ELECT?

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Controversy surrounds a teaching about election, or whether people are chosen by God for salvation or rejection. Quit puzzling and read on.

If one is concerned that he was ruled out by God’s election, he should only need to ask if he wants to be included. If the answer is affirmative, he would already be included among that joyful congregation.

I realized that fact by listening to a brief sermon by C. H. Spurgeon. It is a simple enough question and the answer is just as simple. No one will ever be rejected by God if he only desires that  salvation.

But if he treats his salvation cheaply, what was thought to be salvation is void. No one can stand in God’s presence without sincerely wanting to be there, subjecting himself to the Eternal Lord’s perfection.

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HIVES

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Don’t read this if you don’t want itches. Anyway, I’ve been itching a lot lately and it’s about to drive me bananas. I take regular meds for hives, but it doesn’t help much for now.

When I get hives, unconsciously I start scratching. Then it gets really bad. If I kept scratching deeper and harder I’d start drawing blood, and the itching never lets up.

Scratching doesn’t make it less itchy. In fact, without it eventually it would die down – eventually.

Scratching hives are a lot like trying to remedy other needs. Name them, and we have lots if needs, or wants. Some of those, like hunger or shelter, need attention. Yet, if we apply unreasonable effort there it would defeat its purpose.

Seeking happiness is also like scratching hives. When we think we just about have it, that happiness isn’t there any more, like chasing a rainbow’s bar of gold.

Only by chasing God can produce the happiness we want, and that is exactly what He wants for us. Quit “scratching at the hives.” Obey God and he will deliver your happiness.

Walk In One Spirit

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We have one divine spirit, the Spirit of God’s exclusive love(agapaō). All other types of “love” can be captured by our mortal enemy.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE(agapaō) YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:14)

That’s it! It’s the key to God’s plan, for here and for eternity.

It’s that simple? Simple because God spoke the universe into existence. Simple because He gave us His Word. Simple because the Fruit of God’s Spirit is simple.

If you want your life filled with God, you need to bear God’s Spiritual Fruit. If you don’t want God in your life, take your chances with cruel fate.

God’s Simple Fruit

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

God’s domain rises infinitely higher than any given law. If you want wordly law, enjoy its bad fruit.

The Fruit of God’s Spirit is just one fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It’s singular, ie the fruit. It’s not one kind of fruit called love, another called peace, a third called patience, etc. Singular fruit may have many characters, like sweetness, tartness, tenderness, scrumptiousness(getting a bit carried away). Also like fruit, it might be dry, grainy, tough, or other unflavorful characteristics.

This essay would become impossibly long if I covered the whole list. Instead, I will try to do a good attempt at each time I deal with it.

To be continued …

Constant Grumblings

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Have you ever heard the sound of constant grumbling? The guys in the picture sound a lot like that. Sometimes it becomes the sound of white background noise, indistinguishable from the infrequent speaking with real meaning.

I’ve heard that sort of meaningless noise where I worked in manufacturing plants. If you’re in that kind of place, use extreme caution because it might become your own noise.

Here’s an example: Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16:8)

New Testament declares a similar message: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) Note the words: do not notice. Continue reading: “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4) Fully believe this last passage of Jesus’: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:5-6)

And what’s this about, “holy to dogs” and “throw your pearls before swine?” Know well that criticizing others will “tear you to pieces.” Everyone who hears your arguments are fully able to function as your critics. Do not lecture anyone! “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no;’ anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:37) And not to worry, this last bit is out of this context but very applicable as well.

To be a good witness, do your best to quit the grumbling. Otherwise, God will be very ticked.

Rainy Day Blues

My roomie’s little kids were slumped on the couch watching cartoons, fighting and whining. Was the blustery, gray day outside just a coincidence?

Through my window I saw a slate gray sky, but I also saw the trees waving at the sky, almost as if they were dancing with joy. Maybe they knew something that the kids didn’t.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem the last time, crowds of admirers threw their cloaks and palm fronds down in front of His donkey, waving and welcoming him as if He were about to free them from their harsh, Roman occupiers. Here’s part of the story:

And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ” ‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:36-40 NKJV)

Yet, mere days later those same admirers demanded that He be crucified.

Life is seldom as it appears; high above that depressing, gray overcast, mountains of blinding white cumulus clouds reached toward heaven. Sheets of rain fell to water the earth and complete the natural water cycle our Savior created to keep our planet beautiful and fruitful. The tragedy of His sacrifice redeemed us from slavery to the evil one, and His resurrection guaranteed us new, eternal life.

Despite the appearance of alleged evidence to the contrary, we have Jesus’ faithful promises to give us hope for a beautiful eternity with Him:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4 NKJV)

As we face the blues of uncertain, and just plain lousy, circumstances, we must look past them to our Savior, the ultimate promise keeper.

Tongues: Prayer or Pretension

The men’s prayer breakfast I attended Saturday included an Assembly of God pastor’s lesson on spiritual gifts, and most specifically, the gift of tongues, ie, spiritual utterances in a language unknown to the one doing the uttering. Lately God has been convicting me about my need for a more mature or complete devotional life. Does that mean “praying in tongues” as the Pentecostals urge? And make no mistake; Saturday morning included plenty of urging.

My personal position on the issue is as neutral as I can make it, with others’ extreme opinions ranging from, “unknown tongues are of the devil,” to, “you’re not saved unless you speak in tongues.” Rather than spouting my own opinions (if indeed I had any worth spouting) as holy writ, I adjure my Lord Jesus to reveal His truth to me in His own way and time.

Somewhere in my thousand-plus blog posts I related my own experiences with spiritual utterances, but since I’m not inclined to search for it, I’ll risk repeating myself:

Long ago, in a Bible campground far, far away, a young Christ-follower—I’ll call him Jim—sat in a Charismatic worship service. Jim earnestly sought God’s truth to shape his life into ever greater Christ-likeness. During the worship service, the speaker briefly expressed himself in an unknown language, but a spontaneous thought occurred to Jim in English as the leader spoke. Not much more than a second later, a man on the other side of the auditorium stood and said exactly, word-for-word, what Jim had thought … and that was that. Had Jim possessed a greater Scriptural understanding of the spiritual gift of tongues, he would have stood up to confirm the other guy’s interpretation.

On another occasion, Jim had attended an interfaith worship service and Bible study. Afterward, the group split unto smaller pockets of people to pray as the Spirit moved them. With eyes closed and hands joined in the circle, Jim felt let to pray. Apparently he prayed in English, as after the prayer session, and to Jim’s amazement, the small group, almost as one, told him how blessed and convicted they were by his prayer. The amazing part is that Jim had no idea what he had said. While this situation did not involve speaking in tongues per se, I believe God’s Holy Spirit spoke through him because of the effect it had on the listeners.

I have no desire to repeat the pro-and-con arguments regarding the Pentecostal experiences in today’s church. Plenty of web sites provide decidedly biased arguments for both sides of the issue. I do urge you, the reader, regardless of your opinions, to prayerfully continue seeking God’s truth on this, and every issue of life, always willing to change your cherished, long-held beliefs as God leads through His Word.

And remember; how you pray matters little, so long as you do it with contrition for your sins and sincerely seek His way.

IN SUPPORT OF FAITH

As I watch science-oriented presentations—yes, that’s spelled Y-o-u-T-u-b-e—I realize opinions based on faith and/or ignorance are worth what you pay for them … But, I detect a pattern in scientific research. Even the vaunted scientists are proved ignorant eventually.

That’s where faith comes in. Science-based ideas seem satisfying, until something new proves them obsolete. And that’s one of the bases for unchanging religion’s appeal. Regardless what your world view, acceptance or dismissal of ideas comes down to faith, because only God knows ALL the answers.

The Deeper Side of Christmas

This morning no gifts beckoned me from under my Christmas tree. For one thing, the Christmas tree belongs to my room mate, and any gifts there belong to his two little kids. And the other reason no gifts awaited me is I’ve sort of outgrown the commercial side of, “the Holidays.”

I received my greatest Christmas gift ever forty-odd years ago when I accepted God’s gift to me, “For God so loved [you and me] (so much) that He gave His only Son after His own kind (the physical embodiment of His eternal Word), that anyone who believes (accepts and places his confidence) in Him should not perish (see perdition or destruction), but have (possess permanently) [Jesus’] eternal life.” There’s a mouthful that you can take to God’s heavenly bank.

Those who believe this promise, and many others we find in God’s revealed Word, will feel a level of joy like none other. But those for whom Christmas has morphed into, “the Holidays,” get to enjoy a warm family time … after a month of chasing the perfect presents around the shopping malls and big box stores … and worry about paying for all the excess over the other eleven months. Amazing how heavy those little pieces of plastic can get, isn’t it?

Now that the rush is over, maybe you can flop into your favorite chair and contemplate what Christmas means to God. Think of what it would feel like to give your own child as ransom for the captives who hate you, for the ungrateful multitudes who have killed your messengers, despoiled your home and reviled your name. Most of them would reject your beloved child and suffer the consequences, but you would receive and embrace those few who love and embrace him and the freedom he bought for them.

May the deeper meaning of Christmas bless you now and forever.

Accountability

The financial industry, and the government agencies that oversee it, pass stringent regulations to prevent profiteering. That is completely understandable, as our fallen human nature is rife with greed and avarice; many people will do anything for a buck, or a million of ’em

Profiteering, though, isn’t exclusive to the financial industry, or even the government bureaucracy. Religion has more than its share of greed and avarice, if not for material gain, then certainly for a reward in the afterlife. These days we hear of Muslim “holy warriors” blowing themselves up to take the infidels with them, all to gain the martyr’s status with its reward of seventy-two virgins—or so the story goes. Yet, there is are examples of religious opportunism far closer to home.

Christendom offers many examples of religious opportunism, from multimillion dollar televangelists to the small church’s big donor who expects to run the whole little show. I call them big cogs in little gears; they don’t mesh, and are proud of it.

Regardless the arena or the scale, fallen humanity loves to opt out of accountability. We fancy ourselves as our own authority—even as we give lip-service to our devotion to God.

A less obvious, though far more common, religious opportunism is taking Apostle Paul’s inspired words out of their Scriptural context. When the apostle wrote of our liberty in Jesus, he did not mean to suggest that we could get away with taking God’s grace for granted, as many so easily do.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NKJV
(12) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.”

Those who use Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10 to justify an opulent lifestyle are just as guilty of misusing Scripture as Muslim martyrs, and their judgment is just as sure. Some of us have the gift of earning wealth, but forget about Jesus’ words regarding treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
(20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we begin as a, “rainy-day fund,” takes on a life of its own, ruling us with a dictator’s iron gauntlet or hob-nail boot. You’re right, I didn’t mention spiritual or moral responsibility, but your treasure’s location speaks to those as well.

Atheists balk at accepting God’s existence either because some “Christian” demonstrated unchristian behavior toward them, or because if they did they would have to be accountable to Him. Why can’t God’s church see that principle just as clearly?

No Limit

If this title were to suggest to you a rap by Usher you likely wouldn’t be reading this blog post … so fergetaboutit. Not that rap-fans can’t be Christ-followers, but, just sayin’ …

There’s another use for, “No Limit,” and that’s from—drum roll please—the Bible!

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits. (Psalms 71:15 NKJV)

One rock-solid fact of life is you can’t overstate God, His righteousness, or the wonder of His salvation. Nobody ever had praise down like King David, yet even he ran out of adjectives with which to glorify God.

Not that God needs our praises to feed His ego, but as His creation, our purpose, our destiny, is to lift up holy hands in praise to Him, to magnify His perfection, His holiness, His love. In short, everything about Him is worthy of our praise. If only we knew the half of His glory we would spend eternity declaring it.

So tear down that Pentecostal or Calvinistic box you’ve built around our eternal, infinite God! There’s no limit to His praiseworthyness.