What’s The Problem?

Pr 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

In today’s fragmented society we hear about so many tragedies and fragmented families.  Questions are flying as to why is everything seeming to fall apart and what can we do about it?  Perhaps the wisest man I ever have known was my father.  It was his example and love that was responsible for me getting saved.  He had a saying that he shared in such a time as this.  He would say, “you can’t fix it until you know what’s broke.”  As long as we only treat the symptoms, we will not find a lasting solution.  There is a lot of genuine soul searching and serious effort being made to resolve the problem but there seems to be little understanding as to what the problem is; that causes families to fall apart (50 + % of marriages end in divorce within 5 years); that cause students to come apart and go on a shooting rampage; that causes so much disrespect for our first responders, our traditions, our parents, our laws, etc.; that drives the wedge of division between one another; and on and on so that the very fabric of our society begins to disintegrate?  What is the real problem or problems and is there any common ground that we can build on?

I suggest that the problem is not so complex as we might think.  Many of our problems have a common denominator.  For example, the shootings in the schools are a symptom of a deeper problem of inner lostness of purpose and hope.  That condition has a variety of contributors such as fear, bullying, not being heard or valued, failure, etc. but the solution is simple, just give them hope and direction.  Tearing down the value system of a society creates insecurity and uncertainty.  If a value is wrong fix it but don’t throw out the whole system just because one thing needs fixed.  We live in a time where we as a nation, have devalued life,(abortion), legalized social vices that kill hundreds of thousands of people every year (smoking, alcohol, drugs, etc.), rioted, robbed and raped without significant consequence, We have become an entitlement society but reject responsibility for our actions.  When you rip the moral fabric out of society, this is what you get.  We have kicked God out of our schools, homes and government and wonder what is wrong.  It is oh so clear to those who can see beyond their me-ism.  Our creature comforts belay the rottenness of our soul and we are drowning in the sea of selfishness.

So what is the solution?   Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.  Jeremiah nailed it.  We cannot change it because the results are just exposing what is within.  Since we cannot change what we do, we need to be changed in what we are.  This is something that has to come from beyond us.  God alone can change what we are and therefore changes what we do.  Your actions are simply the expression of what you are.  If you truly want things to be different, then you have to be made different.      2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  Galations 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

There is really only one problem and that is us.  Pogo had it right, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  All of the symptoms point to a sin sickness in the hearts of man.  The solution has been written thousands of years ago and here it is.  2Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  It doesn’t require everyone, just His people who are called by His name to do three things; humble themselves, pray and seek His face.  Whenever we meet these conditions we have His promise to hear from heaven,  He will forgive our sin and heal this land.  Its as simple as that.




Which Way?

Pr 16:9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

The book of Proverbs is so full of wisdom and direction.  I find so much clear instruction that I go there to just realign my thoughts.  This verse is such a verse and worthy of our consideration.

Someone said that we are the sum of our choices.  I think that there is a lot of truth in that statement.  Sometimes we make wise choices and sometimes they are not thought out but all of them come from the heart.  It is what we desire, or think on, or value that make our choices, our choices.  Individually, each choice is our vote to move in a certain direction.

Notice the word “deviseth” that it has the eth ending which in the original language, means that it is a continuous choosing.  It is not a one time choice but a pattern of living.  It is the true expression of the heart.  It should not surprise us that we make the choices we do for those choices expose the heart.  If we are often surprised at our actions, it is because we are kidding ourselves.  Invariably, we do what we truly want, or believe or value.  To change our actions requires first of all that we be honest with ourselves.  It also requires that we consider and study our values.  If we seen no profit is preparing for the future then we will continually be caught with shortages and hard times.

It is also important to realize that there are factors working that are beyond our control.  The fact that the Lord sets the order in the universe and is ultimately in control of all things.  Just think for a moment, history is really His story, because He is the one who is in control.  We may think that we are running our lives and make our choices but like a man traversing the wilderness, we can only cross the terrain at certain points.  Our way may be blocked by a cliff or river or any number of obstacles.  God can bring us where He wants for us to go without violating our will.  We can fight the elements or we can be led on the pathway of greater blessings.  You can do it the hard way or you can learn the better way.  Fighting the Lord is costly and difficult.  choose righteousness for He will not let you go once you belong to Him.

Pr 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

What To Do?

Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?   29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

This is a fairly common question, both in the Bible and in the world today? Here it is stated, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ and in Mark 10:17 and Luke 1025, 18:18 the rich young ruler asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life’?  What am I supposed to do?  What does God want from me?  This is how it sounds in modern day language.  Though it may be stated in many ways it remains the same question.  It is based on our merit system mentality of earning the reward by some act or benefit forfeited.

In our Scripture today we find Jesus stating the answer as clearly as anywhere else in the Bible.  It has been a favorite couple of verses to me for most of my Christian life.  The answer is direct and to the point.  The only requirement is to believe on Him whom He hath sent.  It requires not deeds or sacrifice since that was paid by Jesus when He gave His own life for our sins.  Payment was made in full.  To attempt to pay for it yourself is an insult to God and ultimately says “God, your work was insufficient.”  Who would intentionally say such a thing?  Yet, when we attempt to pay for our own sin, that is exactly what we are saying.

This also begs the question, What then does it mean , to believe on Him whom He hath sent?  In the original language of the Bible (Konia Greek)  the word believe and the word faith are exactly the same root word and can be substituted one for the other.  Scriptural believing then is the same thing as trusting, relying on, dependence upon, etc.  The work that God requires of us is not doing mighty things but totally relying on Him to do for us what is impossible for us to do, righteous living.  It is impossible for us because of our merit system mentality and we find it impossible to to think any other way until He reveals it to us.  Believing in Him is the sum and the jist of our works that please Him.  Notice in Romans 14:23b for whatsoever is not of faith is sin and again in Hebrews 11:6a  But without faith it is impossible to please him:  that all else  beyond faith or believing is not only distasteful and an insult, but frustrates the grace of God.

I have gotten over trying to work for God and now I long for God to work on and for me.  Just think about that for a minute.  Who is in trouble here, God or me?  God doesn’t need help, but I do.  Anything God wants done, He can easily do.  He isn’t focused on accomplishing deeds, but He is very focused in finishing me.  I am not saying that I only work for myself but that my deeds are the outworking of what God has placed within me.  Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  These are just two powerful verses that expand on this truth that God is infinitely more concerned with what we are than what we do.  He will do the works if we will do the work of believing.

Living by Faith

Everyone lives by faith all the time, but it is not the faith referenced in the Bible.  To understand this truth, you must understand what faith is and what the faith of the Bible is.  Faith simply means to trust or rely on.  When you sit in a chair you are exercising your faith in the chair.  When you take medicine, you are relying on the doctors and those making the medicine to prescribe the correct dosage.  When you drive a car your are relying on the car to perform a certain way and that the other drivers will observe the laws.  On an on it goes as we place our lives on the line because we trust in the objects of our faith.  This type of faith is in material living but it is not the faith intended in the Bible.  The Bible restricts our faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is Spiritual in nature and is eternal in its scope.  The purpose of faith is not to provide some type of utopia for you but to direct you through this maze of traps and pitfalls we call life and to cooperate with the Lord in His transforming us into creatures of righteousness.  Because we are incapable of living righteously on our own because of our sin nature, the Lord has provided a way for us to live life on His level of righteousness and that is to obey the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t take will power, it takes faith and obedience.  It doesn’t take strength, it takes weakness.  It doesn’t take works or deeds, it takes a reliance on God for what we cannot do. Faith in the Lord is an equal opportunity plan.  Everyone has the capacity to meet the demands of God through faith in Him, without adding any righteousness on our own.  It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, educated or not, with or without wealth, or any other such contrast.  The one thing that is required is that you are trusting the Lord and not anything other than the Lord.

So how do you know that the Lord is directing you.  First of all He has given us His Word, the Bible.  Whatever direction you have should be measured against what the Bible says.  That is the only 100% safe written word.  Secondly, what is the witness of the Holy Spirit within you?  You do not have the Holy Spirit within you until you are born again.  If you have never been saved then you do not have the witness of the Spirit to direct you.  That does not mean that He is not working for you, it just means that you do not have the spiritual sensitivity to know His leading.  Thirdly, (assuming you are a Christian) does the direction contradict spiritual principles established through the ages of the church and your Christian experiences?  Fourthly, does it edify others, yourself and your witness?  Fifthly, does it magnify and honor the Lord?

2Co 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

What’s the Problem?

I have a small garden in my back yard and I harvested some beets yesterday evening.  My wife really likes pickled beets so we have been watching them grow and yesterday was the first we had harvested.  You can imagine her disappointment when we discovered that some kind of bug had eaten into most of the beets.  They looked good in the ground, the leaves were large and green and we could see the tops of the beets that they were large enough to harvest but most of the beets had to be thrown into the trash because of the deterioration from the bugs.

So it is with us, from the outside our sin remains undiscovered.  From within we are rotting and dying.  We alone, know about the inner condition of our heart and soul.  We are like David in  Psalms 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. and we need to face the truth about ourselves before there can be any remedy.  All of our efforts to appear righteous are futile until we face our sin.  Excuses will not fix it.  Works will not pay for it.  Intentions will not change it.

1John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.   
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.  8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unnrighteousness.  10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Lord does not ask us to pay for our sin, though we think that somehow we should and we try to make up for it.  He knows that the wages if sin is death so he paid the sin debt in full.  That means that our efforts to make up for it only frustrates the grace of God.  It is a free gift and must be received as such.  What He does ask from us is that we confess it.  At that point He will forgive our sin and His blood will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

On the other hand, if we deny that we have a sin problem then we are contradicting God and we are denying the truth of His word which says ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.

It’s like my Dad used to say, “You can’t fix it until you know what’s broke.”

Paul’s Prayer For The Church At Ephesus

Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Eph 3:16 That he would grant you . . . That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;Eph 3:18 (That ye) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

The apostle Paul spent 3 years working with the church at Ephesus. Acts 20:31  Now, as he writes to them, he clearly lays out why he felt so deeply and earnestly for them and the extent of his prayer for them.  He is now looking to their journey ahead and what is yet needed.

First, he prays for them to be strengthened.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is, not just stronger, but to be the strongest they can be.  Strength come by exercise and sweat and by overcoming greater and greater trials.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is to the extreme; by His Spirit, that is supernaturally and finally, in the inner man, not physical strength but strength of character and will.

Secondly, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.  The term dwell has the idea of permanence and regularity.  It is not a mountain top high, but rather a constant dependence on Him.  The only way for that to happen is by faith in Him.  We should not expect feelings, sensations, etc. but by a continual trust in Him that He will do by His power.  It is not by seeing with our physical eyes but through the eyes of faith that we see the way.

Thirdly, he prays that they (you) may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge and that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Wow! what a mouthful  of wonder.  Let’s break it down.  The word comprehend can also be translated ‘apprehend’, and it means to take possession of or to know experientially.  This is not head knowledge but knowledge that comes through experience.  Literally, to know God as He is, the immensity of His height (all that is above), and depth (all that is below), and breadth (all that is past and future) and length (all peoples of all races and all authorities).  All of this combined together and you will begin to grasp the Love of God and all He has planned for His Saints or believers.  Literally, to be filled with the fullness of God.

Paul closes the chapter by concluding that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we as or think, but it is according to the power that worketh in us, that God is glorified (seen) in the church.  This is normal Christian living.

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Sometimes we read the Scriptures without really examining them closely to see what it really says.  For example, we read the above scripture and resolve to produce these qualities in our own lives.  We are to be commended for wanting these qualities to be a part of who we are but there is a critical fault with this thinking.

Notice that the scripture states that this fruit is of the Spirit.  It is not something that we can produce within ourselves but it is what the Holy Spirit produces in us.  John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  Fruit is the natural product of the tree.  A peach tree will always produce peaches as it’s natural product.  It doesn’t have to strain at it or to even decide what it’s fruit will be like.  It is a natural thing that is produced because of what the tree is.  When a person is saved, he is transformed into a new creation of God.  Whereas he was only fallen humanity, he is now become a child of God because the Holy Spirit has become a part of him in a permanent way (II Corinthians 5:17).  The Holy Spirit then begins to work on the individual so that these qualities become his new way of life.

Secondly, notice that it is stated in the singular tense, “the fruit”.  There are not nine different types of fruit, but just one fruit.  It is not something that you can pick and choose from but it is all encompassing.  The Holy Spirit the whole fruit, not just some of its parts.  These qualities are the essence of God’s nature so that we take on the Image and likeness of God in our own nature.

Lets look a little closer to this fruit.  It is made up of three sets of three.  The first set of three is Love, Joy and Peace.  This is our inner sense of being, because of God’s presence.  The second set of three is longsuffering, gentleness, goodness which is how we respond to others.  The third set of three is faith, meekness, and self control which is how we respond to God.  These qualities come out naturally as we allow the Holy Spirit to direct out way.

Jesus said that you know the tree by its fruit.  Mt 12:33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.  

The Eternal Temple

Ac 7:48-49 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,  49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?

Have you ever considered that in all of creation, there was not found any place for God to reside because nothing could contain Him.  He is bigger than the vastness of space.  He is greater than the complexity of all that He created.  He is more powerful than the sum of all of the energy of creation.  He is wiser than the full of knowledge.  By His own statement, nothing is impossible for Him.  In our text above there are some clues as to where God dwells.

First, it says that He dwelleth (abides in a continual way) not in temples made with hands.  That is that His dwelling place is not a physical construction such as man could construct.  That is one of the reasons that the Russian astronauts did not see God.  They were looking for something physical.  A lot of people are also looking for God in objects (idols, signs, etc.) which would make God less than what he is.  If we are to conceive God we must see him as He is and not as how we think of Him.  When Isaiah saw the Lord (Isaiah 6) he saw Him high and lifted up.  He will surpass your greatest expectation.

The second thing we notice is that Heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool.  This is majesty on a plane infinitely greater than where we live.  We think of our environment whereas He exists beyond creation.  If it were possible, what type of house would we build for God to dwell in?  Would it be of the dimensions of galaxies?  Would it contain the rarest of jewels; the finest of craftsmanship; or the wealth of the universe.  Even if we could construct such a place, it still could not contain Him nor would it be worthy of Him.  He would not call it home.

Then He asked a most penetrating question, What house will ye build me?  The Bible records an amazing truth that escapes most of us, yet we must take note of it.   1Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?   1Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? The place in all of creation that God has chosen to dwell is in the heart of man.  It is the only place that can be fitted for Holy God to dwell in.  We must undergo a transformation  or remodeling in order for God to be at home in us and that is what salvation is all about.  We start out as a child of the devil but God transforms us into a child of God by regeneration.  We begin living as worldly but we take on the likeness of God in our character and choices, and the image of God in our service and love.  These traits are developed by God through trials, tribulation and persecutions.  We cannot develop these ourselves and that is why we are HIS workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10)

So the question remains, What house will ye build me?  The answer, I cannot build a house fitted for the Lord.  What I can do is yield to the hand of the Lord and trust Him through all things.  He is the master builder and I am the building  that He will dwell in throughout eternity.   1Peter 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

China Mission Update

We  have had our first formal planning meeting on the China mission trip and here are the latest bits of information.  The time has not been set in stone but is projected between October 20th and November 15th.  We are waiting on a response from China as to the best time.  The trip will be about 10 days, including travel of 2 days each way, leaving about 6 days of actual time there.  Because of the sensitivity of the Chinese Government to religious activity we are taking a low profile approach so as to create as little as possible problems.

As of right now, there are 4 of us going and we will separate into two groups, touching two different regions of China.  It is more of an exploratory trip than a project type of trip.  We will be looking to our host to guide us so that we can be of the greatest blessing that we can as well as not putting a target on them so that they can continue to work freely there.

There are many things to complete in our planning but we are focusing in on the things of primary importance.  One of them is the securing of our visas.  I am the behind the rest of them but they are catching me up.  They have been to other countries on mission trips and they are more familiar with the process.  I have only been to Japan and that was a few years ago.

We do not know exactly where in China we will be going.  One location is fairly well decided but our other contact works in multiple locations so that has yet to be decided.  One thing I do know is that I will be visiting Forest and Yan who were members of our church and moved back to China a year ago.  They are also translating my book into their language.  When it is completed, it will become available to our Chinese brethren here in the USA.

As always, I want to enlist you on the prayer team for this mission trip.  I look forward to learning more about this culture and finding a way to be a blessing to them.  It is encouraging to hear from you and to share our hearts as we journey together in faith.

Just a note to our followers in France.  I am aware of a group of about 20 who have visited this site twice.  Would love to hear from you specifically.

Wheat or Chaff?

Matthew 3:11-12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

When John the Baptist used this reference in Matthew 3:12 he was referring to a very common practice that was used in the harvesting of the wheat to separate the wheat from the chaff.  When the grain was harvested it was tossed into the air with a winnowing fork and the chaff which was light would be carried by the wind but the kernels of grain which was heavier would drop much closer.  The grain could be then gathered into a small basked and the process could be taken to the next step of further refinement and separation.  This is what is referenced as thoroughly purging the floor or gathering all of the grain for storage.  When the grain had been gathered and safely stored then the chaff would be piled up and burned as it was of no further use.  While the grain was growing the chaff served the purpose of protecting the grain but once the grain was ripe it lost its use.

So now we come to our question, what is the illustration of winnowing pointing out?  John the Baptist pointed out that he was baptizing with water but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  Most of the time when we reference baptism it is in reference to water baptism which is the picturing of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is also a picture of the testimony of the new believer who has died to sin, been buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.

Now lets look at the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  There is some confusion on this with some Christians.  Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  Their understanding is that you get saved and then there is a second work of God that they identify as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is not sound doctrine as the Bible teaches that you receive the Holy Spirit when you believe or are saved.  It is further emphasized in Eph 4:5 where the Greek translates it as one placing into.  It is the same as the sealing of the Holy Spirit and  it is our earnest or down payment on His promise of eternal life.  This is to be differentiated from a filling of the Holy Spirit or being controlled by the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is sealed with our spirit in an irreversible act that will stand the test of time and fire.  The purpose is to free us from sin and to transform us into creatures of righteousness.  It is a process that continues until we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  As the grain is what is valuable in the harvest, so also is the believer who God will so equip with the Holy Spirit so as to enable us to stand the test of fire.  Our works will be burnt up but the work that the Lord has done on us to separate us from sin, just as the grain is separated from the chaff, is what is valuable to God.

The baptism of fire is another vivid illustration and can be understood as we look at the life of the believer.  Once he has become a Christian, the Lord goes to work in His transforming process.  He allows trials and tribulations and persecutions to come on the believer and is often accused of not caring for him.  These events, though hard to experience, are designed of God to teach us eternal truth.  He said that if they persecuted Him then they will persecute us. All our works will be burnt up but that which is eternal that has been built into us will endure and fire will have no effect on it.  Things like the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control) is being built into us and will remain through the fire.  It is all to change our thinking so that His ways become our ways and His thoughts become our thoughts.  Then we will understand.