Saturday, June 24, 2017

OLd Erich Proverb - Disguise

If human beings are basically good, how do we manage to disguise the fact so well?

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Spurgeon

When He is absent from us, He is still thinking of us, and in the black darkness He has a window through which He looks upon us. When the sun sets in one part of the earth, it rises in another place beyond our visible horizon. Likewise, Jesus, our Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), is pouring light upon His people in a different way, when to our understanding He seems to have set in darkness.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892, Joy in Christ's Presence, (Whittaker House, 1997, p.77)

Is God truly with us even though we may feel He has deserted us? What is the cause of this feeling?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blind Spots



All of us have blind spots. And even those who honestly try to follow God can fall into them. Jehoshaphat was a good king (2 Chronicles 17:3-6; 19:3; 1 Kings 22:43). He sent officials to  teach the people the Law of God and judge disputes (2 Chronicles 17:7-9; 19:4-11). He trusted God in times of trouble (2 Chronicles 20:5-25; 18:31; 2 Kings 3:11-20). But he allied with King Ahab, and he married his son to Ahab’s and Jezebel’s daughter (2 Chronicles 18:1; 19:2; 1 Kings 22:44). He joined Ahab and his sons in many questionable ventures (2 Chronicles 18:2,3; 20:35-37; 2 Kings 3:7). This resulted in great evil for the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 21:4-7; 22:1-4; 2 Kings 11:1-3). How then do we avoid our blind spots?

We need to be humble enough to recognize we are vulnerable and need God to reveal our weak points to us (1 Corinthians 10:12-14; Psalms 19:12-14; 1 Timothy 6:11). We must remember that we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9), and although God is at work in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13), we still have a long way to go in becoming the people God wants us to be (Philippians 3:12-16; Romans 7:14-18; Galatians 5:17). I am convinced that one of the great dangers for a Christian is believing we have it all together, which leaves us open to be blindsided. Pride and self-righteousness can easily set us up for a fall (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Peter 5:5-10; James 4:6-10).

It is easy to become conformed to the world’s standards and to let them determine our behavior (Romans 12:1,2; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4). This can often result in our doing the wrong thing from good intentions, because we have adopted a worldly standard of values. We are constantly bombarded with the world’s messages. And we do not want to totally withdraw, for we want to be able to reach others for Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 19:1-10). But it is difficult to associate with people and not fall into their point of view (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Colossians 2:8). This was the problem that resulted in Jehoshaphat’s family; by marrying into Ahab and Jezebel’s family, they fell into their mindset. But I wonder if one of the things that caused this in the first place was picking up the world’s idea of what was a good political alliance. We do not know what Jehoshaphat’ s motive was, but it is easy to become confused and see the wrong move as a good idea. To avoid this we need to be grounded in God’s Word (Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16,17). We also need to be in fellowship with other Christians who can steer us back to the right path when we get off it (Hebrews 10:24.25; 12:12-13; Proverbs 27:17).  For all of us are sinners, and we need ways to continually correct our blind spots.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summary

Now Ephesians 6:10-20 is the chief passage that gives a detailed description of the armor of God. A couple of items are also mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:8. This fits well with Ephesians, the helmet being the hope of salvation and the breastplate covering both kinds of righteousness, the righteousness we have before God by faith and the righteousness He works in us through love.

But it is a mistake to see these pieces of armor as totally independent. There are certain underlying themes that run through the armor. One is understanding and using the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Colossians 3:16; John 17:17). While it is called the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), it is also the basis for other parts of the armor (Ephesians 6:14). Also there is the theme of understanding God's grace (Romans 1:16,17; Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 11:25-30). Further, there is the need of faith and prayer (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 John 5:14-15; Matthew 7:7-11). But these are the basics of the Christian life in general. I would therefore conclude that spiritual warfare is the whole Christian life, as seen from a particular perspective. Therefore, the chief thing we need is to grow in Christ, that we might deal with all the situations we face in life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Implications of No Condemnation



Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is a wonderful truth to rejoice in. But it also has another aspect. If there is no condemnation for me if I am in Christ Jesus, there is also no condemnation for that other person who is in Christ Jesus. This can sometimes be a difficult truth to live. Now do not get me wrong; I am not saying that there is no place to correct another believer--Scripture clearly teaches there is (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15,16; Hebrews 12:12,13). Nor does it mean we should not seek to examine our own lives for things we need to change (Proverbs 28:13; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 John 1:9). Rather, it requires a different attitude. If Christ has indeed paid the entire price for my sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25), then I am declared righteous in His sight by faith in Him (Romans 4:4,5; 3:28; Galatians 2:16). This being so, my motivation for doing good works is my love of God for what He has done for me, not servile fear (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Romans 8:15). This means that, while I do need to examine myself to see where I need to change, I can put my sin behind me and go on in Christ (2 Corinthians 7:10; Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 9:12). As a result of my sins being paid for, I do not need to be discouraged or defeated by them but can go on with Christ, confident of His forgiveness. Much less should I be disheartened by not meeting those standards laid on me by other people.

But if I claim this for myself, I also need to grant it to other believers. (Even when dealing with unbelievers, I need to deal with them in light of the fact that this same forgiveness is offered to them if they only accept it.) This does not mean that I should not correct them as the Scripture requires, but it does mean that my goal must be to put them back on the right track. It cannot be to write them off or to tear them down (Romans 15:1,2; Ephesians 4:12-15; 2 Corinthians 13:10). This can often be a hard goal to achieve. There are those who simply will not listen. In some cases we may need to even impose discipline on them (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4,5), but the goal of this should be restoration (2 Corinthians 2:6,7; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15). But I am less concerned here about official church action than I am about how we treat those other believers we meet on a regular basis. Do we treat them as Romans 8:1 requires they be treated, or do we look down on them or mistreat them because they do not meet our standards? “No condemnation” needs to be applied to everyone and not just myself.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Touch of Humor - Positive and Negative

Should the negative aspects of life be part of our worship? How should this be done?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Old Erich Proverb - Little

God can do with little what we fail to do with much.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Bernard

Love is an affection of the soul, not a contract: it cannot rise from a mere agreement, nor is it so to be gained. It is spontaneous in its origin and impulse; and true love is its own satisfaction. It has its reward; but that reward is the object beloved. For whatever you seem to love, if it is on account of something else, what you do really love is that something else, not the apparent object of desire. St. Paul did not preach the Gospel that he might earn his bread; he ate that he might be strengthened for his ministry. What he loved was not bread, but the Gospel. True love does not demand a reward, but it deserves one. Surely no one offers to pay for love; yet some recompense is due to one who loves, and if his love endures he will doubtless receive it.

Bernard of Clarivaux, 1091-1153, Loving God, Chapter VII (Calvin College Ethereal Library).

Is there a reward for loving? Does that make it mercenary?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Body from Nowhere

An unidentified body appearing suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, was not generally considered enough to call for me, John Talltree of Terran Investigations. But when that body appeared in the control room of a top secret government facility, it was a different matter entirely. Soutateruios on the world of Caltus was utterly top secret (I have learned it is better not to ask the reason for the existence of such facilities), and only a very few even knew of its existence. But someone had caused a dead body to appear there.

"So was there a security system in place?" I asked Pemitia, governor of Caltus. The governor was a frog-like being, a little shorter than a man, who clung to the wall from suction cups on his hands and feet. His ability to turn his head almost totally around to look you in the eye from that position was very disconcerting.

"Yes," he replied, "one of the finest, and only a very few had the codes to alter it. It was not supposed to let anyone in whose DNA, retina, and fingerprints were not on file. This individual's clearly was not.  We checked on the computer and there was no one registered there."

"Could someone bring in a guest?"

"Yes, but they have to register them on the computer. There is nothing registered on there."

"Looks like someone has messed with the computer."

"That is our best guess, but they would have to know or figure out the codes and be enough of an expert to reprogram it. I have our computer experts working on how this might have been done and what, if anything, can be recovered. But they have not gotten very far yet."

"I would like to interview the various members of the project staff and see if I can learn anything from them."

"It will be arranged."

The first person I talked to was the security officer, Ann Paulsen. She was a short Terran  woman with brown hair and a scar down the side of her face. "The body appeared at 11:17 p.m. Terran time."

"Out of thin air?" I asked.

"Based on the security record, that's what it looked like. One second it was not there, the next second it was, with no indication how it had come to be there. But the computer people tell me they are missing even the normal things that should be in the record in the time before the body appeared. It's like someone deliberately scrubbed the record."

"Who would be capable of doing this?"

"The only people with access to the codes other than me are the two project managers, Joe Emerson and Claudia Crowley. None of us have the skill to do this type of reprogramming.The only ones capable of reprogramming the computer are the computer techs, who do not have the codes to access the computer on that level."

"Who has access to this facility?"

"There are seven permanent personnel who are checked and rechecked before they are hired, but anyone can go bad. There is also a maintenance crew who covers for all the things the robots don't do, but they do not enter the place until the computer is locked down. Besides, they do not have the passwords to even log onto the computer, let alone reprogram it."

"Have you been able to identify the body?"

"It is no one that is in our computer. The is no ID or chip on the body. We have sent his DNA, fingerprints, and retina scan to records to look for a match. But this is a right to privacy planet and does not require universal record keeping. So whether he will be identified is up in the air. But the interesting thing is he is a Butopian and is wearing the colors of the blacksmith's guild."

"Is computer programing seen as under that guild?"

"No,  but some of the hardware associated with computers falls under that guild."

"How did he die?"

"Knife to the heart. We figure he must have trusted his killer because he was stabbed from the front, with no signs of a struggle."

Joe Emerson was pacing up and down his office nervously. "Did you pass on the codes to anyone?" I asked.

"No, I did nothing of the sort," he replied.

"Were they written down somewhere?"

"No, one of the qualifications for this job is that you are capable of memorizing the codes by heart and do not need to write them down."

"Do you know of any of your personnel who were acting suspiciously or who you have reason to believe would be interested in selling government secrets?"

"Not that I know of."

Claudia Crowley confirmed what Joe Emerson had said. Also, she was in charge of hiring and confirmed that all the personnel were clean, with nothing suspicious in their past.

The conversation with the computer techs I will not even try to reproduce. Most of it was so technical that I understood very little of it. But what I did understand amounted to the following. It certainly was possible to wipe the tapes, but there were so many fail-safes and protections involved that they very much doubted it could be done by a civilian. Even if someone had succeeded in wiping the record, it generally would be possible to recover it. They would very much like to know how eliminating the record so totally was done. But unless someone was a secret computer whiz, it was hard to see who could have done it
.
The computer techs also denied knowing anyone who was suspicious or who wanted to steal information from the project. I was beginning to suspect that if any of these personnel knew anything to indicate who might be behind this, they would not tell me.

The last two  members of the personnel were scientists, who I suspected were the heart of the project. Dr Susan Masters was an older woman, with black hair which I guessed  was artificial. "Do you know any one of the personnel who was acting suspiciously or who would try to leak information from the project?" I asked.

"It is not my place to hobnob with the rabble," she returned. "I know nothing of them, and they know nothing of me. It is better that way."

The last member was Dr. Karen Smith. She was younger, blonde, and lively. "I have been working so hard, I have not had much of a chance to get to know the rest of the personnel," she replied. "Dr. Masters is something of a slave driver, and I had no time for getting to know people."

I felt to some extent I was being stonewalled. This is  not surprising. Even innocent people can be reluctant to turn their friends and co-workers in to the police. The question was how could I get past it. Or possibly they were all telling the truth. Which brought up the question of how the culprit had covered their tracks so well.

That night I was thinking and praying to God, and the answer hit me. I went out to check a few things out and to get a report together. Sometimes the empire was a strange mixture of the new and the old.

The next day I got Pemitia, Joe Emerson, Claudia Crowley, and Ann Paulsen together. I took them down a maintenance corridor on the outer perimeter of the project. I came up to a place where four large conduits went into the wall. "You have a state of the art security system, but this is where the power goes in to run it."

"There are supposed to be back-ups," remarked Emerson.

"There are four conduits and four back-ups, from four different sources. But they all come in through this same opening. If you come closer, you can see where these conduits have been cut and spliced together again."

"You mean they did not reprogram the  computer, they just pulled the plug?" responded Crowley.

"But who where they?" asked Pemita.

"The maintenance crew," I replied, "They were the ones who would be working in these corridors. They had the skill set to do what was done here. They were obscure enough that no one even bothered doing a thorough background check on them."

"But the murder?" asked Paulsen.

"There evidently was some sort of falling out," I replied. "The victim was probably an outside tech they hired to help them out with what they wanted to do. He objected to something, and they killed him.They must have got the wind up and fled, leaving the body. But I if you want all the details, I suggest you get that from them."

But they found that the maintenance crew had already fled. They immediately sent out a crew of searchers to find them and bring them back, I never heard whether they ever caught them or not. But I was convinced that even something as big and powerful as the Empire could not ignore the obscure people or the little details. For God often used those to work His will in the universe.






Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Production of Fruit



It is natural for a tree to produce fruit. I am convinced this is one reason God uses this analogy to describe a Christian’s good works (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Titus 2:11-14). The fruit is the natural product of the tree. You do not get lemon trees from orange  trees by hanging oranges on them. Therefore, growth in Christ is more like gardening than construction. In gardening the growth comes from the life in the plant. No amount of gardening can make a dead plant grow. But it is the job of the gardener to give the plant the right environment in which to grow and to protect it from things that hinder growth.

Now it is clear from Scripture that salvation is by grace through faith (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5), apart from anything we can do to earn it (Galatians 2:21; Titus 3:5,6; Romans 11:6). But the result of this is God’s power working in us to change us (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 1:29). We have become, by grace, the kind of tree that produces good fruit. But we have a choice whether to cultivate or resist God’s work in us (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; Romans 16:12-14). Also, there exist things that oppose  this work (Galatians 5:17; 1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 6:10-13). Therefore, growth in Christ is a process that takes place over time and requires our effort (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1,2; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). We need to remember that, as in the garden, the real power is not from us, but is given to us (John 15:5; Romans 8:3,4; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6). But if we nurture it, it will produce the qualities of real obedience in our lives (Galatians 5:22.23; 2 Peter 1:4-11; Colossians 3:10-17). However, we need to do so trusting in God’s power and not in our own ability (Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6; Isaiah 40:31). 

And this fruit will be an evidence to others that we are followers of Christ (Matthew 7:15-23; 13:18-23; James 2:14-26). The issue is not our working to be saved, but salvation resulting in a transformation of our life. Good works show others that God is at work in us. And good works are the natural result of real faith in Christ. Where, then, do we draw the line? Do we conclude someone is not a Christian if they do not live a totally spotless life? In this, I think it is helpful to look at the example of Lot. Lot in the Old Testament did some clearly  sinful things (Genesis 13:5-13; 19:1-38). But Peter calls him a just man, meaning he was saved (2 Peter 2:7,8). Peter also says that Lot was tormented inside over the sin he observed in Sodom. Lot could make sinful choices, but he could not be at home in sin. But we need to recognize that salvation has not set us free to live in sin, but to serve Christ (Galatians 5:13,14; Romans 6:15-18; 12:1,2).