CONTRASTING CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

The unique strength, beauty and usefulness of the believer’s life is found in its CONTRAST to the world never in its CONFORMITY to the world. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 Because of our old natures, however, we must fight constantly the urge to conform …or at least be enough like the world so that it isn’t immediately apparent that we belong to Jesus.

Now there is no value in contrast for the sake of contrast alone. The wild eyed street corner preacher who yells that the world is going hell is in contrast to the people passing by, but it is a surface contrast only. The true believer is different by the very nature of his relationship to and standing with God in Christ…The believer is alive, the world is dead. The believer walks in the light, the world is in darkness. The believer has a heavenly hope, citizenship, and inheritance. The worldling has only a life that is rooted in an earthly existence.

When will we learn that we attract people to Christ and His Church by being different from the world not by being like the world? Very often the secular person doesn’t pay much attention to us professing Christians because he sees in us only a dull reflection of himself. In our desperate effort to be “relevant”, we have lost our distinctive character and power.

I am for flexibility and common sense and changing methods in ministry when necessary. And I am for charm and grace and winsomeness in witnessing, but let’s dare to be the different people God has chosen us to be. Let us remember that every true saint of God in history has stood out in stark contrast to the sick and sinful society into which God sent him to witness. He was never there to CATCH the spirit of his time, but rather to CORRECT it! Amen.

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WISDOM

In a world with more schools of higher learning than ever in history and with modern technology that gathers and disseminates information with such speed and accuracy that it blows the minds of most of us, the question I raise is does all of this make us any wiser…do we find true wisdom in the accumulation of all this great information and knowledge?

Consider a few definitions of wisdom…The Oxford English Dictionary defines wisdom as the capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct…The Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas said that wisdom is the father of all virtue and the English pastor and teacher Charles Spurgeon defined wisdom as the right use of knowledge.

The purpose of this simple study is to get a Biblical perspective of true wisdom. The word wisdom is used over 200 times in the Bible, so it is a vital subject in God’s Word.

It is important to understand that there is a kind of wisdom in the world that is not true wisdom. Paul says this in I Corinthians 1:18-24 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent’. Where is the wise? Where is scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through(Its) wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews require a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Wise Solomon said, “The Lord gives wisdom.” Proverbs 2:6 He is the source of all true wisdom. Paul affirms this in Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

James us tells us how to get this wisdom. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” And then he defines and describes this wisdom in James 3:17 “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Finally, it is essential that we understand that the wisdom of God is not just a doctrine to receive but a Person to know…The Apostle says that in the Lord Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3 Jesus is wisdom personified! And when experience and express His wisdom we can say with Jude, “To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.”

LESSONS FROM THE HORRIFIC MASS MURDERS IN LAS VEGAS

The depravity of Adam’s race is the obvious first lesson from this senseless destruction of human life. Our President was correct when he defined this awful deed as “evil”. Jeremiah focuses on this when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately (incurably sick) wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:8 We live in a fallen world and the major problems we face in society each day are all related to bad behavior. Our children never have to be taught to do bad things, they do that on their own! “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3

When Stephen Paddock killed 59 and wounded over 200 in his demented rage, he touched those who are created in the image of God. They are all a part of our human family and we weep and grieve. We feel a severe loss.

And we pray. We know that God knows how to bring good out of evil, and so we will trust Him for good in a very bad situation. We pray for people we do not even know, knowing that God knows them and is a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 May many come to faith in Christ in this tragic ordeal.

We celebrate also those who faced the deadly fire of Paddock in order to protect others. Several lost their lives. A crisis will often bring out the best in people.

With many of us, our initial reaction was anger and the desire to get even with the perpetrator of this horrible crime. But that is not our prerogative. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19.

We are certain that justice will ultimately prevail. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this judgment.” Hebrews 9:27 An evil man took his own life after his dastardly deed, but he is not annihilated…he will stand before Jesus the righteous judge and give account. II Timothy 4:1 4:8

With all of this before us we are reminded of Paul’s admonition, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” II Timothy 3:1 Perilous indeed! But we believers have a blessed hope! See Titus 2:13 Amen!

ON MEDITATION

Great saints have always been skilled in the art and practice of meditation. Speaking of the Word of God, the Lord said to Joshua, “you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then you shall make your way prosperous and then you shall have good success.” Joshua 1:8 God’s formula for the prosperity of His people is: ABSORB THE WORD IN MEDITATION AND ACT-OUT THE WORD IN MINISTRY. We are to observe and obey!

How can we establish the habit and enjoy the practice of meditation?

There must be, first of all, a desire for the Word of God. It is to the hungry and seeking heart that God gives His choicest morsels. Wise Solomon said, “if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; If you search for her as for hid treasures; then you shall understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”

There must be personal intake of God’s Word. We cannot meditate on truth that we do not have. God does not work in a vacuum. Through hearing, reading, studying and memorizing God’s truth we will find those special portions that we will desire to focus the gaze of our soul upon in meditation.

We should keep the portion for meditation before us. Underline it in your Bible, or print it on cards that can be kept in view on the dash of your car or by the kitchen sink or near your favorite chair. (Electronic devices?)

Turn the text over and over in your mind and ask questions…What does it say? How does it apply to me? How does it encourage, rebuke, comfort, convict, feed, enlighten or bless me?

Finally, share what you receive with others. Your blessing in meditation will then continue in the lives of others. AMEN!

(Taken from my files)

CASTING YOUR CARE

“CASTING ALL YOUR CARE UPON HIM, FOR HE CARES FOR YOU.” I PETER 5:7
(This is from my files. It gives a fuller treatment of the text that I recently posted.)

For the most part,I have had a positive attitude toward life. My blood type is B Positive! But I have observed that as I have grown older I tend more toward focusing on the problems that come with ageing. Losing physical strength, mental acuteness and other related issues take their toll in my life.

So, my opening text has helped me in recent days. Please consider with me some truths from the verse that will help us cope positively with the daily cares that come to us all.

“Casting” We have a choice when cares come…we can cast them or keep them. If we cast them, God takes them. If we keep them, we have only our own inadequate resources and abilities to bear them.

“Casting all your care.” All is a big little word. Whatever creates anxiety in my life is to be given immediately to Him. Sometimes the accumulation of the trivial can be a major problem…an appliance breaks down…a pet gets ill…noisy neighbors keep you awake at night…heavy traffic makes you late for work…your morning newspaper doesn’t arrive. The list could go on and on.

In our secular world, being self-sufficient is very important. Getting help is viewed by many as being a sign of weakness. Only “wimps” get help. In this view of life, all of us have latent powers within us just waiting to be tapped. Therefore I need not look outside myself for anything essential to my well being.

The author of our text was writing to people who were experiencing persecution. Who do you trust and what do you do in such troubled times? The simple and yet profound answer is..”Casting all your care upon Him.”

“For He cares for you.” His care for me is just as certain as His love for me. Care is one of His never failing attributes. We see it demonstrated many times in God’s Word:…God cared for Noah and his family in the ark…He cared for Abram as he moved away from his home into the strange land of Canaan…He cared for the Israelites as they moved through the barren wilderness… He cared for the widow when the oil ran out…He cared Daniel in the lion’s den…He cared for the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace…He cared for the disciples on the stormy sea…He cared for Stephen when he was stoned to death…He cared for the imprisoned Paul by sending aid from the believers in Philippi…He cared for the exiled John on the remote island of Patmos. Through him He gave the final book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ…Dear Lord, let me embrace this text and personally experience your care for me and then share this care with others. AMEN.

DOES ANYONE CARE?

“CASTING ALL YOUR CARE UPON HIM, FOR HE CARES FOR YOU” I PETER 5:7

Peter was addressing people in this epistle who were suffering persecution. He speaks of them being “grieved (distressed) by various trials.” We may not be experiencing the severity of trials that those first century saints faced, but all of us believers have trials. As we look at the text, please think with me about the following:

When trials or cares come into our lives we have a choice to make…we can keep them our cast them! We can keep our cares and try to cope on our own or we can cast them all our great God and let Him carry the weight of our problems. Our modern culture has told us to be self-reliant and self-sufficient, but that doesn’t help us when our stresses are far greater than our strength.

The last phrase of our text is a great comfort for all of us in the family of God. It says, “He cares for you.” He cares for you when the money runs out.. He cares for you when your marriage partner leaves…He cares for you when the diagnosis is cancer…He cares for you when you did not make the team…He cares for you when your child gets hooked on drugs…
And this list of life situations could go on and on. Name whatever care you have, large or small, and know for certain that He cares for you!

In closing, please be encouraged to know that His care is very personal. He cares for YOU! With all the myriads of believers who receive care, you are treated as if you are the only one that He cares for! What a great blessing this is for all of us who belong to Him in this uncaring world! AMEN.

AUTUMN

This is the first day of Autumn. Pleasant days, crisp nights and a grand display of colors are just before us. For many, it is the favorite time of the year.

The new season brings all of us back to schedules and routines that make life a little more orderly and predictable. It is back to school and back to work. For some, it may be back to church!

Wise Solomon tells us that life itself has seasons. Do you remember his words in Ecclesiastes 3:1? “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.”

Sometime ago a man spoke to the men of our church. After years of research and study, he was convinced that all men live their lives in pretty well defined stages or seasons. He said that if we would give him our age, he would identify the stage or season that we are presently in. When I told him my age, he informed me that I was in the Patriarch season of life! Seeing the questioning look on my face, he assured me that the Patriarch season can be very fulfilling and productive. He pointed out that the primary ministry of Patriarchs was blessing people. Abraham blessed Isaac and Isaac blessed Jacob and Jacob blessed his sons, and so it went on from generation to generation.

So, the application is quite clear…In this season of my life I am to bless people. This will obviously start with my children and grandchildren and then from them on out to as many as our sovereign and gracious Lord will choose to touch.

I fully understand that I am not the source of blessing. God alone is the source of all blessing, but I can be the conduit or channel. God help me! Amen.

LOOKING FOR HIS COMING

All believers are looking for the second coming of our Lord. We differ in our understanding of how all the details of that great event will fit together, but we all believe His words, “I will come again.” These are thrilling days in which to live because there are definite trends taking place now among men and nations that will have their consummation and fulfillment when He returns. As we see these developments, we can know that His appearing draws near. I point to some of these that are apparent to all discerning people.

The increase of lawlessness. Those who are disobedient to parents (II Timothy 3:2), express strong will and despise authority (II Peter 2:10) will find in Antichrist, the Lawless One, their champion. They will identify with him and follow him, only to be destroyed with the brightness of Christ’s coming. (II Thessalonians 2).

The increase of knowledge in every sphere of learning and the rapid movement of people around the world. (Daniel 1:4).

The rise to power of Russia with her increasing focus on and involvement in the Middle East. She will move with military force against Israel but will be destroyed in the Holy Land. (Ezekiel 38 and 39).

The continuing effort on the part of the nations making up the territory of the old Roman Empire to find a basis for unity and common currency. The Euro? The European Common Market concept is interesting in view of the fact that there will be a revival of the Roman Empire in the form of a Ten Nation Federation. (Daniel 2 and 7).

The strong religious movements of today. The Body of Christ is growing in phenomenal ways. Through modern technology such as radio, television and internet connections, more people are hearing and responding to the gospel now than at any other time in the history of the Church. In contrast, there are a plethora of false religions that are leading multitudes to eternal destruction. (Revelation 17,18,19 and 20).

Widespread famine, war, earthquakes and natural disasters. (Matthew 24:6-8).

The falling away of many from the professing Church because lawlessness abounds and because some have left their first love and have become lukewarm in their devotion. (Matthew 24:1-13 Revelation 2 and 3). With this, however, we can expect to see great zeal on the part of true believers to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 24:12).

May we WAIT for His coming…(I Thessalonians 1:10)…LOVE His coming…(II Timothy 4:8)…And LOOK for His coming…(Hebrews 9:28)…AMEN!

GRANDPARENTS

We recently observed Grandparents Day. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my role as a grandparent. Think with me about the following:

As a Grandparent, I find joy in my grandchildren. I celebrate their lives and glory in their achievements. “Children’s children are the crown of old men..” Proverbs 17:6

As a Grandparent, I believe God for their salvation. I cannot save them but I can believe God to save them. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and YOUR HOUSEHOLD” Acts 17:31 (Emphasis mine) I am to believe God for my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. They must exercise personal faith, but I am to believe first!

As a Grandparent, I share in the important events in my grandchildren’s lives. Being a minister has given me the opportunity to give pre-marital counseling, take part in wedding ceremonies and perform baptisms. These were all very deep personal experiences in my pastoral ministry. I cherish them to this day.

As a Grandparent, I have enjoyed family reunions, picnics, sporting events and holiday celebrations. It has been my observation that our children and grandchildren enjoy being together. What a blessing!

As a Grandparent, I have prayed and wept and waited on our dear Lord as some of our grandchildren have gone through severe trials. Some of those trials continue, but God is faithful!

As a Grandparent, I have been most grateful to see our grandchildren serve the Lord by serving people. This service is seen in the military, police work, medical work, preaching/teaching, oversees missions, children’s Bible classes and being good parents in the home and good citizens in the community.

As a Grandparent, I have had the privilege of preaching/teaching the Word of God to you from the lectern or the pulpit. “O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare your wondrous works. Now that I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to the next generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” Psalm 71:17-18. Because of physical limitations, I no longer preach and teach in public as I once did, but I do have a blog site where I present a Biblical perspective on current issues. https://todaystruthweb.wordpress.com

Finally, as a Grandpa, I join with Grandma Grout in the ministry of praying for you. Please send your requests.

An amusing closing quote from one of our grandkids. “Grandpa, why do you have hair on the back of your head but not on the front?” Why, indeed?!!

SPIRIT OR SITUATION CONTROLLED?

Believers are either Spirit-controlled or situation-controlled. And what controls us will determine the outcome of all the events in our lives.

Paul and Silas in the Philippian prison are good examples of how the Holy Spirit can control believers in adverse situations. A prison is obviously intended to be a controlling place. Cells and chains are meant to restrain people. But these two chained prisoners were never more free to totally serve the Lord! You can control humans but you cannot control the sovereign Spirit! At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God. They were limited horizontally but not vertically! They were not resigned to their impossible situation but fully expected God to work, and He did. In fact, He really “shook-up” the place by sending an earthquake! Soon after this the jailor and his household were converted. What could have been a very negative situation became a salvation situation! Only the Spirit of God could orchestrate all of this.

And this is not the end of the story. These prison events led to the establishment of the Philippian church in Macedonia. This was the beginning of gospel work in Europe.

Most of us in this part of the world trace our spiritual heritage to Europe. Paul and Silas were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go to Asia. So, in God’s providence the gospel went West rather than East. Read the whole account in Acts 15:40-Acts 16:1-34.

Two Spirit-controlled men triggered a series of God-blessed events that continue to this hour and will continue for all eternity! “Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgmnts and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.