Saturday, January 26, 2008

LOST & FOUND: The Lord knows right where you are!

"But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate."
Luke 15:22-24
Alan Murphy, was devastated; while on vacation in the United States, Murphy lost his digital camera. That loss would cost him all of his vacation pictures from the trip. Disheartened, Murphy, an Irish insurance underwriter now living in Australia, returned home to Sydney.

However, on his 34th birthday, not quite two weeks later, he learned he would be getting the missing camera and the photos back. "I was over the moon," he says now.
At dusk on New Year's Eve[, 2007], Erika Gunderson got into a taxi in New York City and entered a digital-age mystery.

Sitting on the back seat was a nice Canon digital camera. Gunderson asked the driver which previous passenger might have left it, but the cabbie didn't seem to care.
Thus began the saga of several amateur sleuths determined to unite an unknown individual with a camera lost and found in NYC.

Together the friends spent hours culling the digital images stored in the camera's memory, looking for and following up on minuscule clues as to the camera's owner. Lead after lead was followed to a dead-end when one last look by the last of the detectives revealed the interior of a NYC business not far away.

That final effort would put the Canon back in the hands of its owner.

We were lost, but now we're found; no amateur detectives were needed however. No, the Most High God who created us has known where we were all along. We may be lost to eternal life but God has a light on for us to follow home. Praise Him!

Friday, January 25, 2008

IN-LAWS: Fend for yourselves!

The future father-in-law asked, “Young man, can you support a family?”

To which the surprised groom-to-be replied, “Of course not. I was planning to support just your daughter … the rest of you will have to fend for yourselves.”

VIGILANCE: Asleep at the wheel!

"It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert--for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning - in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'"
Mark 13:34-37
Police discovered an eighteen year-old Santa Fe man at 2 a.m. sleeping on the passenger seat of Andrew Brewer's Chevy Camaro, next to broken glass and a large rock, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Deputy Police Chief Beverly Lennen said the youth had apparently broken into the car to steal it. Unfortunately the car resisted starting and, for reasons known only to the car thief, he fell asleep at the wheel.

The authorities awakened and arrested him.

“He was just laying there,” the car’s owner said. “It was pretty odd … . Someone stole my car but didn't [leave] because he fell asleep.”

Jesus warned us to “be alert” that our Master not come suddenly and find us asleep at the wheel.

JUSTIFICATION: I'm ninety-five percent saved!

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
John 3:3
Reuters is reporting the Metropolitan Police in London, England, are finding it difficult to bring in sufficient recruits. So the agency has loosened its requirements – ignoring tattoos and criminal records.

“This wouldn't apply to people who had shown criminal intent, like burglary,” a spokesman said. “If you hit the target on 19 of 20 criteria and miss it on one we’d consider your application.” That’s because you get an extra point for insight into the criminal mind.

Not so in heaven … only those with all the qualifications (the blood of Jesus) need apply!

We need to understand, in the same way a theater won’t admit with half a ticket the Lord will either! It's either 100% saved by grace through faith or it's not! Christ's all-sufficient sacrifice is not up for negotiation.

DISCIPLINE: If indeed I am your child!

"You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.'

"It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

"Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
Hebrews 12:4-11
Effective parents don’t chasten before they instruct, nor do they punish before an infraction. Expectations are communicated first, then behavior is monitored for compliance.

If the results are unacceptable, they explain the transgression and attempt to correct the child’s understanding and behavior; reinforcing the desired results until comprehension is achieved. Periodic evaluation follows.

God is no different … all committed believers have learned from God in this way. “When much is given, much is expected.”

PERSECUTION: The ascending cry of their hearts!

"For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me."
1 Corinthians 14:8-11
A hawk has entered the area and a crow is fleeing a diving attack … suddenly a cry goes up and his brethren come to the endangered brother’s defense. Within a matter of seconds, dozens have responded; the noise and the flood of moral support is awesome and wonderful.

Oh how I wish the cry of a wounded brother would bring about such a result from the Body of Christ … sadly the landscape is littered with the carcasses of the wounded and dying. What effort there is to reach out seems woefully weak and distinctly indistinct. Clearly the troops are not prepared for battle.

CHRISTMAS: Dropped off and forgotten!

Two women, dressed in their finest, were having lunch in an exclusive restaurant … a friend came to their table and greeted them. “What's the occasion?” she asked.

One of the women said, “We're having a birthday party for our baby. He's 2 years old today.”

“But, where's is he?” She asked.

The mother answered, “Oh, I dropped him off at his grandmother's house until the party's over … it wouldn't have worked with him along.”

How sad … a birthday celebration for a child who isn't welcome at his own party?

Yet, think about it, it's no more foolish than going through the Christmas season, with all of its festivities, absent the One whose birth we are honoring.

But that's exactly the way many people celebrate Christmas anymore; in the midst of the folderol – the partying, the shopping, and the gatherings ... forgotten is the One whose birthday we’re celebrating. [Adapted from an anecdote in Our Daily Bread]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Holy headlocks and saintly slams!

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
Ephesians 6:11-13
The Associated Press recently reported on a wrestling priest in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Sergio Gutierrez, with clerical collar, has been in the ring for 25 years. It’s true the bouts are staged but there’s still an occasional outbreak of real violence; Gutierrez has broken his nose, ribs, ankle, and arm.

Gutierrez is known in the ring as Fray Tormenta: Brother Storm. Proceeds help fund a 200-bed home for underprivileged boys Gutierrez opened some 15 years ago.

Brother Storm is training Manuel Ortega, another priest, to wrestle part-time to also raise more funds. Ortega holds a black belt in karate, which he earned before entering the priesthood.

Popular in low-income neighborhoods in Mexico, professional wrestling sometimes draws crowds upwards of 10,000. Fans see the matches as a kind of morality play: good versus evil. One of the priests’ major opponents, Damian, is a taunting, mocking wrestler with 666 on his forehead and flames around his eyes.

The real match, the one Paul calls “our battle”, is real and vicious warfare. Yet, the devil wants the Soldiers of the Cross to view it with the same earthly eyes as spectators at a Brother Storm match.

Satan’s greatest weapon is deception; if he can deceive large numbers of believers into viewing our battle as nothing more than religious extremism … well, the body of Christ would be no different than Adam and Eve in the beginning … “naked” and “afraid” [Genesis 3:10].

GRACE: God? I'm thirsty!

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Ephesians 2:8-10
It never failed but that our kids got thirsty the minute we were too far from the house to get them one.

Problem: how do we get water to satisfy their thirst? Solution: take them to the source of water or build a conduit for water to flow from the source to them.

So too with God's grace. It’s in heaven where we cannot go at the moment, far from the thirst of our hearts.

However, God, who spoke the heavens and the earth in existence, has said faith is His conduit for His grace. What a conduit can be to our need for water, faith is to our need for God's grace.

So it makes no sense to seek another solution ... there’s only one link between heaven and earth and that link is faith in the Son of God.

WITNESS: Our clandestine public relations campaign!

I stopped into one of our landmark “greasy spoons” the other day. Many senior church members have sworn by the personnel and the menu. I decided to give it a chance.

Nothing on the menu caught my eye, so I ordered that old standard chili, topped with onions and grated cheese. I canceled the cheese after learning it cost an extra 50 cents (that’s over $30/lb. if you’re interested).

However, the waitress forgot to tell the cook “no cheese,” so it arrived with onions and cheese. When told, the cook (visibly irritated by this infraction of the rules) grabbed the bowl and angrily scrapped the cheese off.

Unfortunately for me, he also scrapped off a ½ inch of my chili and the nice pile of finely chopped fresh onion. When I eventually got my bowl of cold, canned, microwave chili it was sprinkled with large and “potent” chunks of onion.

Now, as I tried to smother the quickly coagulating lump with a ½ pound or so of stale soda crackers, I was distracted by loud coughing. It only took a second to realize it was the cook. With uncovered and open mouth, he wandered about the kitchen hacking his nicotine clogged lungs onto everything not covered or in a cabinet.

Trying to be fair I thought to myself, “It’s okay, after all I’ve probably consumed worse raising six kids.” But then the cook applied the coup de grĂ¢ce by inserting his index finger to his second knuckle in the nostril of his choice.

I don’t think I’ll tell anyone at the church I ate at the Village Inn, I’m afraid they’ll ask me how I liked it.

Many believers are allowing their churches to become the “greasy spoons” of the spiritual community.

Only the Mormons seem to avoiding this public relations disaster. Worse, many members of these churches, as well as members of some of our finer churches seem to be unaware that they are being watched.

PROMISES: It's when and where promised!

If a little boy hears his mom offer a Snickers candy bar from the kitchen window, and all he must do is go to the back door and receive it (assuming he believes she will keep her promise and assuming he desires the candy bar), why would he go to the front door instead? Or to a neighbor's back door?

Why would he expect to receive it anywhere but when and where she promised?

So too is the offer of eternal life. God calls out from glory, wooing us to Himself … all we need to do is comply with His instructions and trust Him to keep His word.

ETERNAL LIFE: The secret is written above!

The new teacher was given the combination to the school’s safe verbally. She then repeated it over and over as she hurried to the safe. As it would be, she forgot the correct numbers and their order; try as she would she could not get it open.

Seeing a fellow faculty member walk by, she quickly asked him to help. “I think I can!” He responded.

Walking into the supply room he let his hands fall to his sides and raised his face toward heaven, silently his lips moved.

Being a Christian woman the new teacher was impressed. “It is so good to see a professional like yourself stop and pray when he is in need.” She said.

“Oh, I’m not praying, the number’s written on the ceiling.”

It's a foolish person who labors on the door of the safe holding the secret of eternal life … pounding and pulling, grunting and groaning ... when the owner of the safe will provide it for free to all comers. All one needs to do is look to heaven and move one’s lips.

CIRCUMSTANCES #I: The sum of its parts!

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28
TEENAGE GRANDSON: “Grandma nothing is working in my life!”
GRANDMA: “How do you mean?”
GRANDSON: “You know! At school, at home, my friends, my girlfriend … you know!”.
GRANDMA: “Would you like some of the cake I’m making?”
GRANDMA: “Here, have a ¼ cup of cooking oil.”
GRANDSON: “Yuck! I can’t drink that!”
GRANDMA: “How about a couple raw eggs?”
GRANDSON: “Gross, Grandma!”
GRANDMA: “Would you like a cube of margarine! Or some flour? Or maybe baking soda?”
GRANDSON: “Come on Grams, those are sick! I want some cake!”
GRANDMA: “That’s right, they seem bad by themselves. But when you put them together in the right way and slowly bake them in an oven, they make a great cake!”

This is how God works in our lives. We often wonder why he lets us experience hard times; taken by themselves they seem difficult. But God knows what He is doing. When all the ingredients are together and allowed to bake in His time, they always work for our good!

Someone said,
“God is crazy about you. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and [yet] He chose your heart. [Consider] the Christmas gift He sent you in Bethlehem; not to mention that Friday at Calvary. Face it, He's crazy about you.”

CIRCUMSTANCES #II: Getting the penny out of your eye!

Recently, a young friend shared a conversation she had with her pastor at her home church in Brazil. She had sought his counsel concerning a difficulty she was having; her pastor suggested it was “a tempest in a teacup.”

She objected to his suggestion and said, “Oh, Pastor, you don’t understand.” His response was perfect for her situation.

He took a penny (actually the Brazilian equivalent of a penny) and told the young woman the penny represented her circumstance. He then asked her to hold the penny up to her right eye her left eye closed. Having done so, he asked her what she could see with her right eye. “Nothing,” she responded, “the penny is in the way.”

“So is your difficulty.” He counseled. “Now, slowly move the penny away from your eye toward the sun, until it’s about a foot from your face, and tell me what do you see?”

“I see the outline of the sun.” She replied, as she squinted from the blinding light of the sun.

Her pastor gently but wisely scolded her. “You see, Kath, the penny is what you are worried over but the sun is the real problem. Get your eyes off your circumstances and look for the real problem.”

How I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve had my eye on my circumstances and not on my problems.

Circumstance is a problem’s playground. No one remedies life’s circumstantial nuisances until they’ve dealt with the cause of their problem; and no one can eliminate the cause until they’ve defined their problem. History’s landscape is littered with the carcasses of lives devastated by this phenomena.

We must discipline ourselves to recognize the difference between symptoms and causes of problems; we must train ourselves in the art of problem definition.

It’s natural for us to focus on symptoms rather than causes because the symptoms are immediate and real. Such things as causes and definitions are more illusionary and intangible. But, all the same, we must get to work on this process.

CHILDREN: Out of the mouths of babes and bottles!

A woman was trying to get the catsup out of the bottle when the phone rang. Determined to win the condiment war, she asked her four-year old daughter to answer the phone.

“It's the preacher, Mommy,” the child reported. Then she added back to the phone, “Mommy can't come to the phone right now … she's hitting the bottle.”

NEIGHBORS: Those Ninevites around us!

"Then God said to Jonah, 'Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?' And he said, 'I have good reason to be angry, even to death.' Then the LORD said, 'You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?'"
Jonah 4:9-11
A couple attended a neighborhood wedding reception. While there they had a wonderful time conversing with a very polite young man. Eventually, he excused himself but was quickly replaced by a friend and neighbor. They apologized for not introducing the young man but admitted they didn’t know his name. “O’ that’s all right,” she said. “We already know him, he’s our son.”

This illustrates a problem of our time; frustrated with the sad state of our world we complain loudly yet insulate ourselves from our own neighbors. How can we expect our voice to be heard when we so uninvolved. This attitude is close to calling into question the very character of God (perhaps even his nature).

God has clearly told us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” [Matthew 22:39] He also provided the parable of the “good Samaritan” [Matthew 10:30-37] for the same reason. God wants us to know our neighbors.

Only when we sincerely seek the redemption of our fallen neighbors, rather than their capitulation to our world-view, will we understand how God is “slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” [4:2] toward all men!

Only when we serve God unconditionally will we ever understand how God is “a gracious and compassionate God” [4:2] toward all men!

Jonah was a normal, everyday human being, from a normal common in life; but he was RUNNING FROM GOD. God was just not doing things the way Jonah wanted them done.

Jonah was living his life pretty much as God asked him to; but these Ninevites? AARRRGHHHH!!!!!!

SANCTIFICATION: No longer able to!

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."
Colossians 2:6-8
One day my friend Steve led a printer friend to a saving relationship with the Lord. The next day he received an excited call from his “baby” brother. “What have you gotten me into? I come in to work and realized I can’t print half the stuff I usually do.”

Life changes when we are baptized into Christ; we are no longer able to live as we once lived.

MARIOLATRY: The message is inside!

Editor’s note: If perhaps we have Catholic subscribers, it’s not The CRIB's intent to offend with this illustration; it’s simply our intent to propagate the truth as we know it; and, from a conservative, evangelical point of view, the worship of Mary is a form of idolatry.

Our hope is that our Catholic friends will consider the illustration’s aim and, perhaps, see why we believe what we do. We, on the other hand, are anxious to hear their apologetic concerning Mary as well.

A friend said worshiping Mary (revering her as divine) was refusing to open a letter from a special person because the envelop so impressed you. The envelope has the right “address,” the correct “return address,” and the correct postage but remains unopened.

My friend explained no matter what you like or don’t like about an envelop, it’s what inside that matters.

Mary knew who the letter within her was from, she also knew who it was for, and that the postage was prepaid … it was and is the content of Mary’s envelop which matters.

MARRIAGE: Separation is not the answer!

"The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 2:22-24
John Wesley Powell is a name not well recognized today … he was the one-armed, Civil War hero-explorer of an American national treasure, The Grand Canyon and it's great Colorado River.

Something not well known by many people is a place Powell named “Separation Rapid.” This is where three men separated from the main party and attempted to walk out of the canyon by themselves.

What precipitated this separation? A major dilemma! The Powell party had earlier lost one of its four boats and over half their food to the river. The rapids they now faced were more menacing than anything they had previously encountered.

Normally they “portaged” (i.e., carried) their huge wooden boats around such difficulty, but here it was impossible. Two choices were available to the explorers: 1.) abandon the exploration and walk out, into uncharted and hostile territory; 2.) face their fears and plunge headlong into the rapids, trusting themselves to make it.

Three chose the former, while the seven remaining men chose the latter. To everyone’s surprise the rapids only had the appearance of omnipotence; within minutes they cleared “Separation Rapid,” unscathed and with all their provisions. The three separators were never heard from again.

Many times marriage presents seemingly impenetrable obstacles which in fact have only “the appearance of omnipotence.”

In many cases it is true that the couple cannot “portage” their marriage around the obstacle. However, facing their fears and forging ahead, trusting in the grace of God [Matthew 19:26; 2 Corinthians 12:9], may bring a Grand Canyon-like surprise. Taking the “separation” route in marriage is fraught with danger, many have taken it to their great detriment.

When couples come seeking my counsel I remind them a marriage is similar to a front lawn, right out there in the public’s eye: if it’s nurtured and maintained it will serve them all the days of their lives, even though some must periodically be cut nearly to the roots; if ignored, abused, or trampled on it will die.

KOINONIA: The fellowship of believers!

A salesman drove his car into a ditch; nearby was a farm where he asked the owner if he had a tractor to get his car back on the road.
“Nope, but I got my mule, Blue.” Replied the farmer.
“I doubt a mule is strong enough to pull it out.”
“You don't know Blue!” The mule's proud owner responded. So Blue was hitched to the vehicle.
“Pull, Blue!” The car didn't move. So the farmer called out, “Pull, Elmer!” It moved a little. The farmer yelled, “Pull, Biscuit,” and the car was free.
“Thank you so much,” said the truck owner. “But I’ve a question. You called your mule by three different names. Why?”
“Simple,” said the farmer. “Blue’s blind. If he thought he was the only one pulling, your car would still be in that ditch tomorrow!”

REVIVAL: Blow on the embers!

"LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy."
Habakkuk 3:2
When I lived in a cabin in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California, I had a fire in my fireplace all day, virtually everyday; the ash would build up over a few days. Eventually, I’d let the fire die down, then take the ash out to dump it.

I always left a few pieces of burned wood and some embers in the fireplace. When I came back in I’d put some dry sticks and shredded paper on it, then blow on the embers a little … poof, fire and heat!

How God must wish we’d be more like the embers in my fireplace. A little of the Holy Spirit on what’s left after the ash of our lives is discarded and poof, fire and heat!

NEW CREATION: Our spiritual contractor!

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
2 Corinthians 5:17
We know this one thing, if a man owned a house and a contractor offered to restore it, free of charge, he’d be a fool to deny his offer.

Why then do so many men reject the offer of God to restore their spiritual homes? We are indeed a people without spiritual vision.

EVANGELISM: It's too easy!

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."
Romans 10:17
When “Betty Crocker” first introduced her cake mix, women simply didn’t believe a dry mix, in a small box, at a reasonable price would make a cake. The company modified its claims and told women they must add an egg. They believed it … sales skyrocketed.

When Parker Pen Company introduced the first ball-point pen, they asked just 29 cents (editor’s note: I believe this was the price, at least it was a very small amount). Sales were horrible. On the advice of a consultant they made the price over a dollar … sales soared.

How many times will we discuss the Good News of Jesus Christ and see people cling to their unbelief because it sounds too easy. Human nature seems to insist on the appearance of great value where there is none and great poverty where there is vast fortune.

REVIVAL: The people's gospel stew!

LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk 3:2
Revival is like putting last night's stew on the stove. What you have is something which was real good yesterday but has been in the refrigerator since. Now it’s cold, thick, chunky and feels too heavy to eat.

First, the flame from the burner begins to chase away the chill. Then the stew begins to lose its lethargy and starts to warm and thin. Soon, with some stirring, it becomes a warm, fluid, consistent source of nourishment and strength, as it was intended to be.

Churches are like that. Our faith is like that. Once in awhile God needs to put us on the stove of chastisement and stir us up, so we’ll be as we are intended to be.

Stephan Olford defines revival as “the sovereign act of God, in which He restores His own backsliding people to repentance, faith, and obedience.”

SCRIPTURE: God's corrective lenses!

"But what does it say? 'THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART' - that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Romans 10:8-10
With rare exception all of us suffer from deteriorating eyesight. As time passes we’re less able to see what we saw before. What can the older person do when he can no longer read? Get eyeglasses. And when even these fail? If his pride will let him, he can get a magnifying glass.

Sin has caused man’s spiritual eyesight to deteriorate. What was once clearly seen in God’s creation is now dim and fuzzy.

When our own limited God-given senses fail us, what do we do? We go to the testimonies of others concerning the faith. And if these seems unclear or fuzzy? We can go to the magnifying glass of God, His written word.

Remember, in the same way we don’t focus on the glass of the magnifier but on the object needing magnification, we must not focus on the words and letters (logos), but on that which they magnify (rhema) … the Lord Jesus Christ.

GIVING: The biggest Crook In the World!

"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings."
Malachi 3:8
Who is the biggest meanest crook in the world? Is it a terrorist? An abortionist? Is it a Los Angeles gang-banger? A Mafioso? A scammer? Some one who preys on seniors?

Robert Sumner said, “the biggest & meanest crook of all time is the one who steals from God.” [Excerpt from Sword of the Lord; 1960]

I agree with Sumner: those who steal from God must believe God doesn’t know or cannot see what they are doing. It’s like one convict stealing from his cellmate during a lockdown.

They’re like the tenant farmer who was to pay the land owner 10% of his harvest … but no matter how he planted, every harvest was only 90%.

I recall one couple who decided to drive out an unpopular pastor by recruiting fellow church members to withhold tithes. Not only did they fail to drive the pastor out but they brought shame and reproach upon the Body of Christ and the Name of the Lord as the community witnessed the brouhaha which followed.

I read of one lady who told her pastor she’d start tithing as soon as things got better. He looked her straight in the eyes and said, “No, Pearl, you won’t.”

“I beg your pardon!” She bellowed! To which he patiently replied, “If you won’t give $10 out of a hundred, you’ll never give $100 out of a thousand.”

The widow who tithes $540 out of her fixed income, then lives on the $4,860 remainder, is to be much more admired than the businessman who tithes $10,000 out of his income, then lives on the $90,000 left over.

I’m left in breathless wonder at those who claim the blood of the Lamb yet steal from The Great Shepherd of the Sheep.

MATERIALISM: What do I care? I'm dead!

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."
1 John 2:15-17
CNN’s FringeMail reports … a coffin company in Indiana, eager to sell more merchandise, has derived 101 uses for a wooden coffin. Your Coffin Company builds and sells home decor items such as bookshelves, coffee tables, wine racks and entertainment centers -- all made out of coffins.

God says we should not covet the things of this world. All too much and money is spent on things. The truth, as revealed in Hebrews 9:27, is this “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”

ETERNAL LIFE: No hazard alerts are expected!

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
John 3:3
The Australian government recently issued a “hazard alert” for various models of the St. Jude Medical Tempo Pacemaker. They warned that the devices could fail unexpectedly. The pacemakers have “an internal problem which can lead to premature, unexpected device failure”, the warning said.

Man is constantly having to renew things. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born-again. But He told the woman at the well she could drink of living water and would never die.

Forget the pacemaker, give me the water! [“Alert issued over faulty pacemakers,” Australian Associated Press, June 6 2000]

PRETENDERS: Are they in for a surprise!

"... when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."
Matthew 22:11-14
The Associated Press reports a common law couple moved into a nice, empty, two-story $175,000 house. They connected the phone, water, cable and electricity; they added a driveway full of cars, an answering machine, a new computer and a refrigerator.

However, a local real-estate agent suspected something was wrong; he reported it to the police, who arrested the couple. It seems their charade lasted about a month.

Turns out this was his wedding gift to her!

Just as it was possible for this couple to fake ownership of a house for a time, many will attempt to gain entry into the wedding feast of the Son of God, but the truth will be found out!

TRUTH: Go ahead; pucker up!

"and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
John 8:32
Girls at an Oregon middle school were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. After they put it on they would press their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of teenage lip prints behind creating a real mess.

The principal called the suspected culprits to the bathroom; she explained the lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian.

She then had the custodian demonstrate how he cleaned the mirrors. He took a long-handled brush, dipped it into the toilet, then scrubbed the mirror just as he had being doing everyday for some time.

The principal has reported there have been no new lip prints on the mirrors since the demonstration.

If people knew what was really behind the evil they participated in, they would give them up in a “New York-minute.”

Ezekiel gives us a window into this truth when he tells of how the Lord took him to the Temple and revealed the wicked abominations behind the rituals of apostate and idol worshipping Israel [Ezekiel 8].

What was revealed there were “the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” spoken of
by Paul in Ephesians 6:12.

JUDGMENT: The problem with throwing darts!

"But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God."
Romans 14:10
Sally, a grad student, had one teacher who was known for elaborate object lessons. She relates an experience from one of his classes.

One day the students knew they were in for fun day. On the wall was a large target; on a nearby table was a supply of darts.

The instructor told the students to draw a picture of someone they disliked or made them angry. They would be allowed to throw darts at the picture.

Sally's friend drew a picture of a girl who stole her boyfriend. Another friend, drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detail into the drawing.

The class lined up and took turns throwing darts. There was a lot of laughter. Some threw their darts with great force and emotion.

Sadly, because of time limits, Sally did not get her turn. She returned to her seat disappointed. She was now angry with her teacher and wished she could throw darts at him.

The instructor waited until everyone was seated before taking down the bull’s-eye. A hush fell over the room as a mangled picture of Jesus was revealed – holes and jagged marks covered His face, His eyes were almost eradicated.

The teacher said quietly, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” No other words were necessary.

I don’t have anything to add to this illustration … I’m not certain it’s true or from the Chicken Soup series, but that makes no difference, its message is profound.

EVIDENCE: The heavenly CSI!

Why is it that we can tell when a child with dirty hands has been into something … say, the refrigerator? The answer? Because he leaves dirty fingerprints!

Well then, why can’t we tell when the child who washed his hands has been in the same refrigerator? The answer? Because clean hands leave no dirty fingerprints!

Haggai says,
"the word of the LORD came [me] saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Ask now the priests for a ruling: If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?" And the priests answered and said, "No."' Then [I] said, 'If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?' And the priests answered and said, 'It will become unclean.'" [vv.10-13]
Believers look at the spiritual landscape and wonder why all of their efforts provide so little fruit. Perhaps the answer is because people don’t like fruit covered with dirty fingerprints … we know God doesn’t.

After giving the people a pair of allegorical questions (based on Levitical law) Haggai adds, “'So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,' declares the LORD, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.'" [v.14] Ouch!

Recent surveys of spirituality in America reveal a horrible shallowness and ignorance among professing-believers. Our nation is litter-strewn with evidence of believer’s dirty fingers … unbiblical and undoctrinal positions on critical issues abound, leaving the church and the nation “unclean.”

If believers were more aware of sin and unrighteousness, as viewed by God, their passing would go unnoticed due to their “clean” hands. The only evidence would be saved souls and changed lives … and of course the bloody fingerprints of The Risen Lamb of God!

MISSIONS: They don't know they've been set free!

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?"
Romans 10:14
Unfortunately, modern man is much like the people of India following British rule for 300 years. Subsequent to independence, a group of sociologists entered India to determine the effect foreign domination had had on the people.

Village after village was studied, month upon month went by, and the results were startling. The "people" of India were not only unaware the British had departed … they were unaware the British had been there in the first place.

Indians were born, lived, and died without ever knowing their sovereign lived in London, thousands of miles away.

People today are born, live out their lives, and die … not ever knowing their Sovereign lives in heaven across an infinite divide. How will they know their sovereign has provided a Deliverer unless someone is sent to tell them?

DAYS OF NOAH II: In the wrong bed trying to look innocent!

"And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."
Luke 17:26-27
A several years ago, Reader’s Digest ran a splendid story which illustrates the similarity between our generation and that of Noah.

It seems a man brought two young dogs to town with him to get farm supplies; one was a German Shepherd, the other a Golden Labrador. He sternly told both dogs to remain in his pickup until he returned.

Later a woman came into the store and asked if anyone owned the dogs which were running in and out of the building next door. Shocked, the man hurried to his truck. When he arrived, he found his dogs faithfully sitting in the truck bed … of the wrong pickup!

Likewise, we're undone; we've no excuse; we're guilty! We shouldn't pretend innocence!

Our generation, the one preceding the Second Coming of the Son of Man, is no different than the one preceding the flood, and is almost identical to the generation just prior to the Son of Man's first coming!

DAYS OF NOAH: I am my father's son-in-law and my mother-in-law is my stepmother!

"And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."
Luke 17:26-27
The April 12, 1993, issue of Newsweek unknowingly reported the signs of the times.

Bill Wyman, of The Rolling Stones, married his son's wife's daughter, a woman 34 years his junior. Her mother married Wyman's son, Stephan, a man 16 years her junior. That makes Stephan his father's son-in-law and his mother-in-law his stepmother.

No wonder Jesus made this prophetic comment: “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man … .” Truly, those days are upon us!

HUMILITY: Reality is not always observable!

"The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart."
Psalms 51:17 [HCSB]
One day as my wife and I approached a local on ramp to the I-10 in Pomona, California, we were almost blind-sided by another driver. The on ramp was a double-lane on ramp.

We had been stopped at a light across the street from the access ramp and approached it with other traffic from both traffic lanes. For some reason the car to our left and in front pulled into our lane … evidently believing the lane to be empty.

We assume he didn’t realize our lane could enter the freeway along with his. We also assume, he couldn’t see us due to a blind spot. At any rate, he almost sideswiped us.

Blind spots are areas of reality not directly observable for one reason or another.

Philosophical and theological blind spots are inconsistencies in the thought process and are not partial to the host. We have them in every walk and activity of life; many can only be revealed by God … but all are hazardous to out health.

In fact, the highways of life are littered with wrecks caused by both kinds (e.g., cults, false religions, despotism, fascism, TM, psycho-babble, political correctness, activist justices, the United Nations, peace in Jerusalem, the Inquisition, etc.).

The most certain antidote for blind spots available to man is humility and circumspection.

DISCIPLESHIP: A tight grip on our leashes!

We live in an area where we’re not allowed to walk our dogs. In order to give my little critter some exercise, I must walk outside our immediate area about one hundred yards. Of course, I don’t need the exercise, being a virtual clone of Arnold (Tom Arnold, that is).

On an evening a few nights ago we were walking along as free as can be when my hound made a sudden and surprising turn. As quick as you can say, “Spitz Spah,” he grabbed something with his mouth.

Now, I’m a dog owner from way back and I know you can’t allow your animals to pick up just anything they want. Not if you want to keep them healthy, let alone alive.

“Drop that!” I yelled, accompanying the command with a sharp jerk on the leash. Being a very obedient dog, in fear for his life and of his all powerful master, the object was ejected and my dog was dejected.

I’ve prided myself on having excellent relationships with my animals. And voice commands are one reason why. This time I was doubly glad. The object he was about to consume was a bloated animal stomach; a leftover from some local carnivore’s recent meal. These are notorious sources of parasites and poisons … not at all good for the animal, no matter what his instincts tell him.

Christians are a lot like this and God finds it necessary to keep a tight grip on our leashes.

Too often our instincts tell something smells good, feels good, looks good or sounds good but God (being a human owner from way back) says, “Drop that!” Like my dog, we’re dejected when we hear the command because we don’t want to upset God. But too many times the object of our affection is not ejected!

That’s usually when we feel the sharp jerk on our leash, the choker chain tightens and we’re compelled to consider the will of our Almighty God. But, sadly, even then, Christians are unlike my dog; many persist in holding on to horrible vessels of spiritual parasites and poisons.

God is not like me, however; where I would forcibly remove the dangerous object from my pet’s mouth, God rarely intervenes at that level. Rather, He allows us choice as well as consequence; but far too many believers are making bad choices and suffering painful consequences.

ILLUMINATION: The fruit of prolonged consecration!

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ."
1 Corinthians 2:12-3:1
One Fall we planted bulbs … Daffodils, Narcissus, Tulips! They had to be planted in the Fall in order for them to bloom in the Spring … they remained hidden until March and April.

Planting bulbs in Southern California isn’t like planting bulbs in the Northeastern United States. Bulbs, if expected to bloom as desired, require a freeze or at least several days of a very cold weather. We don’t have many cold days in Southern California, let alone freezes. Many of our precious bulbs didn’t bloom.

It’s certainly true that many things of God are hidden for a season, like bulbs, only to be revealed at the proper time. His hidden things, like bulbs, don’t bloom in their planting season, rather, like bulbs, they bloom in due time.

Notice also the bulbs the gardener plants bloom where they are planted, they do not bloom where not planted.

God provides illumination for His people. But the gift does not come unwrapped. In fact a great deal of quiet energy must be spent in order to acquire the illumination offered. As was said by another, “Illumination sprouts from the soil of prolonged consecration.”

Jehovah has been planting His hidden things since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Many have bloomed and provided His creation with glorious bouquets. Others have not bloomed; not because their time hasn’t come, but rather because they were not acquainted with the difficulties of a hard winter.

TREASURE: Keeping our eyes on the right things!

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
Matthew 13:44
Compare for a moment the difference between a mountain hiker and a pearl diver. The hiker is, for the most part, indifferent to the ground under his feet; whereas the pearl diver earnestly examines the ground under him.

That which can be easily obtained is appreciated little by those who obtain it. However, for those up to the task, the joy of obtaining that which requires effort is heightened by the promise of its possible possession.

It is part of the plan of God that His people undergo discipline by requiring they search for His hidden things in order that He may reveal still greater treasures.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

REVENGE: The All-flesh sin!

"For we know Him who said, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.' And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.'"
Hebrews 10:30
When Marie Lupe Cooley, 41, of Jacksonville, Fla., saw a help-wanted ad in the newspaper for a position that looked suspiciously like her current job — and with her boss's phone number listed — she assumed she was about to be fired. ... .

So, police say, she went to the architectural office where she works late Sunday night and erased 7 years' worth of drawings and blueprints, estimated to be worth $2.5 million. ... .

As for the job, Cooley originally wasn't in danger of losing it. The ad was for Hutchins' wife's company. The firm told that Cooley no longer is employed there.

Revenge offers up a plethora of temptations with related biblical admonitions: unforgiveness [
Matthew 6:12], thought-life [2 Corinthians 10:5 (also obedience)], spiritual gifts [Galatians 5:22; specifically "self-control"], self-incrimination [Matthew 7:1-6; 12], God's example [Nehemiah 9:17b], and much much more.
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice."
Ephesians 4:31

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