“Hold Thy Peace!”

Job 33

There are times the very best thing to say is nothing at all.

The wisest man in the world said there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (Ecc 3:7) Our trouble is we tend to get them backwards. We are silent when we should speak up and we open our mouths when we should keep them closed.

Jesus was speaking to a demon that was controlling a man in Mark 1. The demon was saying things that were not completely accurate and not honoring to the Lord. Jesus doesn’t argue with the man, discuss things with the demon or defend Himself to the crowd. He simply orders the unclean spirit to “Hold thy peace!” Literally the Greek is “Muzzle it!” 

Satan is an expert at bringing division to God’s family. “Devil” means one who “falsely accuses”. It comes from a verb which means to “throw or hurl across”. What the Devil throws is criticism,  slander, insinuation and any kind of mud he can come up with in an attempt to destroy Christian unity and discredit the church’s witness to a lost world.

Too many have as their personal motto “If you don’t have anything good to say, let’s hear it!” Someone has suggested as Christians, we should have a sign posted below our ears that simply reads “No Dumping Allowed!

David wrote this confession regarding his response to slander:

“Let those who want to do wrong stay away from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. If anyone secretly says things against his neighbor, I will stop him. I will not allow people to be proud and look down on others.” Psalm 101:4-5

Jesus referred to himself by saying “I come seeking fruit” (Luke 13:7) With God’s help may we be fruit finders and not faultfinders.

What Does It mean To Be Born Again?

What Does It mean To Be Born Again?

 According to a recent poll 80% of Americans say they are Christian but only 45% call themselves “Born Again Christians”. What does ‘being “Born Again” mean and how important is it? Perhaps even most important, how does a person become born again and know that they are?

Jesus told Nicodemus in the third chapter of John “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NASB). Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be born again personally even though Nicodemus already believed in Jesus. Nicodemus had already admitted to Jesus “We know you are a teacher come from God for no one can do these signs you do except God is with him” (John 3:2 NASB)

Jesus said that entering into the Kingdom of God requires more than a physical birth. It requires a spiritual birth as well. It is entering into a new dimension or sphere of life. A new spiritual existence. The Bible says that before we are reborn, we are “dead” spiritually (Eph. 2:2) and we have no true sensitivity to or life from God (even if we believe in God, worship God and perhaps go to church regularly).

Just as your physical birth involved an event specific enough for the date and time to be recorded on your birth certificate, so too, a spiritual birth is also a specific event that must occur. One moment, I was not yet born, then the next, I had been! My physical life is counted as starting from the moment of my physical birth and so too my spiritual life is counted by God as starting the moment His Spirit causes me to come alive spiritually by faith.

Have you been born again? Perhaps you say “I don’t really know. How can I tell?” While most of us know the exact date of our physical birth, I have met a few people who weren’t exactly sure of the exact date they were born. I have never met anyone who wasn’t sure if they were ever born. That would be impossible! In the same way, the reality of the spiritual birth is something that is so significant that a person will certainly be aware they are now spiritually alive when once they were not. The Bible says God’s Spirit bears witness to our (human) spirit that we are his child. (Rom 8:16 NASB) So, there is an inner testimony to our regeneration. In addition, we are told “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things have passed away and all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17 NASB).  A brand new sphere of existence, with new spiritual appetites and new spiritual capacities!

How can you become Born Again? Just as in your first birth there were “forces acting upon you” to which you ultimately yielded in order for you to be “born”, so too, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and our need for a Savior. He might use a friend, a sermon or a book or tract or simply put a longing in your heart to be made right with God and be forgiven of your sins. The new birth occurs when you finally yield in personal dependence and faith upon God to cleanse you of all your sin and make you His child spiritually and supernaturally.

No one can make themselves a Christian. The Bible says “He (God) has caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3) and “By His doing are you in Christ Jesus”. What you can and must do is agree with the work of God in your life and express your faith in Christ and desire to be born into His family. God stands ready to receive you but you must receive Him as well “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (Jn 1:12 NASB)

If you have never experienced the new birth or are just unsure, you can ask by faith to become a child of God right now. If it is your heart’s desire to be forgiven of your sins and are willing to repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior pray the following prayer out loud:

Dear God,

“I recognize that I am a sinner. I have broken your laws and have sinned against you in many ways. I want to be forgiven and I ask you to forgive me right now. I am truly sorry for my sins. I thank you that you sent Jesus to die in my place on the cross and on the third day you raised Him from the dead. I receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior right now. I ask you to receive me as your child and make me born again! Thank you, In Jesus Name Amen!”

If you prayed that prayer and meant it, God has begun a new work in your life. Welcome to God’s family! Jesus said the angels are rejoicing over your decision right now! While you may not feel anything emotionally, God has accepted you and as promised, has come live inside your heart eternally. Your sins are forgiven and you have been born-again by faith, not by feelings, not by works, but by pure grace through simple faith! Happy Birthday to you!

I encourage you to read John 3 three times in the next 24 hours and to let three people know you made this decision. I also encourage you to start attending a Bible teaching/believing church in your area. Start talking to God, He’s been waiting for this day for a very long time!

A “Botched” Execution

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“He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to do justice…” Micah 6:8

A “Botched” Execution

The news this last week reported that a lethal injection didn’t go as planned during an Oklahoma execution. A prisoner, condemned for his crimes was unsuccessfully executed and ended up dying from a heart attack less than an hour later.

To be sure, the problem needs to be examined and resolved. However, the real “injustice” here seems to be getting little, if any attention.

This man’s crime was committed fifteen years ago. Clayton Lockett carjacked a truck from a teenage girl who had just graduated from high school two weeks prior. He shot her once with a handgun and then with a shotgun and then had her buried her in a shallow grave while she was still alive! Witnesses remembered Lockett laughing that 19 year old Stephanie Neiman was difficult to kill.

Here is what God says:

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. (Genesis 9:6)

God declares that the death penalty is to have a deterrent effect on society as a whole.
“Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.” (Dt 21:21 cf. Dt 13:11)

Yet listen to this truth written by King Solomon:

“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and therefore, as believers we do not either. Yet, we are to seek and pursue justice.

Stephanie Neiman’s family waited fifteen long years for justice in this case. In my opinion, that kind of “justice”, just isn’t just.

“A Time To Speak”

“How The Mighty Are Fallen” David lamented of both King Saul and Jonathan’s deaths. The enemy of our faith works most often by small measure rather than large leaps. Jesus said “Because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold.” The word “grow” is in the original literally to “blow”. Picture the blowing on hot soup. It isn’t instantaneous, just a change by small degree so as to make it more “palatable.”

Eternal Truths can never be determined by the increasing number of apostate churches who choose to deny them. They remain unchanged for the ages, distilled not from culture or history but from holy writ! Christian organizations are not exempt from being Christians nor reflecting the unchangeable truths of scripture rather than the the mores of a shifting depraved culture.

“There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecc 3:7

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/world-vision-why-hiring-gay-christians-same-sex-marriage.html

 

God’s Will Or Your Will?

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As a young Christian I heard the truth that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I remember being told that I was not to lean on my own understanding if I was to discover God’s direction for my life. While those truths are from scripture, it tended to make me feel that the only sure way to know God’s will for my life was to look at my own will and then cross that off my list completely!

I started to picture God as using my desires as a corrective tool. I jokingly saw a young person aspiring to enter a particular profession (for me it was law enforcement)  and seeing God in heaven saying “Well, I see you want to be a policeman, so I decided you should be a garbage collector!” Satan always loves to take God’s Word and incorrectly interpret or apply it so as to pervert who God is. Isn’t that precisely what he did in the garden?

The truth of the matter is the Bible teaches quite a bit more on this subject that is quite encouraging. For instance, listen to Psalm 20:4-5 “May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your counsel! We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.” Did you get that first and Last phrase? If all of your desires and prayers were merely evidences of what God doesn’t want for your life these words would make no sense at all!

The truth is that God plants desires and thoughts into the heart of His children that He intends to grow to deep longings and desires in order for us to desire what He plans to fulfill. Let’s look at a couple of examples of this in the Bible:

First there is Joseph. God gave Joseph dreams of being a great ruler before whom everything and everyone would bow down (including his family!). We later discover God would fulfill these dreams literally, many years later. Then, there is David. He was anointed to be king as a young boy.That was a thought, an idea, an aspiration that God created in David, not David independent from God.

In Psalm 37, David later states this profound truth, which he had personally discovered:

“Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thine heart” Ps. 37:4

This is as much a personal testimony as it is a wonderful principle. The word “delight” (Hebrew: “anag”) literally means to be “soft or pliable”. In other words, if you will delight in the Lord and make your heart soft and yielded to Him, then God will impress upon your heart His own desires, dreams and yearnings. Paul writes “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Php 2:13

As a young man in seminary I wanted to go into ministry with a man God had particularly used in my life personally. He had been the youth pastor at my church. However, he had left that church and moved hundreds of miles away to pastor his own church. I really felt the Lord had put this on my heart and so I approached him to see if he would be open to leaving his church and join me in church planting around the country. He was open but the Lord never brought it to pass. I was disappointed.

Years later, after God called me to plant a church in Southern California, my pastor friend was led to become a missionary in Ethipoia. That’s the other side of the world I thought! However, he needed financial support and our little fellowship was able to help him and his wife serve there for ten years. When his health prevented him from staying on the field, he returned to the U.S. and guess what happened? He came on staff at our church! We have pastored together now for over eight years! God has amazing ways of planting desires that he intends to fulfill in his time!  

If you love the Lord and have deep desires, especially to be used by Him, then trust that you will discover in time that He has been at work all along!