Monday, December 30, 2013

Make the Message Clear and Plain - Christ Receiveth Sinful Men!

Make the Message Clear and Plain
Barbara Henderson

It was an interesting day in Jerusalem to say the least. In recent weeks Jesus Christ had been crucified, buried, and rose up from the grave.  He was seen by many.  There was no doubt that Christ was risen from the dead.  He ascended to heaven.  His Apostles were gathered in Jerusalem waiting for the time to come to preach!  The crowds gathered, also waiting.  THEN Peter, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, stood up to preach the good news – salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone.

In the crowd listening to Peter preach there were people from all over the place! Most languages and cultures were represented right there in Jerusalem listening to the fisherman tell every individual how to be reconciled to God Almighty and obtain citizenship in heaven through Jesus Christ.  Peter made the message clear and plain.  He did not turn aside to avoid hurting the feelings of those who worshipped false gods.  He did not attempt to entertain in order to get people’s attention.  He did not dress like the most popular culture. He did not care what celebrities were doing at the moment.  He did not have a praise band playing pop music disguised as music designed to please Almighty God.  Peter simply opened his mouth and proclaimed the gospel.  He made it as clear and plain as possible.  He told the truth.  Were some people offended?  Most likely.  Were some converted?  Definitely!  The church exploded with true converts.  Peter made the message clear and plain.  There was no confusion regarding exactly what the message was.  The message was REPENT!  You are walking down a road that leads to hell.  You don’t have to go there.  Turn from the things of this world and look to the gift of eternal life offered through Jesus Christ alone! 

If you have been following the news in the United States you know that headline news was the story of the Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson clearly saying homosexuality is a sin.  He got suspended from his job as a television star on a reality show.  The network – A&E – thought because of the money involved that they would be able to get an apology out of the bearded icon.  It didn’t work!  A&E thought America would rise up and condemn the man for not accepting homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle.  They got a big surprise.  In the end – there was a lot of money on the line, and A&E reinstated the Duck Dynasty patriarch.  Personally, I don’t watch the show.  Having relatives in Arkansas and Oklahoma who could match the Duck Dynasty stars homespun humor and lack of any bending to peer pressure, the show may be just a tad too close to home for me.  However, I am pleased to see a show that represents Christian family values.  I just don’t watch it.  I don’t watch a lot of television period.  I applaud the family values in the show, and their refusal to bend to the forced tolerance that is rampant in the current political, cultural, and social setting in the USA and in the world.  I have been thinking about how to go forward in stopping the sort of evil treatment Christians and conservatives get for simply speaking the truth.  This is what I came up with.

Today I am calling for national rebellion against forced tolerance of anything and everything that is not right according to God.  There is no one person or even half the population of any nation that has the authority to change into ‘good’ what God has clearly called ‘bad’.  End of story.  Do not let the world silence you!  You don’t have to go looking for a fight.  Just be ready to tell the truth when the opportunity arises.  You don’t have to say it in a hateful manner.  On the homosexuality issue simply quoting scripture is enough. Tell those who don’t like the message in the Bible to take it up with God.

We are at war, and this war is far more than a culture war.  This is a war for the truth.  The truth is clearly stated in the Bible on every important subject.  Truth is unchanging.  It is not affected by time, culture, social agendas, acceptable morals in any particular culture or social environment, or quantum leaps in pseudo-science. 

First, there is a personal decision to simply speak the truth when called on regardless of the social or political fallout.  If you wind up facing the giants, remember that you are just a lowly messenger.  You don’t have any authority to change the truth.  Do what is right.  Don’t waste your time trying to fit into the current culture.  Don’t waste your time trying to stay in touch with the current politically correct hot buttons or the social agenda’s making headlines.  If you make a real effort to do what is right according to God Almighty you will make one major effort each and every day.  You will work to treat others the way you want to be treated.  That means treat others with kindness and tell them the truth.  Remember that very often things that are social acceptable or politically correct are not based on truth. 

Second, there is the church.  The duty of every church is to tell the truth without deviations.  That’s it.  When the truth of God is mixed in with pop culture, political correctness, attempts to reach different cultures, or anything else that distracts from the gospel the message is NOT clear and plain.  Listeners have to sort through all sorts of gobbled-gook in order to find the truth.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.  It doesn’t matter if you live in a shack or a palace. The message is the same.  It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, smart of not so smart, the message is the same.  It doesn’t matter if you are from central Africa or Scandanavia.  The message is the same.  It doesn’t matter if your culture is Southern American or Yankee American.  It doesn’t matter if you live in a nation where freedom of choice of religion is allowed or in a nation where accepting Jesus Christ may get you murdered.  The message is the same.  Jesus says come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  That is the message.

There is no better message than the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – the only begotten Son of God.  You can, however, confuse the message drastically by dumbing it down, applying worldly tactics for business growth to church growth, pop culture, social agendas, political correctness, or any other distraction. 

The motto of Christians could be ‘Make the message Clear and Plain’.  Christ receiveth sinful men!

Christ Receiveth Sinful Men

Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.
Sing it o’er and over again;
Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain:
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him, for His Word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Now my heart condemns me not,
Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot,
Satisfied its last demand.
Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Making Peace with Yourself First

War on the Inside Leads to War on the Outside
The True Peace Process
Barbara Henderson

Have you ever wondered what you personally can do to bring about peace on earth?  Or, what can you do to at least be sure you aren’t part of the problem?  Have you ever considered the success rate of appeasing aggressors – whether they are aggressors in your personal life or on a global scale?  I would guess that a conservative estimate of the percent of the earth’s population who would truly like to see the world at total peace is 99% at least.  Can it be possible that the other 1% are the ones causing all the problems?  That isn’t actually the case.  People want peace, but they don’t personally want to begin the global peace process by making peace in the one place where they actually have the authority to make peace.  True peace for the individual begins when an individual makes peace with God Almighty on His terms.  From the vantage point of peace with God, the individual can begin to make peace with those around them.  Sounds simple?  Well, actually it is simple.  It just isn’t easy. 

You will always be on the frontlines of your personal battle with:
your sin nature,
the world systems and all the things they offer,
and the demonic influence of the devil and his fallen angels. 
In other words you are constantly fighting a three front war.  Consider the two fronts of WW2.  The European and the Pacific theaters took all the man-power and will-power the free nations could supply, and the victories were very hard to come by.  Now, imagine if there had been a third front.  To say the least victory would have been much more difficult and the battles likely prolonged in the process.

Second, you have to fight the battle to establish the truth of scripture
in your own heart,
the heart of your family, and
the heart of your church.  Once established, you must fight to maintain the truth. 

Third, you have to fight to be sure that everyone understands the importance of holding fast to the truth and passing the truth on to the next generation.   Today there is an overwhelming number of ‘easy good news’ churches.  The importance of the truth is trivialized in favor of not offending non-believers.  Of course it is wrong to intentionally offend anyone, but the One we should be most concerned about offending is Jesus Christ Himself.  If we do not stand firmly on the foundations of the faith it definitely offends Christ!  Furthermore, to offend Christ is offend our own savior and risk the souls of the lost.  How can they be saved if they do not know how?  How can they know how if no tells them for fear of offending them?  To tell the truth there is probably a little fear of personal embarrassment with most Christians when it comes to that.  No one likes to stand out as someone the world makes fun of or stereotypes negatively.

In the midst of the ‘let’s all get along’ movement in the church, there is a fear of being the one who is divisive.  No one wants to be the one who points out doctrinal error.  Maybe they see some souls supposedly getting saved and they don’t want to quench the spirit.  As long as someone is getting saved then everyone should keep their mouths shut regarding deviant theology and doctrine.  Theology and Doctrine are even considered inconsequential as long as someone is getting saved.  Or, so goes a lot of modern church teachings.  Within these churches there are many willing to consort with denominations known to be in grievous error and even some cults like Mormons.  There is a call for Christians of all denominations to reconcile.  This cannot be done as any committed Christian is well aware.  We are to be reconciled to God.  We are not called to reconcile with every person’s idea of religion.  Neither are we called to bring peace to the world.  We are called to clearly present the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost.  We are not called to make the gospel easier or harder, or to add anything to it. 

The TRUTH is that the deviant teachings, no matter how many souls are allegedly getting saved, are divisive!  They are dividing the church from the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  Did Jesus or the Apostles or Paul ever teach to just get along?  No.  They taught to earnestly contend for the faith.  They thought any error in teaching Christian principles was a major conflict, and they were not hesitant to jump into the fray and defend the teachings of God. 

So, you can see that the battle is continually raging.

The battle is raging within you constantly.  You must be on guard that you are not led astray.  If the Apostle Paul knew he personally had the capacity to become a castaway – someone no longer fit for service – then we can rest assured that each believer has that capacity as well.  Never grow cocky in assuring yourself that you have climbed above the fray and have no risk of falling.

Self defense required – personally and nationally.  Self defense is required!  It is a constant battle, so you must not go into battle unprepared.  You must defend yourself against the major fronts of this war!  Self defense requires restraint!  You must restrain your sin nature.  You must restrain yourself from allowing the things of the world to tempt you into allowing them first place in your heart.  And you must defend against attacks by the devil by continually wearing the whole armor of God.  Restraining evil is not for sissies!  Christians personally work to restrain themselves from doing what God calls wrong.  Nations have laws by which people are required to live.  Law breakers are restrained by punishment for breaking laws.  Free nations often find themselves in the role of restraining and punishing rogue nations who care not for freedom. 

Godly objectives required – personally, religiously, nationally, and globally.
For any war to be won there must be clear objectives. 
Personally, objectives should include personal obedience to God Almighty in a manner that is cheerful and thankful;
holding fast to the truth of scripture; and
giving people a choice in where they spend eternity by truthfully presenting the Jesus Christ of the Bible as they way of salvation.  (These days you have to make it clear that the Jesus Christ of the Bible is NOT the same Jesus presented by Moslems, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any other claim to be Jesus that does not acknowledge Him as the pre-existent, born of a virgin, Triune God of the Holy Bible)

Religiously, the objectives are the same.  Don’t be hasty to lead a rebellion against a preacher that does truthful sermons but doesn’t do much of anything else.  Pray for him, and let God deal with him.  Do be hasty to confront error from the pulpit!  Be sure you are correct.  Get counsel from leaders.  But do not sit still and allow a preacher of the gospel to preach heresy from the pulpit!

And even nationally, when the call to war comes the rules are the same.  The goal is to stop evil doers or at the very least to confine them to as small an area as possible.  It isn’t to gain personal or national glory. It isn’t to increase riches or wealth.  It is to uphold the truth, and work to ensure that all people have a way to at least know the truth and live in a place where life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are things the government is working to ensure to all the people.

I personally have a very difficult time accepting the current armed interventions by the USA in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  The reason is they are trying to confine and restrain evil without allowing the free exercise of religion to our own soldiers or the people of the nations in which they are fighting.  It does not matter in the slightest which repressive Islamic dictator is in charge.  If Christians are persecuted and not allowed to speak then there is nothing the USA or any other nation will be able to do to improve the lives of those living under a restrictive dictator or Islamic combination of theocracy and dictatorship.  There will also be no lessening of hate toward non-Islamic people or safety for those who refuse to kiss the foot of the oppressor jihadists.

So, we are back to the beginning.  Wars come globally because of wars going on inside a person.  There is no global peace as long as there is no peace in the heart of man.  Peace in the heart comes when peace is made with God Almighty.  Personal peace with God is the beginning of peace in a family, a church, a work place, and a nation.  No, there will not be total peace on earth until God Himself is the governor, but there can certainly be a much better world the more people who start the peace process by personally taking care of their own peace with God Almighty.  Honestly, that is the only peace that any individual has the authority to make. 

Regarding those people standing on street corners holding signs or sporting bumper stickers that say, ‘give peace a chance’, each of them needs to pick their own worst enemy and make peace with that person.  Or just pick the person they find most annoying.  Once they manage that they can move on to their next worst enemy and their next most annoying person.  Of course that will never happen because they won’t be able to make peace with anyone who doesn’t want to make peace in return.  Of course it won’t work.  A lot happens in the name of peace that is really just coercing one person or ethnic group or population into the terms set out by the dictator of the moment.  It really is not peace at all.  

It is a good thing to know and accept that the only peace you have any control over is peace between you and God Almighty.  Through that peace - which passes understanding - you may be able to make peace with others. 

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Showing True Love to Others Requires Truth

Hammers and Fire – Agents of Change
Barbara Henderson

Have you ever considered different practical ways that people show their love for someone else?  I’m sure you could make up a list of things that you do that give real evidence that you love someone particular, your family, your church family, and people in general.  You know what you are thinking, and you know what the intentions are behind your actions.  It is quite a bit harder to correctly interpret other people’s actions because you don’t know what they are actually trying to do or the message they are trying to convey.  The problem comes in that no one is able to rightly interpret exactly what you need in the way of help; of, if they do know what you actually need and want it may not be within their capability to actually give you or do for you what you want.  All you can do is do the best you can when dealing with others, and accept things people do for you as doing the best they can considering what is going on in his/her life at that time. 

You don’t have any control over how other people behave.  You can’t make them treat you in a particular way or give you exactly what you need/want at the perfect moment.  You do have control over how you treat others.  For an individual to treat others well there is a key element.  That is love.  To treat your spouse, children, parents, and extended family well requires that you must love them more than you love yourself.  You put their needs and even their wants above your own.  We could go on about this for days.  What are they ways you show unselfishness to others?  Where do you draw the line?  What about what you can give someone or do for someone in contrast to what they actually want or expect from you?  And on and on and on.  The point is to consistently love them more than you love yourself.  This enables you to do what you need to do.  The more you love someone the easier it is to set aside your own wants in order to do something for that person.  If your family is made up of deeply committed Christians, then they are also supposed to love you more than they love themselves.  Ultimately, the sacrifices made for a loving Christian family are repaid in the sacrifices they make for you.  There is joy in seeing their joy.  They have joy in seeing your joy.  It is win, win, win for everyone.

But if you had to pare it down to one simple action that you do for your loved ones, what would be the most important? That one thing is to tell the truth.  This you can do regardless of your social or economic status, your age, your health, your personality, and anything other circumstances in your life.  Obviously that doesn’t mean tell someone, ‘The jeans don’t make you look fat.  You look fat because you are fat.’  It means tell the truth.  That means the unadorned truth.  You can tell the truth with compassion.  You can tell it with the spirit of love that comes from loving that person more than you love yourself.  But the truth is what is of utmost importance, and the truth is what you must speak.  No sound decisions can be made, no right actions can be taken, no good thing can come from something based on lies!  Yes, little lies matter. 

And no-where is the truth more important than when you speak the truth of Bible.  What every Christian needs to always remember is the Bible is full of harsh realities.  Notably, there is the reality of hell.  There is the reality of various sorrows, trials, uncertainties, death, and trouble affecting individuals throughout the Bible.  That is the truth!  When the modern church preaches a very happy life through proper amounts of giving and thinking happy thoughts the church is lying.  The joy of the Lord is very real, but that joy is not bound to circumstances.  Christians often experience many good things in their lives, but they are not exempt from sorrow and trials. 

The Bible is also full of Jesus Christ and how individuals can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ the savior.  The Bible is very clear.  We live once.  We die once.  And then we face eternity.  Believers will face the final judgment as children adopted into the family of God.  They will have an eternity spent in heaven as a joint heir with Jesus Christ Himself.  Those who face eternity without Jesus Christ will spend eternity in hell.  That is the unvarnished truth, or the dark sayings of old mentioned in the Bible.  People don’t like that reality.  It sounds so harsh and filled with sorrow. So, the plan is to avoid the subject for most people.  I can understand that for people who don’t know they have options!  Many people actually don’t know they have the option of heaven through Jesus Christ.  Death is the big question mark, and for these people it is just better to avoid the subject all together.

People want to know the truth.  They want some assurance about what is going to happen when they die. They definitely want to avoid hell if there is a hell.  They want to go to heaven if there is a heaven.  They actually don’t know what heaven really is, but reason tells them that heaven is going to be a better place than hell. 

These people often make it into a Christian church on a Sunday morning.  And there they hear the sweet things of the Bible.  They hear, ‘God loves you. God wants you to be happy. Come to Jesus and see the good things that happen in your life.  And support the work of the church and just watch Jesus bless you personally.’

But they don’t hear the truth that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to heaven.  They don’t hear the truth that Jesus Christ does not mingle with false ways and silly little gods of this world.

People often avoid telling the blunt truth of Jesus Christ because of two things.  First they are simply uncomfortable with speaking out.  This can be overcome by gaining a better vision of the future.  Specifically you want to see the future of those who reconcile to God through Jesus Christ and those who reject Jesus.  One is spending eternity in heaven and one is spending eternity in hell.  If you could wave a magic wand and put someone on the Titanic on a safe ocean liner would you do it?  Of course you would.  Lost souls are sinking into hell.  You have the truth that will put off the ship that is sinking into hell and onto that old Ship of Zion that is going to heaven. 

Another reason people don’t speak up with the truth of Jesus Christ is the fear of offending someone who is already offended by the gospel.  Many people simply don’t want to hear it.  But if they don’t hear it how will they ever come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  It is like they have a shell of titanium covering their hearts and conscience.  Now, sweet words of the good life Jesus is promising them is like rubbing a chunk of titanium with a tiny piece of fine sandpaper.  The effect is going to be negligible.  You will never get through to the conscience that is under the barrier.  On the other hand, there is the fire and hammer approach.  No, I do no mean you can brow-beat someone into accepting Jesus Christ.  But they do have to hear the gospel presented in a clear manner.  Nothing has the power to break through the shell over a conscience except the good news of Jesus Christ. (Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?  Jeremiah 23:29  )  The truth of Jesus Christ is both the hammer and the fire that can bring about the change a person needs to step into the eternal safety offered by Jesus Christ alone.

To avoid telling the unvarnished truth of Jesus Christ and the way into heaven is not loving.  Yet, that is what many churches are doing!  They are so caught up in telling the world that Jesus loves them that they forget there is a lot more to the story.  That is like focusing on Christmas but forgetting Easter!  Yes, Jesus came as a baby, but He also lived a life of sacrifice and suffering which ended with Him being nailed to a cross.  And the rest of that story is He rose from the dead proving His power of death.  It isn’t really about having that perfect life here on earth that you imagined.  It isn’t about finding your soul mate or living your dream of a nice house and car and lovely vacations.  It is about entering the kingdom of heaven for eternity and escaping hell.  It is about showing your love and respect for God Almighty who saved you!  The devil builds fortresses around the hearts and minds of those who belong to him.  Sweet words, platitudes, and forming alliances with the world will not break down these barriers.  It takes the fire and the hammer of God’s Holy Word to get through to these people.  Fortunately, the power is in God.  It isn’t in us or how well we present the gospel, or how powerful our words happen to be, or how much emotion we can stir up in someone, or anything else that is in us as individuals.  It is in the simple truth of the Bible. 

I recently listened to a series on the apostles and their different personalities and characteristics.  It was comforting to learn that Jesus used such a variety of people. He used introverts, extroverts, impulsive, reserved, determined, wishy-washy, older, younger, brave, and even sometimes cowardly.  Jesus used the willing.  That’s all.  It wasn’t their own charisma or brilliance.  He took these frail imperfect men and used them to point many to the entrance to heaven.  After Jesus’ assentation to heaven each apostle preached the gospel without apology, relying on the power of God and not their own.  Once again it was the fire and hammer of God’s word and His power that enabled them to avoid compromise.  It is that same power that will enable individual Christians to speak the truth of the way into heaven without compromise. 

Nothing is more irritating that a supposed Christian saying something like ‘Well – Christianity works for me’ as though something else may work for someone else.  The truth is it ‘works’ for anyone who accepts Jesus’ offer of entrance into heaven through accepting Him as the way, the truth, and the life.  Christianity is not a philosophy designed to help people cope with life. It is the truth of God Almighty.  It is the only means by which one can be reconciled to the God who created him/her.  First believe and you have gained eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.  Then be obedient to God’s instructions as written down for us in the Bible.   (And don’t forget to be thankful.)

The unvarnished truth is becoming a rarity in the pulpit of all places!  Preachers of the gospel go on stage with the sole purpose of presenting an uplifting sermon.  That want to help the congregation experience the Lord.  They have forgotten their job is to clearly tell people how to be reconciled to God, and explain the consequences of NOT reconciling to God during their life time.  The second aspect of the preacher’s job is to teach believers the rules by which God requires them to live.  And, he is to love them more than he loves himself.  The New Testament tells many times that Jesus was motivated by compassion.  His compassion caused Him to act on behalf of those in need.  But we are never told that His compassion involved dumbing down the gospel or trying to make people feel good or have an emotional experience.  I am sure that there is no doubt that people often felt better and were quite emotional when they met Jesus, but those feelings were never the reason for His actions.  And neither should they be the reasons for our actions or lack of actions.  All we have to do is speak the truth as it is written in the Bible.  We don’t have power or authority to change the message.  If people don’t like the message they don’t have to listen to it.  If they don’t like the message they can take it up with God.  But don’t expect the messenger to change the message.  Don’t expect the messenger to avoid giving people in need the message of salvation!  As messengers in the service of Jesus Christ the King the job of Christians is to consistently tell the truth.

For our God is a consuming fire!  Hebrews 12:29

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