Tuesday, December 08, 2009

SPIRITUAL INFANCY



“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). This was Paul’s bleak assessment of the spiritual state of the Christians in the church of Corinth. They were suffering from a case of arrested spiritual development. Much to his disappointment, he could not speak of them as Christians advancing in the knowledge of God and in holy living. They were struggling in spiritual infancy, despite the abundant measure of God’s grace which they had received (1 Corinthians 1:4-7). What was prohibiting them from feeding on the solid meat of God’s Word? We learn from his letter to them that pride was a big factor. Their “name dropping” about their spiritual instructors was fostering division in the church (1 Corinthians 3:4), and they were puffed up about their spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). In some ways, they resembled the church of Laodicea, whom Jesus rebuked: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17) . In addition to their boasting, the Corinthians failed to separate themselves from some of the sinful pursuits of their past way of life. In a word, they were carnal, or sarkinos, which means “minding the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:3,4). In the battle between the flesh and the spirit, the flesh was winning. A Christian dominated by the flesh will always want his own way; he will not seek the things of God.

It is expected that new believers will be carnal for a time because nobody is born mature. However, Paul had labored among the Corinthians to ground them in truth: “And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11). The Lord had given them “the best of the best” in theological instruction, and they were without excuse. So, in this age, is every Christian who has all the more access to gifted teachers, books, and a rich heritage in the faith. How about you? If you lay claim to being a Christian, are you a growing Christian? Or are you still in the church nursery? Perhaps you are out of the nursery but still far behind where you ought to be. You may be saved, but as Alan Redpath wrote: “The carnal Christian is a child of God, born again, and on his way to heaven, but he is traveling third class.” Is it time for you to join the first-class passengers and pursue the deeper things of God’s Word? “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).

How do carnal Christians get from a lower plane to higher ground? There are no mystical practices to follow, no spiritual vitamins to consume. The spiritual nourishment of God’s Word, prayer, preaching, and the fellowship of the saints is sufficient. These are the ordinary means of grace for daily living as the Christian seeks to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). But even all of these blessings will be of no help if the desire to grow is lacking: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). The desire must be followed by action. People can admit they have a weight problem, they can talk about dieting and buy books on the subject, but if they don’t discipline themselves to change their poor eating habits, the pounds won’t magically come off. Just as the latest diet fads don’t work in the long run, the latest Christian fads won’t work. The spiritual disciplines we practice day after day will make the difference (1 Timothy 4:7). This begins with setting our minds “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Jack Crabtree wrote: “The lack of spirituality in our culture is really a very simple problem. We are a people who stubbornly refuse to confront the truth and do business with it; we are a people who refuse to acknowledge the truth as truth and embrace it with all our soul. The solution, therefore, is simple: we must repent! We must change our minds and make a different choice. We must decide to pursue truth (and the best and most direct way to do that is by pursuing an understanding of the Bible), and we must decide to embrace it with our whole being and to live our lives in the light of that truth. Nothing more and nothing less is needed. May God help us all to make that very choice for ourselves.”

Just remember, there is no neutral ground when it comes to your spiritual life. Either you are making progress, or you are slipping backwards. I trust you are not in reverse, and I pray that all God’s children will endeavor with all their hearts to be mature disciples of Jesus, so they can help others to grow into His image. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2; 1, 2).

May the Lord keep you strong and maturing in Christ,

Pastor Tom

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THE LIGHT OF LIFE



Genesis is the first book of the Bible, and the Holy Scripture concludes with the Revelation to John. I find it interesting and theologically significant that the first words of Genesis are, “In the beginning,” and that Revelation concludes with John’s prayer, “Come Lord Jesus” (22:20). From the beginning to the end, the Word of God points to the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:8). Our Lord’s own testimony to the disciples on the Emmaus road confirm that Moses and the prophets spoke concerning Him (Luke 24:27). If these holy men of God wrote about Jesus, what did they want us to know? Just as darkness was upon the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2), so it was with man’s spiritual condition: Sin is darkness! This darkness abode among humanity until the Light of God illuminated it: “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:16). One of the great “I am” declarations of Christ is found in John’s Gospel, Chapter Eight: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). This is the essential truth that the Old Testament prophetic writers were inspired to reveal, although they only knew in part and presented heavenly knowledge in veiled form until the day of full disclosure. Peter says, “The Spirit of Christ which was in them... testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). The day of full disclosure was the dawn of the Age of Grace, the Gospel Era: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Jesus was “the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce wrote: “Whatever measure of truth (i.e. light) men and women in all ages have apprehended has been derived from this source.” Thus, I can confidently assert that all the religions of man combined have not, cannot, and never will bring a man to the knowledge of the truth. Salvation can be found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). This is why Satan so vehemently opposes the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ. He is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), and every religious institution and system he has devised was designed to keep men in spiritual darkness, separated from the light of life. Thus, it is not surprising that his ministers disguise their true intentions: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15). Buyer beware is the watchword for this hour. What appears to be truth can be a lie; what appears to wholesome can be spiritual poison; what appears to be angelic can be demonic; what appears to be a message of hope can be the path to eternal destruction. Any man who has not trusted in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior abides in darkness. But the good news is that Jesus, who opened the eyes of those who were physically blind, can open the eyes of the spiritually blind, set them free from the grip of the prince of darkness, and translate them into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). What a cause for rejoicing this is, even among the angels of Heaven: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).

My brethren, I pray that you will also rejoice in the blessing you possess--the light of life--and continue to walk in it, enjoying blessed fellowship with one another and with the Lord Jesus. I also pray that you will be faithful in sharing the gospel as you have opportunity: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4). This is what Jesus has called us to do until He comes to take us to be with Him, where “the Lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:23).

May God richly bless you,

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

THE APPLE OF GOD'S EYE


What comes to your mind when you think of God's mighty works among the children of Israel? Moses, the great prophet and deliverer who led his people out of bondage in Egypt, described his nation as “the apple of God’s eye”: "For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye”(Deuteronomy 32:9-10). Hundreds of years later this sentiment was uttered again by the visionary prophet Zechariah: “for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

The apple of the eye is the pupil of the eye, which is very delicate and sensitive to any movement in its direction. The eye shuts instantly to keep it from harm. Because it is so indispensable, the pupil represents something that is cherished and protected. Thus, when we speak of someone as “the apple of our eye” we are speaking of someone who is very dear to us.

Careful students of the Bible recognize that as the apple of God’s eye, the descendants of Abraham are the focus of God’s covenant promises and providential care. It is the Jews who obtained favored nation status: "Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 10:15). This was done so that, through Israel, God’s plan of redemption would be carried out and all the world blessed with the knowledge of salvation: “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).

The survival of the Jewish people throughout their long history of warfare and persecution testifies to the fact that they exist under the shadow of God’s wings. What other nation could boast of God’s faithfulness, as does Israel, in spite of her disobedience to God’s law and rejection of her Messiah? Not surprisingly, the nations of the world to a large degree have been hostile toward Israel. Sinful men love what God hates and hate what God loves. What is perplexing, however, is the Christian opposition to the apple of God’s eye that has been part of the dark history of the Church and led to dire consequences for Jews.1 I speak of a theology that has justifiably earned the labels “theological anti-Semitism”, “Replacement Theology” and “Supersessionism”. This is the belief held by many evangelicals that the Church has become the true Israel of God because the Jews rejected Jesus. Consequently, they believe national Israel has forfeited God’s promised blessings but gets to keep the curses. Herman Ridderbos, a Reformed theologian, goes so far as to say, “The church, then, as the people of the New Covenant, has taken the place of Israel, and national Israel is nothing more than the empty shell (emphasis mine) from which the pearl has been removed and which has lost its function in the history of redemption.” 2 This is a remarkable statement, coming from someone with academic credentials. How can it be that the apple of God’s eye is now nothing more than a shell without a pearl, cast aside by God with no present or future redemptive purpose? Credentials notwithstanding, this is theology run amuck-- inherited from the early church fathers, the anti-Judaism legacy of Aurelious Augustine (354-430 A.D.) and unfortunately continued by many in the Reformed tradition, including John Calvin and Martin Luther. Such divisive and inflammatory rhetoric ignores the control of good hermeneutics, requiring that much of the Old Testament be allegorized. It also fails to see the self-attesting record of divine history regarding the Jews. As Ronald Diprose wrote: “Israel’s sin can no more thwart God’s future purposes for the nation than can the heavens be measured and all the secrets of the earth be known.”3 This thought pertains to the promise of Jeremiah the prophet: “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).

“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2). Let us always remember that God’s love is a steadfast love (Psalm 107:1). He is the Good Shepherd who never forsakes his sheep: “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).

Dear friends, you can rest assured that “God is not man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). The Lord has a glorious future in store for national Israel when Jesus returns during the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). At that hour Israel will not only receive salvation but will dwell and prosper in the land that God has granted to her in the biblical covenants. This roots the issue under discussion firmly in the integrity of God’s character. The Jews may have missed Jesus the first time, but they surely will not miss Him when He returns: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:26,27). In his theological analysis of Christian literature, linguistics, and the Bible, Christian scholar Andy Cheung affirms: “when Romans 11:26 states that all Israel will be saved, it is best understood that ethnic Israel as a whole will receive salvation even if the promise is not extended to every single Jew.”4

What a comforting thought it is to all of us to know that God is faithful in all that He has promised. The offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the apple of God’s eye, will one day experience the true knowledge of God through the revelation of the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the mean time we are to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) and labor to seek the salvation of the Jew: “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). For both Jew and Gentile salvation comes only one way: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). This is the gospel of grace available to all men.

Brethren, let me add one final thought before closing. You need not feel slighted in the least when the Scripture speaks of God’s zeal and love for Israel. As God’s children and the spiritual seed of Abraham, the Lord Jehovah “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Our eternal glory has been assured and we shall receive an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and will never pass away (1 Peter 1:3-4). Praise God! Keep looking up, for our redemption draweth near. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Shalom,

Pastor Tom



1 "Replacement theology has been the fuel that has energized medieval anti-Semitism, Eastern European pogroms, the Holocaust and contemporary disdain for the modern state of Israel”. See Thomas Ice:” What is Replacement Theology”? www.pre-trib.org (articles page).
2 Quoted by Horner, Barry: FUTURE ISRAEL: WHY CHRISTIAN ANTI-JUDAISM MUST BE CHALLENGED. (Nashville: B&H Academic, n.d.) p.xx
3 Diprose, Ronald: ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH; THE ORIGIN AND EFFECTS OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY. (WAYNESBORO: AUTHENTIC MEDIA, 2000.) p.12
4 THE JEWS, MODERN ISRAEL and the NEW SUPERCESSIONISM: Ed. Calvin Smith. (United Kingdom: King’s Divinity Press, 2009.) p.23

Saturday, July 11, 2009

WORLDLINESS



“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”(James 4:4).
I began my spiritual walk as a Christian in the mid 70’s, in a church that preached a very clear message of separation from the world. Sunday mornings were never short on sermons that focused on abstaining from sinful practices that were contrary to Scripture. The preaching often aimed at social drinking, dancing, immodest dress, rock music, and movies that would probably carry the label “PG” by today’s standards. I was taught that every Christian must earnestly endeavor to separate himself from the world and avoid even the “appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). “We are in the world, but not of the world” were words familiar to my ears and diligently pressed home to my heart. Now, after nearly 40 years of living out my faith in this world, I know that the battle against worldliness still rages, and that it is far greater than a list of what not to do. I am all the more convinced that Satan is indeed “the prince of this world” (John 14:30), “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

The adversary of God is waging war in the center of the battlefield of men’s hearts and minds. Not being content with tempting Christians to compromise in some area of their lives, he desires their complete destruction: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Knowing this to be the case, as a shepherd of God’s flock I am very concerned when I see my fellow brethren gravitating toward the fleeting pleasures the world has to offer (Hebrews 11:25). Tolerance for what was once called sin has become a 21st century virtue.

Hand in hand with this new theology of acceptance is the rapid erosion of biblical truth and rejection of the “Elijahs” of the Lord God: the pulpit prophets who boldly proclaim “Thus saith the Lord” (see 2 Chronicles 21). Surely those among us with even a mustard seed of spiritual discernment can see that something is wrong. As the American culture disintegrates before our eyes and slides faster and faster toward Sodom, so it is with holiness in the church. More and more, the modern Christian is living his life on the playground of carnal desire. This should not surprise us, for it will be characteristic of the end-times delusion: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1,2).

Part and parcel with the deception of false teaching is the delusion that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) can bring lasting satisfaction and happiness. Jude warned of those who would turn “the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). This is the abuse of grace which completely ignores the true work of grace: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1,2).

God’s word never grants liberty to sin nor license to deviate from the straight and narrow path of holiness. Tryone Edwards wrote: “A holy life is not an ascetic, or gloomy, or solitary life, but a life regulated by divine truth and faithful in Christian duty. It is living above the world while we are still in it”. Unfortunately, the church has tried to win the world by becoming more like the world, but Scripture says: “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15). Pastors and other Christian leaders must examine their own hearts in this matter and repent. In this dark hour of history we stand in need of genuine revival among the saints of God — a revival of heart and mind that constitutes genuine worship. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (act of worship). And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1,2). Nothing less than this will be sufficient to withstand the “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Simply put, those who have been washed from their sins by the blood of Jesus Christ must fall out of love with the world and go back to their first love (Revelation 2:4).

Charles Wesley wrote:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray:
I woke- the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

I pray that God’s people who have been taken captive by the world will throw off those chains of darkness, rise up as a mighty army, and follow Jesus.

Pastor Tom

Sunday, May 17, 2009

DAY HIKING IN PROVERBS



If you’re someone who enjoys day hikes in the outdoors, you probably don’t like to carry a heavy pack. One good option to cut down on weight is to look for maximum nutrition in the smallest possible size. Fortunately, many such compact meals can be readily found. While I do enjoy God’s beautiful creation when I can, I am a regular day hiker -–indoors. The trail I take is called the Proverbs, and you can find it in the Bible. Proverbs was written by King Solomon, a man very experienced in the paths of life. As a matter of fact, he makes an excellent trail guide because he was renowned for his great wisdom. Ecclesiastes 12:9 states, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.” All told, Solomon wrote three thousand proverbs, but not all of them were included in Scripture.

In the English Bible, Proverbs contains thirty-one chapters. This makes it a convenient day hike. My practice is to read one chapter a day throughout the month, making adjustments for months shorter than thirty-one days. Not only does this make for a great spiritual exercise, but you will discover something unique while you hike your way through the book: it provides optimal spiritual meals in bite-sized form to nourish your soul along the way. Many of the sayings found in Proverbs are both weighty and easy to remember. They engage our minds and invite reflection. This is a feature of the book that I have come to value highly. Who could soon forget such notable words as: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” (Prov. 11:22), or As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed” (Prov.26:14). This is a book of great practical wisdom -- perhaps the greatest “how to” book ever written -- covering such topics as money, work, morality, friends, business, child training, discipline, wealth, poverty, and a lot more in a very readable format. While it is vast in scope, its main message is clear and easy enough to understand: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (Prov.4:7). Pause for a moment and think about this admonition. How many personal tragedies could be prevented by the acquisition of biblical wisdom for the decisions of life and personal conduct? How many nature hikes could prepare you to live life skillfully, which is what the wisdom found in Proverbs does? Day hiking on this path is certainly a worthwhile use of your time. Pull up a chair, pray before starting out, and enjoy the adventure. You can ask someone to come along or go solo without fear of losing your way. Rather, you will find your way, for “the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23). I have profited much from my day hikes in Proverbs and I know that you will also. We have God’s promise: “For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold” (Prov.3:14). Translation: If you seek for wisdom as you would for hidden treasures, you will discover it in Solomon’s gold mine –- the book of Proverbs.

So my dear friends, enjoy your hikes in Proverbs and gather all the silver and gold that you can! Perhaps we will meet along the way and discuss what we saw, heard, and learned.


Pastor Tom

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

THE TERROR OF THE NIGHT



What is normal to an adult is often very frightening to a child. Costumed characters like those at Disneyland do not always bring smiles to the faces of little ones. Likewise, going to bed in a dark room can bring an array of fears before them. Ordinary shadows and sounds become sinister forces threatening to do harm as their imaginations run wild.

Thankfully, children outgrow these fears, but other terrors of the night are not as easily overcome. Many adults, Christians among them, also find the nighttime disturbing, as worries about tomorrow and an uncertain future invade their minds like monsters in a child’s room. Rather than facing the imaginary villains of a child’s overactive imagination, they confront fears and anxieties that are very real, robbing them of the peace and rest which is the believer’s portion. The terrors of the night wear many masks. Perhaps it is a great burden for a lost loved one, a health or financial concern, a son or daughter going astray, or a job loss that keeps you awake in the night season.

Where will you turn in such an hour? Looking at Psalm 91 we discover that the author found comfort and assurance in the presence of the Almighty (verses 1, 2). He sought refuge in the shadow of His wings and was secure under the watchful eye of the Omniscient God: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). What a blessed thought! If this be true, then there is no reason to faint or lose heart when the terror of the night comes your way, because darkness is not dark to Him who dwells in inaccessible light (1 Timothy 6:16). God’s promise to the believer is sure, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7). This also is the promise revealed in the 91st Psalm: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation” (verses 5-9).

What a comfort it is to know that all our moments, as well as our tomorrows, are in the hand of the Lord, Who will not fail to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Whether it is midnight or noonday, the Lord is with us. Grab hold of this precious truth, dear child of God; don’t resist or doubt it- God is with us. Satan will try to shake your confidence in the Lord, but God delights to make His presence known in the darkest hours. Lay down your troubled heart on the pillow of His divine love and take your needed rest. When the morning comes, God’s faithfulness will shine as the sun that rises in the East and settles in the West. Day unto day, night unto night, His mercies never cease. What shall we then say to these things? “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).


"Though the night be dark and dreary,
Darkness cannot hide from Thee;
Thou art He, Who, never weary,
Watchest where Thy people be."

Praying and trusting,

Pastor Tom

Friday, January 16, 2009

LIFE’S UNEXPECTED STORMS



Where do you go when you are facing a trial that seems to press in from every side? At such a time there is nowhere to flee. Perhaps you have been there, dear Christian, so you already know the answer: Your only hiding place is the omnipresent God (Psalm 32:7).He alone is our refuge, our surest port when the fierce storms of life come our way. We sing songs and hymns and read Scriptures that remind us of the assurance of the Lord’s presence, and it is well that we do; but only in the midst of the tempest can we know the reality of it.

The disciples of Jesus experienced such an event when they set out one night on the Sea of Galilee, a familiar experience for seasoned fishermen (Mark 4:35). However, they quickly learned that this trip across the sea would be unlike any other they had taken. We read in Mark’s gospel: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (4:37). This was not a storm that their sailing vessel could “ride out”; this was a crisis which threatened their lives. The ill-fitted boat was no match for the angry waves of the sea. As fear engulfed them, they went to Jesus in desperation. They seemed outraged at His indifference. So we read, “And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (4:38).

How often have I cried out to my Savior in similar fashion? Such times are too numerous for me to mention. My faith has been as weak as that of the disciples that night, facing the most intense storm of their lives- an unexpected storm. I too have wondered silently, “Does Jesus care?” It is much easier to trust the Lord when the sun is shining and life’s seas are calm; it is hard to do so in the dark of the night when the sea billows roll. Brethren, this is the lot of men of flesh. We are weak by nature and prone to doubt the Lord we love and profess. But thankfully He does not abandon us in the hour of need, for the Scripture says: “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” How could a “great storm of wind” (verse 37) suddenly become “a great calm” (verse 39)? The disciples pondered this very question, “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”(verse 41). They had failed to see the One they had with them that night in the boat, and fear took hold of them. Proverbs 30:4 speaks of Him: “Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth?” This One is Jesus. Terrified by the storm just moments before, they were suddenly gripped with a greater fear of God’s sovereign power when Jesus rebuked the wind and spoke to the sea.

Mark’s story of the storm at sea should be seen in light of Psalm 107 to truly appreciate what occurred that evening in the lives of the disciples: “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven” (verses 23-32).

Dear child of God, will your anchor hold when the storms of life come in, when the clouds unfold their winds of strife? Let us always remember that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us in such an hour (Hebrews 13:5). Continue to praise Him in the worst of times when fear and doubt prevail, and you will catch a greater glimpse of His infinite glory and majesty. Moreover, you can be assured that in His time He will lead you to a place of quiet rest. He will one day bring you to your desired haven in that land which is “fairer than day.” This is the promise of the Master of the sea: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). The best days are yet to come!

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Trusting in His Care,

Pastor Tom