Thursday, May 30, 2013

God Creates Evil?

Isa 45:7  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

The skeptic relishes the opportunity to point his finger to the heavens and accuse the 'sky fairy' for His lack of intervention when suffering comes down, when evil evidences itself.

That same unbeliever has no clue as to the ways of the Almighty. God says, my ways are not your ways. As the heavens are far above the earth, so are my ways above yours and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Mysterious are the ways of God, His wondrous works to perform.

With our limited scope, we cannot see all the good that God is up to when tragedy strikes. When cancer invades the body of a dear old saint, when Downs Syndrome enters the home of a humble family by way of a child, or when a tornado rips through an unassuming midwestern town, God is at work and we must search for the blessings which come out of the situation.

In this verse, we find the word "evil" of which the Lord clais authorship. "Rah" - adversity, calamity, displeasure, distress.

Please note that:

He provides the stumbling blocks that He allows us to make in to stepping stones.
He places the clouds in the sky from which we see the silver linings.
He brings us low so we can realize our inability, thus, He can lift us up.
He brings on the enemy so that we may overcome and rejoice in His strength.
He offers sorrow that our joy may abound.
He takes away that which is precious to us so we can know the freedom of being unchained from this world.

Perhaps the following missive from a pastor aiding in the tornado cleanup in Moore, Oklahoma will give some perspective.

I am of the opinion that every young person should experience a few things early on in life. Along with a trip to a jail or prison, a look inside a salvage-yard sports car where blood and glass cover the seats after a teen has lost control from a night of drinking, I would add a walk through a neighborhood where a tornado has had her way. It brings it's own kind of perspective.
The scene was typical for me of this level storm. The strong winds blowing sand, insulation, dirt particles make the experience this time, a little tougher than normal. Good eye protection and a mask are essential items in the Oklahoma winds. The smell of mold, wet fir lumber, exposed dust, natural gas and death-yes all in a breath, make an impression.

The faces of those reeling from the magnitude of it all was all the way from desperation to resolve. Many wanted to and would talk openly over a bottle of cool water and a good pack of snacks. Stacks of hot water on a parking do little good. The area has plenty for now. A semi full of ice chests or coolers would do the trick. Water they do not need more of but fix-a-flat and canned proteins like tuna and peanut butter they can use.
Some folks have a story rehearsed and they really need to tell it. It is often just a nervous chatter and some have little time for more people intruding into their lives. They retreat into their garage and hide in the shadows. All that I spoke to were glad for the offer of prayer on their behalf. Genuine concern, a listening ear and appropriate questions most always seem to engender a sincere response. The spiritual work of walking lay people- lay chaplains if you will, can do the best work in my opinion. Spiritual work. Being out there with the people of the city, feeling it with them brings you to authentic ministry. Most victims will give a curt or all too honest answer to your questions at first, but the deep feelings can come when you ask, "Now, how are you really doing and how may we best pray for you?" Loving people just like Jesus loved children and all people.
It was amazing to see the home place where a 92 year old man sat in a wheel chair in the middle of his bathroom and road out the storm. The frame house was a pile but by God's grace he lived. It will be hard to forget the piece of steel girder that had been carried a half of mile or more from the IMAX Theatre across the interstate and laying in the street of a block of homes. It will be hard to forget those coming to the donations tables with sores from meth use on their faces and arms or those eyeing the piles of rubble looking for something to make a dime with.
It was a pleasure to serve beside Samaritan Purse, Convoy of Hope, Feed the Children, the Baptist Disaster Relief teams, Red Cross, Salvation Army, SERVEMOORE, Colleges and the myriad of good churches from Texas and beyond all in their synchronized colored tee-shirts. Companies who have paid their people and sent them to help for a day or two. My heart was full when I watched contractors who brought their own backhoes or front end loaders at their own expense, not for profit- just to give back. I remember one who pulled up and had 20 plus nails in one tire. Smile still on his face and undeterred. What joy to witness Mom and Pop Barbeque type restaurant serve food off the back of their truck-hot and good-offering blessings on the workers right beside the Red Cross and Salvation Army. What a joy to watch busloads of volunteers from Albuquerque to Wisconsin and the NYFD all together, lending a hand. It was especially good to see parents bringing their older children to a field with minimal danger and together they would bend over and pick a field clean. Everyone should experience it. It will change you like a good third world country mission trip. It brings perspective-personally, materially, and most of all spiritually. A cup/bottle of cool water and heart of compassion from a good believer wins the day for me. Let me encourage you to get out of that office or routine and make a trip. You need this kind of perspective.
Doug Lehman
Bentonville, AR.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

No Other Way, No Other Savior!

Isa 43:11  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. 12  I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. 13  Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?

Only God can save – Isa 43:11-13
Only the blood can cleanse - Heb 9:22 “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (of sin)”
Only by grace through faith - Eph 5:8,9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that, not of yourselves”
Only by Jesus' name -  Acts 4:12 “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby ye must be saved.”
Only by the conviction of the Holy Spirit - John 16:8-9 “He will reprove the world of sin…because they believe not on me.”
Only by the drawing of His love - Jeremiah 31:3 “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Our goodness, gifts, talents, money, looks, restraint, religion, heroics or heritage could not purchase one splinter of the tree on which Christ was crucified. Our salvation is all of God and none of us. There is nothing and no one we can trust other than the Lord's Christ and His sacrificial work done on Calvary for sins forgiven and an entrance into heaven. There is no hope in the Pope, no mercy in the mahdi, no innate goodness in the imam, no power in the priest, preacher or pastor. Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, Mohammed, Joe Smith, Chas Russell, Billy Graham and a million other religious icons are powerless to save.

Come to Jesus, stripped bare of your pride, sins exposed, lay yourself humbly before the mercy seat, trusting only in His grace and goodness for salvation. He is waiting for you now, just as He has always waited. But, the offer will one day expire, come while He is drawing you. Tomorrow may be too late. Call on the Lord now to wash away your sins and accept you into the Beloved.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Promise of God's Protection

Isa 43:1  But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 2  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 3  For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour:

The watch care given to God's kids ought to ease our greatest fears. This assurance of protection given to Israel is no less applicable to His children of today, for we also are His redeemed, called by His name and we belong to Him.

You may well note that we are not promised smooth sailing, According to verse two, we may well pass through deep waters of trials, but the promise is that we are assured of His presence and that the waters will not overwhelm us. We will face fiery trials of affliction, but we will not be overcome by the flames.

The Lord assures us that He is our holy God and our blessed Saviour. Therefore, we must trust His watch care over us.

So, when the trials come, and they surely will, lean on Him, look for His guidance, learn His lessons, and live for a better day.

In the midst of your most severe trials, remember these words which were found scrawled on the walls of a tunnel in Germany after World War Two...

I believe in the sun when it's not shining, I believe in love even when I feel it not, I believe in God even when he is silent.”

Indeed, the sun will shine again, love will shine through and God will shine upon you. He is with you, child of God. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are His and He will not allow your ruin.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Church is not a Church is not a Church

So many churches, so many denominations, so many beliefs. How is a person supposed to know which is the right church? How can you say your church is the right one? Is the right church one you are comfortable with? Is it the one into which you were born?

You need to know, not all churches are biblically legitimate churches. If you really wish to be a part of a scripturally sanctioned church, here is a checklist for you:

ü Does the church have the proper foundation?
o   Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church…” The rock was not Peter, as many think, but the proclamation of Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The church is not built on some man, some self-appointed pastor, but on Christ alone.

ü Does the church have the appropriate authority?
o   When Jesus Commissioned His church, He proclaimed, “All power is given unto me, go ye therefore…”  The word power (Gk – exousia) means authority. To be sure, a person or a group cannot just free-lance a church. It must have the authority that was passed down through His Apostles.
o   A legitimate church must plant a church. No man can hang a church shingle above the door and proclaim himself a church. Churches are local assemblies, called out by Jesus as His bride, His body.
o   The Apostle Paul, that great pioneer church planter, led people to Christ throughout the Mediterranean region, birthed churches and ordained elders (pastors) by the authority of his church, Antioch. The Antiochan church was founded by the Jerusalem church. From those churches were birthed the churches in Africa, Asia and Europe, then America, then the world via missionaries.
o   Whether a New Testament church is a house church in India, a shade tree church in Kenya, an underground church in China or is housed in a brick and mortar building in Paducah, it must be sanctioned by another New Testament church.

ü Does the church have the right doctrine?
o   As the Apostle Paul planted those first mission churches, he instilled in them solid doctrine. He admonished his preacher boys to pay attention to doctrine.
o   Among the doctrinal issues to which we must pay strict attention:
§  The inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures
§  The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Sovereign Creator, Redeemer and Judge.
§  The Deity of Christ, His virgin birth, virtuous life, vicarious death, glorious resurrection and imminent return.
§  The inherent sinfulness of man and salvation by grace alone through the atoning work of Christ on Calvary.
§   The local church, Christ’s bride and body, called out assemblies which meet together to glorify God, observe the ordinances and carry out the Great Commission.

ü Does the church have the true passion?
o   As already stated, the church exists to glorify Jesus, Who is preeminent as Head of His body and the Groom of His bride.
o   Furthermore, the church lives to observe the Scriptural ordinances Christ gave her: Baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper,
o   And to actively and passionately fulfill the Great Commission: Win souls to Jesus, baptize them and teach and train them to do the same.

This is the New Testament Local church. It may look different in various places. Its methods and practices might vary from one to the next, but every Scriptural church has these things in common: Proper foundation, authority, doctrine and passion.

If your church isn’t defined by these basic hallmarks, find one that does. Don’t let tradition, family ties, intimidation, comfort, convenience or habit hinder your being in the kind of church God sanctions and blesses.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Threats of the Enemy

Isa 36:1  Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them. 2  And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field. 3  Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder. 4  And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?

Oh, how he rails against us!

1. “You are weak, I am a man of war - give up!” (5)
2. “Your God cannot deliver you, as other's gods could not save them - give up!” (20)
3. “Give in to me and I will take you to a wonderful place - give up!” (17)
4. “Pay me (the devil) my dues and I will give you plenty - give up!” (8)

Brothers, never give up, never give in, never listen to the enemy's proposals. He is a deceiver, he is defeated.