and studied ecclesiastical history.  This book was read by Rev. Thomas Boston which he recommended to others to read.  He began to preach the doctrines of grace which were discussed in the book.  However, the established Church of Scotland denounced the work and in 1720, an act was passed prohibiting the reading of this work, the preaching of it or writing about it.  Further, pastors were to keep their congregations from reading it as the state church felt it was antinomian (against the Law of God).  The root of the matter, according to Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (ARP pastor in Columbia, S.C.) was the nature of God’s grace.  Also at stake was a discussion of the relationship between saving faith and the assurance of faith.  Dr. Ferguson said the book stressed the Gospel of free grace freely proclaimed to all.  In fact, the book preserved the Bible truth that man does not have to first quit sin before he can be saved.  Only when a man comes to Christ does he have the ability to fully see his sin for what it is and repent of it.  The Church of Scotland was preaching conditional grace saying that a person had to be perfected before they could come to Christ.
     Rev. Erskine and the others protested the act passed by the Synod in written correspondence.  However, the Assembly stuck to their position and rebuked these pastors.  This would eventually lead to a rupture in the church as other controversies were to follow.  However these twelve pastors who stood for Gospel truth are owed a debt of gratitude for so earnestly contending for the faith.
     In 1731, Ebenezer was called to pastor The Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling, Scotland.  At this time, another controversy was about to cause the inevitable split that was to come.  For some time, ministers were chosen by patronage rather than by congregational choice.  The General Assembly was ready to pass an act to keep the peace by allowing “heritors” (land holders and patrons) to decide on a pastor for a vacant church.  Ebenezer Erskine along with 42 other pastors gave a written protest to this act.  However, their protest was not allowed to be read.  Ebenezer decried this action and said:  “What difference does a piece of land make between man and man in the affairs of Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world?.....I consider that by this Act, the Assembly have sunk one of the principal branches of our Reformation inserted in our books of discipline; I mean the right of the Church and members thereof to choose their own pastors – a privilege with the custody of which we are entrusted.”  The Act was passed and the dissent never entered into record.  With this result, Rev. Erskine preached against the Act from the pulpit and was censured as a result.  Eventually in 1740, he was forced to leave the Church of the Holy Rude as he refused to recant his position.  He and several other pastors who also stood in opposition to this Act, likewise lost their churches and formed the Church of the Secession better known as the Associate Presbytery. 
The Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling, Scotland where both John Knox and Ebenezer Erskine preached.
     Ebenezer Erskine and his congregation formed another Kirk in Stirling, and he remained there until his death on June 2, 1754.  His last sermon was preached from his bed to a company assembled in his room, where he baptized a child, after discoursing on a Bible text.  He faithfully served Christ as a minister for fifty one years.  His foundation was built on Jesus Christ whom he faithfully preached all of his life.
     Last year, my husband and I had the privilege of visiting the grave and statue of Ebenezer Erskine in Stirling, Scotland.  Walking into the Church of the Holy Rude will remain fixed in our minds as we contemplate the sacrifices made by this man of God who stood for the truth of God’s Word and the Doctrines of Grace.   May we, as inheritors of this biblical foundation, continue to search the Scriptures
and carry on this battle for truth as did Ebenezer Erskine.  Selah!

For further reading on this subject, you can go to Google Play for free digital downloads of books on Ebenezer Erskine and “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” by Edward Fisher.  There are also books on the History of the Church in Scotland and elsewhere.  It provides some wonderful free resources.  

I welcome your thoughts on this subject as we contemplate those who have gone before us in the faith.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Olive or Canola Oil?

     Nearly every day, we can pick up a magazine or newspaper and read about another food that has been found to be detrimental to our health.  Sometimes it seems so discouraging, and often I wonder what will be the next demon in the cabinet.  Just the other day, I read an article that said olive oil is not as healthy for us as canola oil.  Yet, for years, we have all heard the praises of this oil as being a heart healthy addition to the diet.
     All this consideration of food and diet can be mind boggling, and some folks seem obsessed with eating just the right thing in order to maintain their health and peace of mind.  However, our existence is made up of more than issues like what we eat.
     In Mark 7:18b-23 (NAS), Jesus, who was speaking to His disciples tells them:  "Do you not see that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated? (Thus He declared all food clean).  And He was saying 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'"
     This Scripture points to the central issue we all must face.  What we harbor in our hearts is really what defiles us not what we eat on a daily basis.  Yes, we do need to watch out for our health.  Learning good nutrition habits and watching our diet can help to prolong our physical health.  But Jesus was concerned about our heart health...our spiritual heart health.
     Often, whether we want to admit it or not, we have thoughts which we know are not pleasing to the Lord; yet, we allow them to remain and eat away at our spiritual health.  No one else sees these secret sins but God does.  The only time our family or friends become aware of things which we hold in our thoughts or hearts is when we choose to act on them in direct disobedience to God.  This is what defiles us and hurts our relationship with others and with the Lord.  Our only recourse in redeeming our spiritual health is to quickly confess our sins to God and repent (I John 1:9).  By doing this, we are instantly restored to right standing with our Father in Heaven.
     Watching our diets and being good stewards of the physical bodies which He has given to us is indeed important, but Jesus wants us to pay attention to the thoughts which we allow into our hearts.  He wants us to watch the words and actions that flow forth out of our lives.  Do these match with the life of one committed to Jesus Christ?  If they do not, it should be a "red flag" to us that we need to spend some time on our knees before the Father in serious prayers.  May our inner person of the heart reflect God's holiness in all that we do for this is the key issue to the abundant life in Christ.  Selah!

These two beautiful photographs are courtesy of Cathy Hardesty a dear family friend.  They were taken at Highlands Hammock State Park and reveal the beauty of old Florida.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are You Confused?

     In an email I received a while ago, I read a list of unusual instructions that come with products.  They didn't make any sense because most people would not do what they were suggesting.  Here are some examples:
     A label on an iron read:  "Do not use this while you are wearing the clothes you want to press."
     On a curling iron:  "For external use only!"
     On a hair dryer:  "Do not use in the shower."
     On a car sun shield:  "Do not drive with sun shield in place."
     In a manual for a microwave oven:  "Do not use for drying pets."  
                            And my favorite:
     On a portable stroller:  "Caution:  Remove infant before folding for storage."
     Personally, I cannot believe that people could be so confused that they would do any of these, but I suppose that companies want to make certain that no one is hurt with their products.  I have to admit that sometimes instruction manuals are more confusing than the products themselves!  But this does bring up something we need to think about in the spiritual realm.
     Believers can become confused and misled if they are unfamiliar with the whole counsel of God's Word.  The church at Galatia was certainly sent into a spiral when some agitators came into their midst to proclaim "another" Gospel.  These teachers did their best to discredit the Apostle Paul, and then, told these young (in faith) believers that in order to be truly saved they needed to submit to circumcision.
     Paul's letter to these believers clearly defines the freedom we have in Christ from salvation plus works.  Chapter 5:1-3 reads:  "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Look:  I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law."   Later in this chapter, Paul continues in verse 7-10:  "You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is."
     This young church at Galatia was confused by those who came preaching salvation + works.  Jesus Christ set men free from the bondage of sin at salvation.  This is a liberation from the law as a means of salvation, a deliverance from sin's dominion and from superstition.  However, these new believers had forgotten these basic truths.  Actually, this could happen to a believer at any stage of the game so Paul's letter is critical for everyone who trusts in Christ.  With this in mind, lets look at three aspects of our liberty in Christ.
     First, as believers we have been set free from the Law as a system which leads to salvation.  We are justified by faith in Christ so we are no longer under God's Law, but we are under His grace (Galatians 3:23-25).  Our standing with God is assured because we have been accepted in Christ our Savior.  Salvation, therefore, will never depend on what we do or fail to do if we belong to Him.  We live day by day not by being perfect but by being forgiven of our sins.  What freedom this brings!   Any effort on our part to drum up our own righteousness means we are confused!  We cannot add nor subtract from what God has already finished, and we, in ourselves, will never be good enough to warrant salvation in our own strength.  No matter how good our actions may be we will always have wrong desires and motives in our hearts.
     Basically, the Law is meant to awaken, reveal and condemn any sin that fills our moral lives.  It shows us that we are sinners in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  As a result, when we try to use works or Law as a system of salvation or righteousness, we will burn out.  Our efforts are futile.  Only God working in and through us can bring about the change in our lives that really sets us free and keeps us that way.
     Secondly, sin's dominion has been forever broken in the life of a believer.  God has regenerated us and brought us to faith in our resurrected Lord Jesus.  We are given new hearts and our desires are to serve Him in righteousness.  When sin reigned in our hearts, we only desired a life characterized by selfishness and disobedience.  We disregarded God's moral law and even despised the restrictions that God was putting on our "fun".   At the moment we became a believer in Jesus Christ, the dominion of sin was broken so that we now had a whole new outlook on life.  With our new heart, we now desire to obey Him and out of gratitude we do acts of service that He might receive the glory.
     Finally, we are set free from old superstitions that taught us that we could not enjoy physical pleasure or that the body was evil.  Instead, we are free to enjoy the good gifts which God has given to us in all his creation.  We can do so as long as we do not break God's moral Law or cause others to stumble into sin.  Our heavenly Father has made all things for us to enjoy, but He has also given us guidelines which we find in Scripture.  This is why it is so important to become students of the Word.
     Anyone can become confused and march off in the wrong direction spiritually.  Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that we all want to do that which pleases the Lord as Christians.  However, before we know it, we can be adding "works" to try to improve on our salvation or earn God's favor.  There is a fine line we need to walk daily remembering that Christ's blood has covered our sins.  We are no longer in bondage and what we do or don't know in our walk with Him will not add or subtract from our salvation.  Therefore, we need to walk in our liberty and do our good works out of gratitude to Him for this great salvation not as a means of winning His approval.  We have already been approved in Christ. Don't be confused by those who would tell you otherwise.  Selah!

Have you ever become confused in your Christian walk?  What brought you back in line with God's Word?  I welcome your thoughts and insights.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"You Smell So Sweet!"

A Fall day in Wisconsin
     Shortly after my husband finished professional school, we moved back to his hometown of Defiance, Ohio.  He planned to set up his practice of optometry there, and since we did not have a home, we moved in with his parents temporarily.
     His parents had an extra bedroom they had prepared for us.  When we arrived, we were glad to unload our cars and find rest after a busy day of moving our belongings from Columbus, Ohio.
     Climbing into bed that night, we both noticed a strong perfume smell coming from the mattress.  In fact, the fragrance was so strong that we decided we should keep a fan on during the night.
     In the morning, my husband went downstairs to have breakfast before showering and his mother greeted him with these words, "Why Son, you smell so sweet this morning!"  He told me later that it was at this point he decided we needed to purchase a plastic mattress bag as he didn't intend to smell like a cologne factory every day.
     Later, we learned that the mattress in question had been in storage for a while.  So wanting to freshen it up for our arrival, his dear Mom had poured a bottle of her favorite cologne over the mattress before putting on the pad and sheets.  Needless to say, this is why we had such a very strong odor emanating from the bed that night.  We did get the plastic mattress bag and that helped considerably to dull the strength of the fragrance.  In looking back, we most likely could have gotten away without showers for several days and no one (but us of course) would have known for the strength of the cologne.
     Thinking about this incident brought to mind the many times that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in the New Testament.  These men were Law keepers to the max.  They carefully followed tradition and the rules so that they might look and smell really good before God and others.  However, on the inside, their lives were empty.
     Mark 7:6-9 says:  "And He said to them, 'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'  Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.'  He was also saying to them, 'You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.'" (NAS)
     To outward appearances, the Pharisees were sterling examples of piety.  They kept the Laws, prayed on street corners, kept the holy days and festivals and knew the Scriptures.  But they did not know the One true God in their hearts.  Their religion was dead and empty.  They smelled sweet on the outside, but they were dirty on the inside.
     Jesus' confrontation with them was offensive as they felt they had arrived.  He was upsetting their traditions and way of life.  It was far more comfortable to keep God at a distance than it was to allow Him to bring changes in their hearts.  They could follow religion and a set of rules, but it was unnerving to think of just trusting God and following His Spirit.  Because of this type of thinking and their stubborn expectations for what Messiah would be, they missed the very One for whom they waited!
     How much are we like that?  Even as Christians, we can get caught up in rules and game playing.  If we do this or don't do that, we will earn points with God.  However, when we buy into this thinking, we are negating grace and elevating works in order to get us in right relationship with God.
     Dependence on God means that each day we will do a daily moral inventory and allow God to examine our hearts.  When He reveals sin, we will be quick to repent and seek His cleansing not leaning on our works to keep us in tune with Him.  Vulnerability, openness, and a heart that desires to please Him is really what He wants to see in us.
     My husband and I may have smelled good the day after we slept on that mattress, but eventually, people would have noticed if we hadn't showered.  In the same manner, as Christians, if we try to cover over our sins with the fragrance of works, we will fail in our attempts to be clean on the inside where the Lord sees all.
Ducks on a Fall Day in Brookfield, WI
     Each day, we need to being with prayer and the bathing of God's Word so that our minds and hearts will be renewed.  Only as we walk by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, can our lives have a fragrance that comes from the inside.  Paul the apostle said in 2 Corinthians 3:6: "...who also made us adequate as servants of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."  May we seek to live by the Spirit and not by the traditions of men.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this topic.  How do you keep yourself smelling spiritually sweet?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Little R and R

         My dear husband and I are enjoying family this week.  We first visited our youngest son in Kentucky and are now visiting with my husband's sister and brother in I am taking a break in my writing.  However, I hope to share even more rich posts when I return.
         While I am away, my prayer for you my friends, family and readers is that The Lord will bless and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.

With blessings and love in Christ,

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Encouraging Word

A swan gliding along on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
     One thing that I enjoy doing more than anything else in this world is to encourage someone.  I have always loved people, but when I became a Christian, the Lord enlarged my heart and vision to reach out and encourage others.  It fulfills my calling and gives me joy.
     We all have different gifts from the Holy Spirit it is true.  However, each of us is called to encourage, build up and edify one another in the Lord.  The Bible tells us that times will get harder and that we should  encourage one another.
     Paul, the Apostle, wrote a second letter to the Corinthians after he had chastised them in his first letter for all the dissension and problems they had allowed.  In this second letter, it is easy to see his love for these people and his concern for them.  He even opens his own heart and allows us to see how God used someone in his life to encourage him.
     2 Corinthians 7:5-7 reads:  "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side:  conflicts without, fears within.  But God who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in  you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more."
     These are words of encouragement that Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  He wanted them to know that it wasn't just the coming of Titus that helped him through depression, and difficulties.  It was the words which Titus encouraged him with...that the Corinthians truly wanted to see Paul again.  What good news to this man who had taken them to task for their behavior in Christian matters!
     Encouragement has a ripple effect almost like throwing a stone into a quiet pond.  When we tell someone encouraging things, they in turn will spread this to others.
     To give you a personal example, I was talking with a friend recently, and she mentioned the name of another lady whom I had not seen in a while.  I told her how much I respected and admired this woman.  Some time later, she had a chance to see this lady and she passed on my words of encouragement.  I received a note in the mail a week later from this woman who thanked me for my kind words to our mutual friend.  What a pleasant surprise I had!
     By the same token, we can also pass along negative statements, gossip, or other things which I assure you will inevitably find its way back to a person being discussed.  The choice of either encouraging or discouraging others is always ours.  However, the results of each are quite different.
A swan near the Castle of Linderhof in Germany
     In the Scripture, the Corinthians told Titus how much they loved Paul which encouraged Titus as he saw their changed heart.  Then, Titus told this good news to Paul which carried the encouragement on. The letter Paul wrote to them sent that encouragement and love right back to them to bless them.  It was a circle of blessing.
     Whom can you encourage today?  We have people all around us in our homes, neighborhoods, communities and churches.  We need to remember to lift them up with words that bring encouragement to their spirit and build their faith.  As we do this, encouragement will return to us as well.  Selah!

How do you encourage others?  What ways do you do that?  I welcome your thoughts and insights.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beware of False Teachers

                                        What has been will be again,
                                        what has been done will be done again;
                                        there is nothing new under the sun.
                                                                   Ecclesiastes 1:16

     When King Solomon wrote those words, he spoke with wisdom.  For ages, there has been nothing new under the sun but only the same old lies being told in new ways.  Jesus warned us in scripture that we would face challenges but none so dangerous as false teachers who would rise up claiming to know the truth.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).  How will we know who these people are?  The Lord went on to say in verses 16-17:  "You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit."
The Church of the Holy Rood in Stirling, Scotland
     With the rise of the internet and social media along with other forms of mass communication, the ability to spread teachings and share information has exploded.  Unfortunately, not everything we hear or read is true even when it comes to those who rise up and claim to follow Christ.  There are false teachers out there who are like wolves among the sheep.  The Apostle Paul reiterated the warning of Christ when he told the Ephesian church leaders:  "I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears" (Acts 20:29-31).  This is an interesting and important passage in the Word.
     In this passage, Paul not only warns the church about false teachers, but he warns them that some within the very Body of Christ would arise who would twist the Word of God and lead others astray.  We know later on that the Ephesian Church would have some of its very own leaders arise who would do this.  The letter to Timothy indicates this when Paul writes:  "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith" (I Timothy 1:3-4).  
      From this illustration found in Paul's letters, we know that wolves can come from outside or be within the church fellowship.  Twisting scripture is nothing new.  It began with Satan who was the first to twist God's words to Adam and Eve.  They believed the lie and disobeyed God bringing sin into the world.  Lest we consider them weaklings who were easy prey, we need to take a check of our own preparedness in recognizing wolves.  Here are some simple steps to watch for false teachers and prophets.
The Cathedral of York, England
     1)  What does the person say about Jesus Christ?  This is of utmost importance.  I John 2:22 says:  "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son."  We know that Peter was called blessed because of his confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  If the person leading or teaching does not believe that Jesus came to die for sin, and rose victorious from the grave, we need to question if they are even a believer.
     2) Does this teacher preach the Gospel?  The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.  He has set us free from sin for all who believe.  This is why knowing the Bible and sound doctrine as taught in God's Word are so important.  If someone comes teaching "God is love, God wants you to be happy or wealthy", red flags should go up in your mind.  In Paul's letter to the Galatians, he wrote:  "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:7-8).  In the case of the Galatians, they may have been influenced by Jewish Christians who told them they had to follow Jewish Law in order to be saved.  Any time someone tells you it is faith plus works that brings salvation beware.  Works are the fruit of our love and gratitude for what Christ has done for us.  They do not earn us a higher place in terms of salvation.
     3) What kind of fruit is seen in the life of this teacher?  Do they glorify God or serve to glorify themselves?  Jesus said we would know them by their fruit.  Being a fruit inspector does not mean we are to judge the person but rather we are to listen carefully to what they are saying and how they are living.  If their lifestyle does not demonstrate a true humility and love for Christ, we need to take a step back from them.
     In recent years, I have become more and more particular about the books I read and the people I listen to who preach the Word.  Knowing their background, training and finding out about their theological perspectives are all important.  I do not want to be deceived.  It is so easy for any one of us to get off the path of sound doctrine and fall into empty deception.  Eve did it in the Garden and so can we who still battle the flesh even though we have been set free from sin.
     We need to be discerning students of the Word who stand up for the truth.  Our Lord has given us fair warning and so have His Apostles who came after Him.  If we know the truth, it will set us free and keep us that way if we are good students of God's Word.  Deception comes in all garbs and manners so be on guard and alert that we may defend the faith handed down to us.    Selah!

Have you ever encountered a false teacher?  I always welcome your thoughts here.  This is an important subject for us to consider.        

Monday, October 8, 2012

Feeling Dry and Parched?

The beauty of a hot summer day in Florida
Picture courtesy of 
     During the summer months (usually starting in May or earlier) until late fall, it gets very warm here in Florida.  We usually hit the nineties each day and the tremendous humidity only adds to the oven-like
atmosphere.  I cannot imagine how anyone ever lived in Florida before air conditioning, but I know they did.
     Not long ago, one of my friends remarked that she always looked forward to the "green" Kool-Aid  at VBS (vacation Bible school) because it was so hot without air conditioning.  I guess drinking anything cold would do when you are hot and thirsty!
     Our outside climate is not the only thing that can be dry, and parched however.  Our spirit can also feel this way after the assaults of the enemy or the world.  Read Psalm 63:1:  " O God thou are my God;  I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
     David lived many years in flight from King Saul who wanted him dead.  Being in the wilderness, he had to endure such hardships as lack of water, food or even a decent shelter at times.  He grew weary of running but his trust was in God.  David knew that only God could ultimately satisfy his soul.
     We have all had days and even weeks where we have felt like we live in a dry and weary land.  There may be no one chasing us like David, but all the same, we feel as though we can't make it another step.  Our schedule seems insurmountable, the running never stops and the bills never end.  It's at this juncture that we need to have what David unbelievable thirst for God.
     God is the only one who can satisfy our deepest needs and give us the strength we need to go on.  He understands us when no one else does.  He loves us unconditionally and has promised to be with us always.  Jesus said to the woman of Samaria in John 4:13-14:  "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
     When we seek God for satisfaction and relief from the weary, dry condition we live in, He answers with a living water that will quench our thirst forever.  The key is that we must seek Him earnestly as David did.  Anything less than Jesus equals an empty cup, but with Jesus, we can once again have that well of water pouring forth in our soul and watering the dry places of our hearts.  Selah!

What brings you refreshment as you read the Bible?  I welcome your thoughts today.  I always read them and look forward to hearing from you.

Both pictures are courtesy of my gifted blogging friend Pat at

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"The Church of What's Happening Now"

     In the 1970's when my husband and I were newlyweds and also new in the faith, we lived in the busy city of Columbus, Ohio where my husband attended the College of Optometry at Ohio State University.  Within the same community,  there was a church called "The Church of What's Happening Now" run by the "Reverend" Leroy Jenkins.  The people met at the Ohio Theater for their gatherings, and Jenkins became famous for his pronouncement to everyone that "There is somebody up there that loves you."  He was on radio and T.V. for a brief period of time and his charismatic brand of Christianity attracted a large following.  However, his life did not demonstrate a solid grounding in the Word which he proclaimed to his followers.  Instead, he based his own faith on an experience which he said changed his life.
A pretty flowered weed...but a weed none the less.
     Jenkins had been a Presbyterian businessman in Atlanta, GA when he had a nearly severed arm in an accident.  A healer named A.A. Allen prayed for him and his arm was healed.  This began what Jenkins felt was a call from God to preach.  He began in a tent ministry and ended up in the Ohio Theater.  Later, he moved his ministry to Greenwood, South Carolina and started "The Spirit of Truth" Church which later burned down.  It was discovered that this highly insured property had been purposely destroyed and Jenkins was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to injure a local newspaper reporter.  He spent two years in prison of his twelve year sentence.  During the course of his ministry, he argued with his associates, divorced his wife and was arrested numerous times for drugs and alcohol.  The fruit of his life and ministry leads me to the conclusion that he was a false teacher not adhering to the Word of God but basing everything on emotion and experience.
     Throughout history, there have been false teachers who have arisen and drawn large crowds.  This is nothing new, but there is something else at work within the evangelical church today that concerns me and it is something we all need to pray about as well as guard against.  I believe that many in the present day church have forgotten our roots much as the Israelites began to forget God's mighty deeds on their behalf.  Moses had warned the people (Deut. 6:12):  "...then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" because he knew that the people would easily and quickly forget what God had done.  This is one reason God had them set up memorial stones in the book of Joshua so they would look at them and remember.  In fact the Bible speaks of the importance of remembering over and over again lest we forget and fall into sin.  We know the children of Israel did that often.  Despite the covenant they had with God, they slowly slipped away from God and forgot what He had done for them.  The entire book of Judges is filled with such examples.  The people sinned.  The Lord allowed the people to experience the consequences of their sin, and then, they turned, repented, prayed and God sent a judge to deliver them again.  His mercy knows know bounds!
     In our present day churches, we have, in some respects, forgotten or put aside the sound guidelines found in God's Word for worship and practice in favor of modern trends.  Instead of Christians demonstrating their unique worldview by being salt and light, we are more often influenced by our culture instead.  As a result, we have seeker sensitive church initiatives when there are "no seekers" according to Scripture:  "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God" (Romans 3:10b-11).  Some churches have brought in worldly entertainment (i.e. wrestling matches with a Christian theme, celebrities and Christian rock concerts) all in the name of attracting a crowd.  Still others have accepted the culture driven "youth" emphasis to the point where intergenerational contact happens very little within the teaching and preaching of the church.  All of these elements and many others are slowly infiltrating the church to the detriment of sound teaching.  Today we have many who are ignorant of Christian doctrine as revealed in the Bible.  They are ripe for deception by those like Leroy Jenkins who espouse a religion of feelings and experience over a faith built on the solid Rock of God's Word.
     Scott T Brown, Pastor and head of the National Center for Family-integrated Churches, has written an interesting book which I am currently reading entitled "A Weed in the Church".  He maintains that many young people come into our churches and attend our youth groups, but leave the church ultimately as they reach college age and beyond.  Further, he feels we do a great job of entertaining young people but do not do a good job of thoroughly discipling them.  This is where family and worshipping in an intergenerational way will help to pass along the solid values and tenets upon which the Reformation took place.  He quotes John Knox who said:  "All worshipping, honoring or service invented by the brain of men in the religion of God, without His own express commandment is idolatry."  The main premise of his book is that the culture of age segregation is harming the next generation, fragmenting the family and dividing the church.  Certainly, he has made some valuable observations on the current state of affairs within evangelicalism.
     Our home group is currently studying "The Truth Project" put out by Focus on the Family.  My husband and I have acted as discussion leaders for this series a number of times and each time our eyes are opened more and more to the realities of how the world has crept into our thinking.  Unfortunately , many of us have been like that frog who was placed in a kettle of cold water.  The heat was turned on and little by little that frog was cooked before he knew what was happening.  As believers, we need to be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents when standing for the truth of God's Word.  Our churches need to be places of instruction in the doctrines of grace so that we are equipped for the work of service.  Without discipleship, preaching and teaching, we will be no different than our pagan friends when it comes to values, standards and ethics.   Let me conclude this by ending with this quote from Scott Brown's book:
     "Modern evangelicals are often willing to proclaim the sufficiency of Scripture for matters that are purely doctrinal, but dismiss it for the practical matters of church and family life.  We are like the Pharisees, who 'laying aside the commandment of God...hold the tradition of men' (Mark 7:8).  It has come to the point that many people operate in matters of theology and lifestyle with a double standard.  They might say that the Bible is sufficient for salvation and other important theological matters, but they assume that it is not sufficient for other areas of life.  They think that most areas of life are left up to personal preference or creativity, even such important things as education, church structure, clothing, music, entertainment, and choosing a spouse."  God's Word is all we need for life and godliness that we can be conformed to the image of His Son.  My prayer is that our churches will be squarely centered on the Word of God rather than entertainment, seeker sensitive initiatives and youth driven activities.  Instead, they should be a refuge for family worship together built around the teaching of the Bible and the sacraments.  "The Church of What's Happening Now" no longer exists in Columbus, Ohio.  Its foundation was not built upon the Rock but upon the sand of experience.  May we take a lesson from the fall of this house so we do not experience the same in our own Houses of Worship.  Selah!

Encyclopedia of Evangelicals by Randall Herbert Balmer   "Leroy Jenkins" pg. 302  found at Google Books

Scott Brown, "A Weed in the Church"  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding a Quiet Place

High above the valley floor at Eagle's Nest in Germany
A quiet place for reflection
     Working in a busy office four days a week, I relish the moments in the day when I can steal away to have some quiet time.  Admittedly, it doesn't happen unless I make a point of it since we are caring for our son's puppy which is much like having a toddler full-time in our home.  Nevertheless, the value of spending time talking to the Lord in prayer and reading his Word refreshes my soul as nothing else can do.
     In the Bible, we have the examples of Jesus as He took time to go to a quiet place and pray.  Communing with His Father gave Him the strength to fulfill all that God had called Him to accomplish.
Mark 1:35 reads:  "And rising very early in the morning while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed."  This time of quiet escape came after a He met with multitudes and brought healing to them.  Then, following the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus found time to once again refresh Himself in fellowship with His Father:  "Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd.  And after He had taken leave of them, He went up o the mountain to pray" (Mark 6:45-46).  When the news came that John the Baptist had been killed, Jesus withdrew to pray and encourage His disciples as well:  "The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught.  And He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.'  For many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves" (Mark 6: 30-32).  A final example comes at the time of great crisis when Jesus knows He will soon face the cross, and once again, He calls His disciples to come away with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane.  "And He said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.  Remain here and 'watch'.  And going a little farther He fell on the ground and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him" (Mark 14:34-35).
The solitude of the Cathedral at Lincolnshire, England
     If prayer and quiet time was important to the Lord, how much more important should it be for us?  Although our schedules may be very busy, we can and must find time to get alone with the Lord.  I remember reading a biography of Susannah Wesley who was a busy mother of nineteen.  Her daily prayer time came by putting her apron over her head.  When the children saw their mother in this pose, they knew not to disturb her as she was praying.  I felt convicted when I read that.  How often have I found reasons not to commune with God?  Certainly Susannah Wesley would have had many excuses, but she did not neglect what our Lord, through His life example, thought very important.
    Being short on time, I have found several ways to pray and have that important quiet time with the Lord.  In the early morning several days a week, my husband and I go for a walk.  During this time, we are both quiet as we talk with the Lord surrounded by the beauty of His creation.  On days that we do not walk, I pray while riding my stationary bicycle.  I could be watching the news, but I find my time with God is much more fruitful.  While getting ready for work, we, as a couple, listen to podcasts of sermons by Alistair Begg, Dr. R.C. Sproul or Dr. John MacArthur.  Feeding our minds on the Word before we step out the door through these sermons helps us to keep our focus on Christ.   At the breakfast table, we both read the Bible.   Then, when I get home from the office, I tune in the free online radio provided by Ligonier Ministries at .  As I listen, I have the opportunity to hear beautiful music, more messages from God's Word and Bible reading.  It is a pleasant way to unwind after listening to the phone ring at our office all day.
      Having a quiet time alone with God brings rest for our souls.  Lets face it, our world is spinning faster and faster every day with the pace of life increasing to hyper-speed.  If our Lord took time out to rest, pray and commune with His Father, how much more do we need this same practice?
     In closing, I am reminded of a hymn written in 1882 by William D. Longstaff entitled "Take Time to be Holy".  The words go as follows:
The quiet beauty of the Florida countryside.
  1. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
    Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
    Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
    Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
  2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
    Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
    By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
    Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
  3. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
    And run not before Him, whatever betide.
    In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
    And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
  4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
    Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
    Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
    Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
  5.      May we find the time to be have a quiet talk with the Lord as we study His Word.  Selah!

How do you find a quiet place to pray and study the Word?  I welcome your ideas, thoughts and sharing.