Monday, October 29, 2012

Dealing with Disappointment, Discouragement, Depression, & Despair

Sometime ago, I came across a wonderful truth as I was reading Psalm 27:13.  Read it a couple times and let it sink in.

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."  (NASV) 

David, in one short verse of only 23 words, has given us the reason and the cure for despair, discouragement, disappointment, and depression.  Essentially what he is saying is that all of these “d” words are caused by another “d” word.  That word is none other than “disbelief”.  You see, disbelief in God’s promises and in God’s goodness and especially in God’s intentions toward us cause us to be overwhelmed whenever our circumstances move out of the realm of being acceptable and comfortable. 

Things often don’t work out quite the way we had hoped and expected and we become disappointed.  If our disappointment isn’t checked as unnecessary baggage it quickly can turn into discouragement.  And discouragement left to itself, over a period of mere hours, has a tendency to snowball into depression and depression is simply the precursor to despair.  And where the problem all started was the fact that things didn’t work out the way we had hoped and expected.  Well, if things don’t work out the way we had hoped or expected it is because the way we had hoped and expected was not the best way.  It was inferior and not in accordance with God’s best for our lives.  Thus to be disappointed in your circumstances is really nothing less than to disbelieve that God is sovereign in and over your life or that He is sovereign but truly doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Thus, the cause or root of despair is disbelief in the promises, goodness, and intentions of the LORD toward you.

Now let’s turn our attention to the cure of despair, depression, discouragement, and disappointment.  If disbelief is the cause then we might assume that belief is the cure as well as the prevention for these dreaded “d” words.  And that assumption, according to this verse, would be correct.  Listen again to what the psalmist says:  “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  In other words, apart from the belief that you and I, personally, will see and experience God’s goodness in the midst of our circumstances this side of glory we would have no reason not to despair.  But, because of God’s great promise to work all things together for good in the lives of His children and God’s great intention to make us like His Son and God’s great love for us, so visibly demonstrated in the delivering up of His Son to the cross for our sake—we have no reason not to believe that we will see His goodness and thus we have no reason to fall into despair.

But to take the thought of Psalm 27:13 and extend it out even further—I think we can also understand it this way and be theologically and biblically correct.  “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I was seeing the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  You see, regardless of where, what, when, how, and why—you and I as God’s people are seeing and experiencing His goodness right now.  And its only as you believe this that you can face all the challenges and indeed the burdens of life in a way that does not lead down the dreaded and despondent path of disappointment to despair. 

Furthermore, it is only as you believe this truth that you will obey verse 14 which instructs us to:

"Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD."
I wish I could say to you that I have this down pat and never suffer from discouragement.  The fact is I still do but the good news is that I’m getting better.  And the reason for this is not me and my growing faith as much as it is Him and His constant faithfulness to His promises, His kindly intentions, and His ever-present love.  I hope you’re growing in this area too.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Lord?

It is only natural for those going through trials as well as for those of us who are watching people we love endure trials to wonder in our heart of hearts why these things have to be.  The reason I use the phrase “have to be” is because either God is truly and completely sovereign over the affairs of our lives or he is not.  It cannot be both ways.  If God is sovereign and in complete control then your trial or trials are under his control.  In other words if he has the power to prevent or discontinue or change what you are enduring but doesn’t, the only conclusion we can reach is that the hardship you are having to undergo is his will for your life and thus, necessary.  But, even acceptance of this truth does not always alleviate our questions, doubts, and fears.

With all this in mind, I’d like to share a couple verses with you that while not providing an escape from your trials will help you to endure them.  The passage is Psalm 84:11-12.  Read it slowly and meditatively.

“For the LORD GOD is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!”

If you trust in Him and your life is being lived for Him and His glory—then God is not withholding anything good from you.  In other words, all that you have and are going through right now is His “good”, in fact, His "best", being lovingly bestowed upon you for your ultimate good and His glory.  And whereas, this is difficult to believe depending on what it may be you are enduring—you must!  Your joy and your happiness depend upon trusting God that what you are going through is actually His best in and for your life right now.  That is why verse 12 states emphatically, How blessed (joyous & happy) is the man who trusts in You. 

Trials are not meant to steal your joy—they are meant to increase it as you come to experience God and His power at work in your life and through your situation in ways you could not have otherwise.

So whatever it is you are being called to bear up under—use the eyes of faith to see that what appears to be bad is really good.  In fact, it is God’s best for you and your life right now.  It is only as you accept this truth and trust Him that you will find the strength to endure your trials with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Heaven's Ultimate Reality & Joy

When you think of heaven what do you think of?  Do your thoughts run along the lines of golden streets, no pain, no tears, seeing dearly missed loved ones, a brand new perfectly working glorified body, no more sin, and heavenly delights unimagined?  Well, without a doubt, heaven does encompass all those thoughts as realities but, not as the ultimate and all-encompassing Reality and Joy. And, if all that heaven consisted of was these realities without its ultimate Reality and Joy, namely Jesus, heaven would not be heaven and I would not want to go there!

Heaven is Jesus plain and simple.  It is not so much the place as it is the Person and being able to be with this all-glorious Person, gazing upon His glory, and enjoying His glory for all of eternity.  Again, I say, if Jesus is not in heaven I will not want to go there for to do so would be hell.

An interesting story occurs in Luke 9 that illustrates and explains my point.  After asking His disciples who they believed He was in verse 20 and hearing Peter’s confession that He was the Christ of God, Jesus goes on to explain to His disciples that He was going to die and be raised up on the third day (v.22).  He then talks to them about denying themselves, taking up their cross daily, and following Him (v.23)  Furthermore, Jesus explains that to not do this will result in eternal loss in verses 24-26.  Now take a look, a close look, at verse 26.  In essence, Jesus makes the point that whoever is too ashamed to follow Jesus and His words will find himself being the object of Christ’s shame “. . . when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  Following this mention of His glorious coming, Jesus within the same context emphatically states that among those listening to Him were some who would not die before seeing the kingdom of God.

Thus, it seems to me that Jesus is equating the kingdom of God with the seeing of Jesus in all of His glory.  I think this is reinforced in the next few verses describing for us Christ’s transfiguration.  Note that in verse 28, Luke ties in what he is about to describe with what Jesus has just said.  He does this by bringing to our attention the fact that the transfiguration occurs some eight days after Jesus had said what He said about coming in all of His glory.  Then Luke describes what happened in the second part of verse 28 all the way through verse 35.
First, he mentions that Jesus took along with Him, Peter, James, and John to the mountain to pray.  These three, I am supposing are “the some of those standing
here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” in verse 27.  And what was it that they were to see?  What exactly would they get a chance to see that Jesus calls the kingdom of God in verse 27?
Note the description Luke provides in verse 29.  While Christ was praying, the appearance of His face changed.  The text says that His face “became different”.  By comparing Luke’s description with Matthew’s of the same event, we find out that His face began to shine like the sun.  In other words, Jesus begins to unveil His glory and as He peels back the flesh, so to speak, the three men ultimately see what none of us will be able to see until heaven, Jesus in His glory with His face shining so brilliantly and gloriously that the only comparison that can be made is that it was like looking directly into the intensity of the sun. 

Next, Luke tell us that Jesus’ clothing then became “white and gleaming”  (Luke 9:29) whereas, Matthew describes them as becoming as “white as light” (Mt. 17:2).  In other words, the glory of Christ’s divine nature radiated throughout His face and body so that even His clothing became brilliantly and exceedingly white (Mark 9:3) and Luke adds, “gleaming”.  The Greek word translated gleaming means emitting light as lightening emits light in the sky when it flashes.  Thus, Jesus revealed in His glory shines forth in light which is so brilliant, so intense, so magnificent, so powerful, and so pure that it is as Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:16, unapproachable for the unglorified human eye.
It was this glory that the three apostles would see when they woke up.  Yes, that’s right.  Up until now, they are asleep according to verse 32.  But when they woke up what they saw was Christ’s glory.  What a picture this is for us who believe and who will one day lay down this body with all its hurts, ills, cares, and troubles only to wake up in the presence of the glorious Savior so as to see His glory.  But before we go there, let’s see what else occurred at the transfiguration which, give us even more of a hint as to what heaven is all about.

Go back to verse 30.  Notice that as Jesus is revealed in all of His glory two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah.  Furthermore, in the next verse we see that they also appeared in glory or splendor and they were talking with Jesus about His coming death.  Now think about this for a minute.  Don’t pass it by too quickly because here you have a beautiful description of what heaven is all about.  In a nutshell, heaven is real men, who having been given glorified bodies are able to talk face-to-face and thus fellowship with the all-glorious Son of God as they gaze upon Him in His brilliant, dazzlingly, infinitely intense, and unapproachable glory and find that rather than dying they will do it all over again every day for the rest of eternity.  Wow!  That is a glorious heaven indeed.

But there’s more.  Notice what they were talking about.  Verse 31 says they were talking about His departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  That is, they were talking about His up and coming death on the cross as the substitute for all who would believe in Him.  What does talking about the cross have to do with us once we are in heaven?  Everything!  You see, we too, will have the glorious opportunity to be with Jesus in His glorious presence, gazing upon His unspeakable splendor, talking about what He accomplished for us in and at the cross.
Then and only until then will we be able to see the fullness, the beauty, and yes even the shame and ugliness of the cross on our behalf.  Then, we will be able, to finally, with all the saints, comprehend the love Christ had and has for us. Then we will find our soul’s capacity for joy not only hugely enlarged but over flowingly full.  Then we will see that the essence of the kingdom of God is Jesus and experiencing Jesus in all His glory forever.  And then we will finally see that the ultimate Reality and Joy of heaven is Jesus!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

For The Love of God

In studying 1 John 2:15-17, I got as far as verse 15 and had to stop.  In considering John’s remarks, I came to the conclusion that it is not possible for the believer to love the world and love God at the same time.  We simply were not created with the capacity to love both at the same time nor were we created with the capacity to experience the love of God while our heart is filled with love for and of the world.  Thus, John’s statement: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

To the casual observer, John is simply making the point that if you love the world, you cannot love God at the same time.  However, I think he is doing more than that.  You see, if it is impossible to love God while you are in love with the world then the reciprocal truth would be that it is impossible to love the world while you are in love with God.  Thus, John is doing more than stating a fact about the impossibility of loving both the world and God at the same time.  He is, essentially, giving us the key to how we are to overcome the world’s encroachments into our lives.  If we are in love with the Lord, that is, we love Him with all our heart, mind, and soul we will not be tempted to love the world and what inferior pleasures it offers us.

The battle, then for the Christian, is one of, to what degree do we love the Lord?  To love Him with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul leaves very little room for which to love the world and its sinful allurements.  Perhaps this is why it is the greatest commandment.

Now, lest you think that this is not such a hard thing to do.  Keep in mind, that this is the battle of your life and for your life—to be so in love with the Lord, so satisfied with the Lord, so captivated by Him that sin’s “fruitless joys”, as Augustine referred to them, have no power over you.  This is the battle of faith.  What I mean by this is that the battle to love the Lord more than sin and the battle to prefer holiness to sin’s immediate gratification is a battle to believe the Word of God and its promises of an exceedingly far superior joy and happiness that is to be had and experienced through obedience and lost through disobedience.  Thus, in the truest sense, in spite of how it seems, to sin is to lose the opportunity for true pleasure.

So, where does one begin in his quest to prefer holiness to sin?  In Romans 6:17, Paul, in commending the believers for an obedience from the heart made the point to thank God for it.  Thus, the best place to start in preferring holiness is with God in that the believer turns to God in faith for faith and then to God’s Word for the promises that motivate us to obedience.  As one has well said, “It takes God to love God.”  In other words, “we love Him because He first loved us”.  In practical terms, this means we cry out to God for the faith that will take Him at His Word and believe that He is by far our greatest treasure and pleasure in this life and the life to come.  As Psalm 16:11 so aptly states about God, “In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Update From Cameroon

Well, its about time I post some sort of update on what we, that is, the Waite family, are doing these days, especially since making the long, hot, bumpy, slow, did I say "long", and ardious journey from the bush village of Ngyen Mbo to the city of Maroua.  But since I mentioned the journey let me take just a moment to describe some of it for you--especially those of you who complain about traveling in the U.S.

What was supposed to be a 470 mile drive over really bad, rough, rain-gutted and rutted roads actually turned out to be an 1150 mile drive due to bad directions, a mis-guided guide, no map, and a detour due to sections of road completely immersed or just plain destroyed by rain.  We left the bush on an early Friday morning and arrived Tuesday evening.  Not bad for a little over a thousand miles.  We may have made it in on Tuesday morning had we not been stopped and detained at almost every police checkpoint along the way which, amounted to about 25.  You see, most of the police here make a little extra by stopping travelers and not letting them go without paying a small "token of appreciation" for driving in Cameroon.  We call this a bribe.  But, if you are of the sort who won't pay the bribe, as are we, then you have to wait until they get tired of you parked on the road in front of their checkpoint.  Other than the police, rough roads, the long unexpected detour, and getting hit and almost run off an enbankment by an SUV who hardly even noticed and didn't stop our trip was fairly uneventful.

Once in Maroua which is in the extreme north of Cameroon we stayed the night with Fidele's family.  The next day we moved into our rental and began settling into our Muslim quarter.  It is a nice house with running water and electricity.  Wow!  Who would have ever thought you'd see a bunch of white guys hooping and hollaring about running water and electricity?!  Of course, there are brown outs and black outs throughout the week and when the electricity goes so does the water.  So we still have to keep buckets of water around just in case.

Maroua is much hotter than Ngyen Mbo.  Last week our warmest day was 118.  This week it has cooled off some down into the 110 to 112 area.  The nights don't cool off much and with very little wind it makes for some challenging sleeping.  Just about the time you get to sleep, say around 0400, the Mosques all start their wake-up calls as they summon their faithful to the morning prayer service.  Living in a part of town surrounded by Mosques on all sides and only a few sandy blocks away makes this time of day pretty lively as the Imams, not so different than some of their Christian "pastor" counterparts, see who can put out the most lively and relevant chant so as to attract more Muslims from the other mosques.  We'd probably call that "goat-stealing". 

Once we're up and running, have spent some time with the Lord getting oriented for the day, eaten breakfast, and taken care of daily chores, Nance and the kids start their homeschooling routine while I meet with Fidele and Parfait to plan out our day of passing out tracts, evangelizing, visiting Fulbe villages, finding more villages to visit, going over plans for our missionary training school which starts in about three weeks, and canvassing the neighborhoods around us looking for "pre-sheep", that is those "other sheep" Jesus must and will bring to Himself according to John 10:16.  During the week I also teach Bible and Greek to my kids (can't neglect their spiritual training just because we are busy being missionaries) as well as review and discuss theology and Bible with Fidele and Parfait as they will be the main teachers of our school here. 

On Sundays we worship together with Fidele, Parfait, and another from their family.  Sometimes I preach while other times we listen to John Piper, John MacArthur or C.J. Mahaney.  Bethany, Rachael, and Parfait lead our worship time and then we all enjoy praying in English, French, Fulfulde, and even Tupuri. 

I usually take time out of every day to run 6 to 7 miles and a couple times a week ride my bike to some of the villages out of town.  As I run or ride I pray and look for opportunities to talk with and hand out Gospel literature to Muslims.  I meet many this way and as of yet have not had anyone refuse to take the literature.  While I am out running Nancy and the kids are making contacts with shop owners and people in our neighborhood.  They are all interested in why an American family has moved into their quarter. 

All-in-all, we are enjoying life in Maroua.  We are looking forward to our new school starting and to how God will use the students to further His work of reaching Muslims with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our role in this school is more that of watching and simply guiding as this work is in the final steps of being handed over completely to Fidele, Parfait, and other faithful men to now run.  By the way, our school down in Yaounde is doing very well with its first class of almost 20 students.

Well, I think this will do it for now.  I hope you get a better picture of what we are doing and how we are doing it.  Thanks for your prayers and please continue to pray for us.  We realize more now than we ever have before that nothing of eternal significance occurs apart from prayer. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just How Righteous Are You…..Anyway?

So, how righteous are you today?  Now before you answer that take a good hard look at the question again.  I’m not asking you how righteous you feel today.  I want to know if you know just how righteous you are right now if you are in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, and by that phrase I mean that you have placed saving faith in Christ Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins and thus are in union with Christ, you are completely righteous, whether you feel righteous or not.  In fact, the Bible teaches that if you are in Christ you have been given and possess, right now and forevermore, a righteousness, not your own and certainly not of your making but rather a righteousness imputed to you from God Himself in the person of Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8-9). 

This righteousness obtained from God is very interesting in that it is the very righteousness of God Himself for the simple reason that it is Christ's righteousness that is credited to you .  This is exactly what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Paul writes:  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Therefore, if you are in Christ, you possess the very righteousness of God Himself.  In other words, in Christ, through Christ, and because of Christ, you are as righteous as God is right now.  Now I know that this sounds radical and some of you are probably wondering if I haven’t gone a bit too far in making the claim that the true child of God, the person who is “in Christ” is as righteous as God is.  But, isn’t this what Jesus said was required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated rather emphatically to his audience that unless their righteousness surpassed that of the scribes and Pharisees they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20)  Then in verses 21- 47 of Matthew 5, Jesus gave several examples of the Pharisee’s righteousness and showed the huge difference between theirs’ and God’s righteousness.  And then in verse 48, He made His point by saying:  “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

 If you missed His point—keep reading Jesus’ words until they sink in.  Jesus, in no uncertain terms, told His audience and us by extension that the righteousness needed to enter Heaven is a much greater righteousness than man can produce as evidenced by the ultra-religious Pharisees.  The righteousness required to get into Heaven is perfect righteousness—God’s righteousness.  To be perfectly blunt and clear—you and I need to be as perfect (righteous) as God is if we plan on taking up residence in that celestial city some day.  And praise God that the perfect righteousness He demands of us, He provided for us in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, this imputed righteousness, credited to the lives and records of all who believe in Christ, is so real that God treats the believer as if he or she really is as righteous as Christ.  In this sense, the believer is as acceptable to God the Father as Christ Himself.  In fact, it is perfectly correct to say that all that is true of Christ in His humanity is true of the believer by virtue of the fact that the believer is in perfect union with Christ.  Wow......what a Gospel! 

To be given the perfect righteousness of another because mine is ruined, to be able to use the wonderful name of another because mine is worthless, to be given the perfectly clean, spotless, and unwrinkled raiment of another because mine are torn, soiled, and filthy, to be able to appear before the Father in the Person of Christ Jesus my substitute......that indeed is GOOD NEWS!  But, wait there's more.......all that makes Christ precious, dear, beautiful, accepted, and acceptable to the Father has been transferred to you, the believer, so that the Father treats you as though you were Christ.  So entirely are you, the believer, one with your "sin bearer" and thus the possessor of His righteousness that God the Father treats you not merely as though you had never committed any of the evil you have done, but as if you had done all the good which Jesus did.  GOOD NEWS indeed!
The GOOD NEWS of the gospel is not only that your sins are forgiven but that in Christ you possess His very own perfect righteousness.  Thus, you are, in Christ, as righteous as God Himself.  And that’s why you’ll be able to go to Heaven when you die. 

So, again, let me ask you, just how righteous are you today?

Monday, October 15, 2012

For Those True Believers Who Still Doubt

What do you do with people like Jim, Janice, Tom, Willie, and Kate who all profess to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, are living for Him, desire to know Him better, want to experience Him even more deeply, and who faithfully give themselves to church attendance and personal Bible study but who still intensely struggle with a lack of assurance when it comes to their salvation?  Well, the truth be known, probably many of you reading this post including myself sometimes find ourselves in the same boat with the people I mentioned above.  And while there are many reasons why truly born again believers struggle with doubts when it comes to their salvation one of the most common and recurring causes is that we focus too much on what we can't see and not enough on Who can see what we don't always see. 

Now, before going any further, let me just add this qualifier.  I'm not interested in making professing unbelievers feel saved when they're not.  Nor am I wanting to give comfort to professing believers whose doubts of assurance are the result of unrepentant and unconfessed sin.  No, my intent here is simply to provide some pastoral counsel and comfort to those true believers who because of their great concern for spiritual things and often passion in examing their lives to see if they truly are "in Christ" find themselves overwhelmed with doubts that perhaps they really are not believers at all because maybe, just maybe, the faith they thought they placed in Christ wasn't quite what it should have been.  Maybe, they wonder if their faith was strong enough, well-informed enough, passionate enough, theological enough, committed enough, or even communicated to God well enough.  And because they can't go back to the day, hour, and moment of their profession of faith to investigate all these possible deficiencies in their faith they doubt even more.  And because the stakes are so eternal with Christ or life eternal without Him.....can you blame them for being concerned?!

The problem that I see in these folks' struggle is, as I said in my last blog post, they are trusting more in their faith, at the moment they are attacked by doubts, than they are in the proper object of their faith--Jesus Himself.  Now let me tell you a story from the Old Testament that I think can help people like them......hmmm.....or like us when the doubts begin to assail our faith and threaten to unravel it.

The story comes right out of Exodus 12.  If you're thinking--Passover--you're right!  Exodus 12 is where God gives Moses the instructions for the Passover.  Now, most of us Bible reading, Bible believing, and sometimes Bible-doubting Christians know the story.  We know, for instance, that God told Moses to have every family select an unblemished male lamb to live with them for four days and then on the evening of the fourth day (14th day of the month) the lamb was to be killed.  Its blood was then to be collected in a basin so that an unspecified amount of it could be painted on the outside door frame (two door posts and the lintel) of the house.  Then, once this was done and the lamb was roasted over the fire, the family was to shut the door, eat the Passover lamb and stay inside the house the rest of the night until morning.  Then when the LORD saw the blood on the outside of the door frame He would not allow the death angel to kill the firstborn child in the family.  If, however, there was no blood to see because there was no blood on the door the LORD would take the life of the family's firstborn.

Can you imagine being in one of those families?  I mean here is a sample scenario of what I think may have actually taken place in some if not many of those homes.  Once the blood was applied to the door frame and the door shut so that no one was to go back outside until morning can't you imagine dad wondering, as he looks at his firstborn son, if he had applied the right amount of blood or if he had applied it in exactly the right place?  And of course the problem was that he couldn't go back outside to even see if the blood was still visible.  I mean what if it soaked into the wood because he didn't put enough on or put it on thick enough and was no longer visible--how was God going to be able to see it.  I am sure that he was tempted to go back outside several times that evening to check and make sure the blood was still there but he couldn't.

Finally, morning came and with it great relief as both mom and dad saw their oldest sleeping comfortably on the floor beside them.  The night was over and they could go outside and see what really was, now, really unecessary to see.......whether the blood was still there.  And as each family went outside that morning they all noticed that whereas some had applied the blood thicker than others, some in wider and longer swaths than others, and some neater than others--wherever there was blood on the outside of the door frame their was life within the house.

You see what mattered was that the blood had been applied to where God said it needed to be applied.  Whether it was applied extra thick or thin, with a broad hysopp brush or narrow, messy or neat simply did not matter.  Whereas, there may have been trembling and anxious hearts within during the night, wondering, perhaps, how blood they could not see would keep their precious child safe they had to come to terms with the fact that even though they could not see it, God could and did and that's what mattered!

You see, no amount of fear on their part, no overwhelming doubts, no misgivings, and no weakness of faith was able to weaken or diminish in any way the potency of the blood of the lamb once it was applied.  The blood was on the door and that was enough for God.  The parents could not see it nor feel it but it was there and even in the midst of their doubts, down deep, they knew it was there but in order for sleep to come that night they had to believe that God also knew it was there because He could see what they were unable to.

So, what do we do with people like Jim, Janice, Tom, Willie, and Kate......people like us.....who having come to Christ as the refuge from the just punishment for their sins and thus who have had His blood applied to their lives still struggle with wondering if in the end they will be safe?  We tell them that what God has promised God will do.  We tell them that if God promised to apply His Son's blood to the lives of those who would believe in His Son for salvation thus, saving them from the just condemnation and penalty for their sins so as to give them eternal life then that is exactly what God did the moment they believed.  And regardless of whether they can see the blood or not, God does and that is all that matters!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Faith In Faith or Faith In Christ

One of my biggest struggles as a Christian, young and old, is that of doubt.  Oh, I don't doubt the Gospel and its power to save nor do I doubt God and His promise to save anyone who comes believing.  And I certainly don't doubt the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ's sacrifice for sinners who believe.  No, I am rock solid on all of those.  My problem with doubt is that I sometimes doubt me or to be more specific I doubt the quality of my faith.

Most who are reading this all know and more than likely affirm the truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone for God's glory alone.  I certainly don't doubt it in any way, shape, or form.  But having said that let me tell you a secret.  I do sometimes doubt whether my faith was of the kind and quality that could truly be considered as saving faith.  Here are some of the questions that from time to time overwhelm me.  "Did I really believe the right stuff?"  "Was I really serious and sincere?"  "Did I truly understand the Gospel?"  "Was my repentance real and genuine?"  "Were my motives pure?"  I could add a few more but I think you get the idea and I wouldn't be surprised if some of you haven't asked the same questions from time to time.

Well, I don't need to tell you that these kinds of questions not only lead to serious doubts about one's salvation they also arise from and lead us back to serious theological error about salvation.  You see, these are the kinds of questions that more than revealing the quality of our faith reveal the object of our faith.  Let me explain by asking another question.  What is the true object of saving faith?  The answer is simple isn't it.  The true and in fact only object of saving faith is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins.  This is the object of faith if one is to be saved.  But when we get wrapped around the axle concerning the quality of our faith so that we doubt our salvation we have made that the object of our faith.  Did you get that?  When we doubt the quality of our faith in terms of whether it was of a kind, sort, or quality able to save us we have in essence begun to trust in our faith for salvation rather than Christ.

Faith is not our savior, it is what connects us to the Savior.  Faith is not our physician, it is what brings us to the Great Physician.  Faith is not our righteousness, it is the tie between us and our Righteousness.  Faith is not our perfection but it does trust in Him Who is Perfect and Who perfectly satisfied the wrath of His Father for all of our sins.  Faith is not Christ, the cross, the blood, or the atoning sacrifice.  It is merely the desperate look upon Christ on the cross shedding His blood as our atoning sacrifice.  A desperate look but a believing look.  An imperfect look but a trusting look.  An ignorant look but a desiring look. 

As Horatius Bonar wrote almost 150 years ago, "And as faith goes on so it continues; always the beggar's outstretched hand, never the rich man's gold; always the cable, never the anchor; the knocker, not the door, or the palace, or the table; the handmaid, not the mistress; the lattice which lets in the light, not the sun."  Faith, without virture or worthiness or even power in and of itself, connects us with Him Who is infinite Virtue, Worthiness, and Power.  Faith, which has no ability to apply mercy, grace, or pardon is the necessary tie between those things and us. 

Faith is rest not toil and thus to worry about our faith or the quality thereof is contradictory to its very definition.  Remember, God has demanded and provided for Himself a perfect righteousness on the believing sinner's behalf.  No where in the Scriptures that I can find has he ever demanded or provided a perfect faith.  So even the weakest, most frail, small, and even confused faith can and will connect us to Him Who is our strong, loving, merciful, and ever-forgiving Savior--even that faith that can only cry out, "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief."

So, I hope this will help you as much as thinking about it helps me.  The assurance of our salvation is the result of keeping He Who is the proper and only object of saving faith in focus.  Doubts most often arise when we focus on our faith.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God's Pleasure in Forgiving Sinners

Luke told us that during one of his briefings a couple years ago when getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan that one soldier’s wife said that when her husband deployed—she put pictures of him all over the house so their children would see his face everywhere no matter where they were looking.

She also made sure that when he did have a chance to call home that the phone was on “speaker mode” so that the kids could hear his voice.

She said, that at the end of the deployment, she would know that she did her job when she saw their children run to their dad because they still knew Him.

And you know, as Luke shared that with us—he made the point that this is really why pastors should teach believers over and over about the love of God for them and keep His glorious face before them and share His Word with them so that when they finally get to glory—they won’t shy away from God but will run directly to Him—because they know Him and know how much He loves them.

If I have done my job, when we all get to Heaven—I will see you running to Him because you know His heart toward you.

And that is why I want to share this story from the Old Testament with you—a story which reveals God’s heart toward you the believer and everyone who will ever become a believer.

It’s found in 2 Samuel 13:14.

David had many wives and thus many children. One of his sons—Amnon raped his step-sister—Tamar—who was the full-sister of Absalom—another one of David’s sons.

In revenge Absalom had his step-brother Amnon murdered for the rape of his sister Tamar and then he in fear for his own life became a fugitive outside of Israel for three years.

During this time King David longed to see and be reunited to his son, but given the crime Absalom had committed, David did not feel it would be right to restore his son to himself and to grant him a pardon.

Apparently, David felt that if he were to bring Absalom back from his exile and restore him to his place as a son of the king—he would be showing favoritism and this—he could not bring himself to do.

So, whereas, on the one hand, he desired with all his heart to forgive, restore, and reinstate his son Absalom to fellowship with himself and to his position as a son of the king--

On the other hand, he could not allow himself to be seen as one who would show such mercy, grace, and really favoritism to one of his own.

David felt this would appear dishonorable and therefore weaken his position as king and cause the people he ruled to lose their respect for him. . . . so he simply chose to do nothing to restore his son.

Then Joab, David's senior military commander, knowing David's internal agony at having to put his sense of honor and duty above his love for his son—came up with a plan by which to show the king that he wouldn't sacrifice his honor and his reputation as a good king before his people in forgiving and restoring his son.

Joab commissioned a woman with a reputation for wisdom to go to the king and tell him a story about her own son who was in hiding for his life because he too had killed his brother in a fit of passion when they got in a fight out in the field where they were working.

She told him that since her husband was dead and her other son was dead, that this surviving son was all she had left and she wanted to protect him from those who were calling out for his execution.

As David listened to her story, he felt compassion for her and for her son's plight and out of mercy—he granted her son clemency for his crime as well as protection from anyone desiring to harm or kill him for what he had done.

And he did this so that this woman's son could be safely restored to his mother.

Then the woman asked David if she could petition him for one more request to which David consented.

She then asked David what at first appeared to be a strange question--”Why don't you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision because you have refused to bring home your own banished son.”

Now, remember—this woman was simply telling and acting out a story that Joab had concocted as a means of helping the king understand that showing mercy and grace to his own banished son would not be seen as dishonorable and a sign of weakness to the people of Israel but actually as a sign that their king was compassionate, approachable, merciful, and willing to suffer reproach and criticism in order to forgive and be merciful to one who needed forgiveness, mercy, and restoration.

Story telling in a middle-eastern context, even today, is a means of helping people to see things from differing perspectives.

In a sense, the woman called David on his own hypocrisy which he was revealing by his willingness to forgive and show mercy to her son but not his own.

And often, this is the case for us as parents--isn't it? We feel that it would be a sign of great weakness to show mercy and grace to our kids when they have sinned and especially sinned publicly.

Well, the woman wasn't done yet. She then went on in 2 Samuel 14:14 to remind the king that showing mercy, compassion, and grace to others who have sinned is not a sign of dishonor but of great honor because this is how God acts toward those who have sinned against Him.

Look at what she says—it is wonderful.

“For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from Him.” (NASV)

Listen to how the New Living Translation renders it:

“All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, He devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from Him.”

Listen to how the NIV translates it:

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him.”

And finally, the NKJV reads:

For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.

Now, whereas, she wanted to simply help David see that there was nothing wrong or dishonorable in forgiving and restoring his son Absalom to himself--God had a bigger audience and a much greater point in mind in placing this story in His written Word.

You see, the reason why this story is in the Bible and why God the Holy Spirit included this woman’s words to King David in the inspired record of Scripture is to help us catch a glimpse into the heart of God when it comes to Him going to any and every length—including the killing of His own Son to keep unsaved, unredeemed, unreconciled, banished, and estranged sinners from being permanently expelled from His presence.

You see, when it came to you—the believer—the one who has placed saving faith in Jesus Christ—the one who has repented of his or her sins and turned to Christ for salvation—the one who believes in Jesus and trusts in Jesus and has found life in Jesus—when it came to you—

God was unwilling to take or cast away your life. He was unwilling as Peter says—that you should perish.

And so He planned ways or as the Hebrew text literally puts it—He devised and created the very means by which He would save you—the banished one—so that you would not be eternally expelled and cast away from Him.

But not only did He create the means by which He would save you from your sins—He created the means and the ways by which you would be brought to this saving knowledge of Himself through Christ Jesus.

And He did it—not only—willingly but with great pleasure, joy, and delight.

God only does that which brings Him the most glory and the most divine pleasure.

Ephesians 1:5 makes this clear. Now, a literal rendering of this verse would read: “He predestined us to adoption as sons to Himself through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will.”

The NKJV renders it: “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will.”

The NIV puts it: “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will.”

In other words, God saved you because it was His pleasure to save you.

And thus, it was for His glory and because it brought Him great pleasure that He put together a plan by which He could save you rather than banish you.

And furthermore, it was His delight to not only make a plan by which—through Jesus Christ—you could be saved—it brought Him great joy to also devise the means and the circumstances and the situation by which you would be brought to the point of salvation.

You see, God made a plan by which to save you—in which He was willing to do whatever it took to save you including—killing His own Son in your place.

This is the heart of God toward you the believer and the heart of God toward you the unbeliever who desires to be saved and given Christ as His savior.

Mark told us the story of what happened when he was in Iraq in February, 2009.

His unit, which was a Cavalry unit made up of strikers and new IED resistant vehicles known as MRAPs were on patrol in a village in Diyala Province.

They were given the command to search a compound that had already been searched three times because aerial observers continued to insist that insurgents were hiding there.

As the squad assigned to search the compound entered the compound’s courtyard, the interpreter assigned to the squad unintentionally caved in the dirt over a hole that insurgents were hiding in.

Immediately, they fired their automatic weapons--killing the Iraqi interpreter and critically wounding many soldiers.

The crippled squad was now pinned down and trapped in the compound unable to move.

Responding troops, with no other way to get into the compound to rescue the trapped and wounded soldiers from the kill zone—made the call to drive their armored vehicles through the compound’s wall.

And so in the face of heavy enemy fire, the remaining soldiers drove their vehicles through the wall and using grenades and all of the fire power available to them silenced the insurgents guns and rescued the cut off squad.

These brave soldiers went to every length they could to save their lost and fallen comrades from the enemy.

And this is but a very small picture of what God did for us when he put together a plan to rescue us from our enemy—the enemy of our souls.

God—chose not to cast us away but rather to make a plan by which He could rescue us and then planned how to bring us to the point of being rescued.

Such is the heart of God toward you the believer.

Back On Line Again!

Wow........after a fairly lengthy sabbatical from blogging due mostly to being in a place where the internet just plain doesn't work long enough to barely check email I am up and running again.  We have relocated to Maroua in the Grand North of Cameroon and can even get back on facebook now.  Stay tuned as I have a lot to report and share even if I am the only one checking this blog out anymore.  This is really more of a test than anything else to see if I can post something from here.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13