Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Their Feet Are Swift...

At present the U.S. Supreme Court is in the throes of debate over Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, involving the Parental Notification Act. This act prohibits abortions for minors unless the parents have been notified. This heated contest, as it is being fueled by Planned Parenthood, is exposing at least two things: 1. This fallen world's hatred for the institution of marriage/family and 2. the truth of Romans 3:15-18:


Romans 3:15-18: 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace have they not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

The eagerness that this generation has to reach into the womb and destroy human life is distubing - but it is nothing new; but now this issue is being used to mutilate the privacy and independence of the institution of the family, and the liberal media seems to be enjoying the contest. Consider the following excerpt from CNN today:


"Justice David Souter, a New Hampshire native, wasted little time before firing questions at Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire's attorney general, about how the state's law deals with situations where a minor's health -- but not life -- is in danger and she needs an immediate abortion ... Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer zeroed in on how doctors would avoid being prosecuted or sued if they performed an abortion if the minor did not want to notify a parent and a judge was unavailable to provide the necessary approval."

You've heard the expression: "there's no such thing as a foolish question." Actually, there is such a thing as a foolish question, as is evidenced by the queries offered by Mr. Souter, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Breyer. Instead of worrying about whether a doctor can get away with murder, the real question should be: "Can any murderer successfully avoid the prosecution and eternal judgment of God (Revelation 21:8)?" But instead of being concerned about the glory and good pleasure of God, men continue to construe laws which seek to undermine His laws; and not being content with the act of murder alone (or as the modern redactors call it "pregnancy termination"), their feet are now swift to separate children from their parents in order to shed more blood. Let us not be deceived - this world is not our home, and the inhabitants of this fallen world march in lock-step with Satan (Eph. 2:1-2) who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44, Gen. 3). But neither should we forget that we too marched with them (Eph. 2:3) before the grace of God turned us into the soldiers of Christ. Let us therefore pray for mercy and the awakening of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men. Until God works in this manner, the feet of fallen men will only continue to run towards their own perdition.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Who Let The Dogs...In?

Philippians 3:2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision...


Thanks to the therapeutic culture of our modern world, the biblical concepts of despair and joy have been turned on their heads. Modern psychology continues to give people a "life-pass" for their despair and depression, while frowning on those who joyfully endure hardships, suggesting that they are "in denial." Sadly, the church has not only failed to refute such false doctrine, but has embraced this secularism with the hope of becoming more "relevant" and "compassionate" to this ever-changing world.


Right? It is a changing world, isn't it?


Well, our technology has changed to be sure; however the conflict of man concerning false doctrine and depression goes back as far as the fall itself (Genesis 3:1-7). Let me say to every Christian reading this article that all spiritual despair has a common root of bad doctrine. The genuine believer must comprehend this truth and take it very seriously, for when we sink into the recesses of doubt and despair, we prove ourselves to be bad, or at least forgetful, theologians. All believers struggle with sorrow and despair, but in the end, this is not the pattern of life to which we wereFinally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you called. This is the very same message that the Apostle Paul had for the church at Philippi. We often refer to this epistle as the epistle of joy, for Paul wrote to the church from jail (yes, from jail) exhorting the brethren there to rejoice, rather than grumble and dispute (Phil. 2:14). This is a compelling thought when one muses over it all carefully: when someone writes you from jail, under the possible threat of death, it is hard to ignore the magnitude of their exhortation to rejoice! A response of "oh yeah, but you don't understand our pain" would sound pretty ridiculous! What the Apostle wrote, the Philippians desperately needed, for they were in danger of losing their joy and therefore their Christian testimony (Phil 2:14-16) - all because of a very serious threat in their midst: false brethren and their false doctrine. This is clarified when Paul gives us this finale in chapter 3:



FINALLY, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard* for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision [*asphales - something that is secure or certain - providing needed protection].


Sound doctrine, and genuine joy in Christ, are very real safeguards for the Christian. Such joy is not the shallow joy of the world, but the eternal joy of Christ which is rooted and grounded in His truth - the only truth which sets us free (John 8:31-36). Such joy is established in the heart of the believer when he embraces the truth of God's sovereignty over all things (Phil 1:12-18); it is strengthened through our consideration of His sovereign work of salvation and sanctification in our lives (Phil 1:3-6, 29; 2:12-13); and it is purified when the Christian can comprehend that such joy does not comport with the sins of grumbling and disputing (Phil. 2:14) - by this we are "proven" to be the children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15-16). The relationship between Philippians 3:1 and 3:2 is not at all confounding when one comprehends this relationship between sound doctrine and true joy. However, when the genuine doctrine of God is supplanted with a counterfeit, then the Christian's joy is in serious jeopardy. Philippi was in danger of losing the safeguard of their doctrine and their joy because of the corruptions which came through those whom Paul called "dogs, evil workers" and "false circumcision." The "dogs" were probably those who imported Greek philosophy and licentious doctrines (Phil. 3:19); the false circumcision were the Judaizers in their midst (Phil. 3:3-9) and his term "evil workers" may have encompassed every other permutation of errorist, from one end of the spectrum to the other. In the end, Paul taught the Philippians (and us) that it is not enough to rehearse positive truth in order to safeguard our joy in Christ - we must also beware of and reject the leaven of false brethren and their false doctrines (Matt. 16:6, Phil 3:2), remembering that though they are adorned with sheep's clothing they are ravenous wolves inside (Matt. 7:15).


I am convinced that there are many believers who have been taken captive by the doctrinal "dogs" of this world (Col. 2:8) - these sheep must be snatched out of the corruption of their error through the cleansing waters of Holy Writ. Under the pretense of godliness, the modern church is often guilty of giving its members over to a false joy, rather than to the joy of Christ which looks to His victory and His finished work on the cross. Whether by means of legalism, liscentiousness or by a host of other man-centered doctrines, there are many today whose joy in Christ is being snuffed out by the faulty doctrines of men. But we can thank God that the Apostle Paul was not "safeguarded" by such false teaching - his safeguard was his joy in the sovereign Lord over all. He did not write from jail, complaining about smelly Roman soldiers, the poor quality of the food or the dismal conditions of his prison abode. No - Paul, in all his imperfections and with all his difficult circumstances, joyfully looked to Christ and rejoiced greatly in view of His transcendent glory and His eternal kingdom (Phil. 3:12-14). Paul trusted in the sovereign grace of God to such an extent that he had the habit of singing and witnessing while in prison (Acts 16:22-40, Phil. 1:12-13). And through the Apostle's imitation of Christ, we now have a great epistle of joy...and even brethren from Caesar's household to meet in glory someday (Phil. 4:22)!


Again, let it be said - rejoice!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Humiliation Day to You!

Here is an idea for your family devotions today: I am sure that you are familiar with the story of Mr. William Bradford who served as the governor of Plymouth Plantation almost continuously from 1621 to 1656 (except for five of years of this period) - His description of the early pilgrims, their devotion to God, and endurance through suffering, helps us to comprehend better the significance of what we refer to as "Thanksgiving Day." Their thanksgiving day was actually preceded by another special day that was a necessary precursor for their thanksgiving celebration. In Bradford's record below, we learn of the hardships that visited Plymouth, even after new supplies and passengers arrived on the ship called the Anne:


"These passengers, when they saw their low and poor condition ashore, were much daunted and dismayed, and according to their divers humors were diversely affected. Some wished themselves in England again; others fell a-weeping, fancying their own misery in what they saw now in others; other some pitying the distress they saw their friends had been long in, and still were under. In a word, all were full of sadness. Only some of their old friends rejoiced to see them, and that it was no worse with them, for they could not expect it should be better, and now hoped they should enjoy better days together. And truly it was no marvel they should be thus affected, for they were in a very low condition; many were ragged in apparel and some little better than half naked, though some that were well stored before were well enough in this regard. But for food they were all alike, save some that had got a few pease of the ship that was last here. The best dish they could present their friends with was a lobster or a piece of fish without bread or anything else but a cup of fair spring water. And the long continuance of this diet, and their labours abroad, had something abated the freshness of their former complexion; but God gave them health and strength in a good measure, and showed them by experience the truth of that word, (Deuteronomy 8:3) 'That man liveth not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth a man live.'"


"When I think how sadly the Scriptures speaks of the famine in Jacob's time, when he said to his sons, 'God buy us food, that we may live and not die,' (Genesis xlii.2 and xliii.1) that the famine was great or heavy in the land. And yet they had such great herds and store of cattle of sundry kinds, which, besides flesh, must needs produce other food as milk, butter and cheese, etc. And yet it was counted a sore affliction. Theirs here must needs be very great, therefore, who not only wanted the staff of bread but all these things, and had no Egypt to go to. But God fed them out of the sea for the most part, so wonderful is His providence over His in all ages; for His mercy endureth forever."


"I may not here omit how, notwithstand all their great pains and industry, and the great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, and take away the same, and to threaten further and more sore famine unto them. By a great drought which continued from the third week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat for the most part, insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore, and some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay, part whereof was never recovered. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians' admiration that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance was that the earth was thoroughly we and soaked and therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving."


[Note: "...A law of 15 Nov. 1636 (Plymouth Colony Records XI 18) allows the Governor and Assistants 'to command solemn days of humiliation by fasting, etc., and also for thanksgiving as occasion shall be offered.'"]. Excerpt of William Bradford - Of Plymouth Plantation [1620-1647] by William Bradford, edited by Samuel Eliot Morison.


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What I love about this excerpt is that the institution of their thanksgiving celebration came some time after a day of prayer and humiliation. Here is a great lesson for us all: Genuine thankfulness can only grow and flourish in a heart that has been softened and prepared by humility (Philippians 2:1-14; 1 Cor 4:7). In view of the truth of God's word, and in view of the historic example of these godly brethren, let us all seek the Lord prayerfully, with humility, and with thanksgiving!


Soli Deo Gloria


Thursday, November 17, 2005

With Liberty and Justice for All?


Americans love the ideals of liberty and justice. Our desire for these principles is so strong that even our pledge of allegiance ends with the expression - "with liberty and justice for all." So whenever those ideals appear to be in jeopardy, the citizens of America often become quite animated. I do believe that America's deep desire for liberty and justice is the very reason that there has been so much excitement and concern over the recent Supreme Court nominations. In droves, political action groups and government officials have again positioned themselves for the next contest of confirmation, while many in our nation are anxious to learn how the future associate justice will impact an already divided court. Ultimately, the liberties and standards of justice in our nation are in question. But amidst this highly energized contest, let me offer one important reminder:


Without Christ, the ideals of liberty and justice are a mere myth.


That statement may shock some of you, but it is absolutely true. Let me scrutinize this statement for a moment by first considering the politically charged environment that Christ faced when He walked this earth. In the 1st century A.D., the leaders of the nation of Israel were divided into two basic groups: a socially liberal party (the Sadducees) and a morally conservative party (the Pharisees). Both groups struggled over the rights and freedoms of the people, and the leaders of these parties were often guilty of messaging the laws of the land in order to accomplish their own political ends. Additionally, the real power center of their day had become the council of the Sanhedrin, which was a judiciary comprised of Sadducees and Pharisees. This judicial body of the Sanhedrin was the highest authority in Israel - thus, they were the Supreme Court for all of the people.


Is any of this sounding familiar?


It should, especially since many people of that era also hungered for liberty and justice, for all! Now this brings me to my point about the mythology of liberty and justice. What Christ taught, concerning liberty and justice, was utterly earth-shattering. In one particular instance Christ made a profound declaration to some people who had confidently asserted that they were free men (John 8:33). He said: "everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin... if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:34-36). If you need to read that again, please do! Christ's profound statement could pass you by if you're not careful. What the Lord states here is crucial: 1. Men, of whom all are sinners (Romans 3:23), are slaves, and 2. Christ, and Christ alone, is the only hope for true freedom - period. Consider the implications of these truths for a moment.


If a man could amass an entire world of social and political freedoms; if he could singularly select the next president, the president's cabinet, every senator and congressman, and even the entire body of the Supreme Court, then one might think that such a man is "free." But if such a man has not trusted Christ as his Savior, for the forgiveness of his sins, then he remains as a slave of sin. The kingdoms of this world can only offer temporal, limited and imperfect forms of liberty and justice. Compared to the true liberty that Christ offers, all that the world can offer is a mere vapor in the wind. And as for the justice of Christ, we must remember that the cross is the centerpiece of all justice for mankind. It is there that Christ, who bore the sins of many (Mark 10:45) and endured the just judgment of God for our sins (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:21). By Christ's "one act of righteousness" on the cross, the many who believe in Him "will be made righteous" (Romans 5:18-19).


Here is true liberty and justice - the liberty and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the only liberty and justice that is eternal, holy, pure, and without defilement such that in future glory, no one will be able to protest, filibuster or amend any of His judgments. Truly, without Christ, the ideals of liberty and justice are a mere myth. But in Christ, there is no greater freedom in the entire universe!


Michael Beasley (Alt. November 16th 2005: Originally published in the Winston Salem Journal on August 5th 2005).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sharing Christ at Salem College: Lift Up Your Eyes - Isaiah 40:26

Lift Up Your EyesWe recently had the opportunity to go to Salem College and present the glory of the heavens, and ultimately, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord provided a wonderful opportunity to meet with many people - not just the students from the campus... Even for those passer's-by who didn't have much time to talk, were able to get a copy of the DVD version of the Lift Up Your Eyes presentation. Many, many, many thanks to the brethren who helped in this event - with special thanks to Jessica Ramsey for inviting us on campus in the first place! For more informationon this event, go to the Lift Up Your Eyes ministry website: www.luye.us.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Behind a thundering providence...

Our recent camping experience ended with a rather interesting turn of events. We were caught in the middle of a lightening storm, with very little time to take cover. I heard a loud bolt of thunder, and with it, an almost simultaneous flash of bright light; the proximity of the light and sound let me know that this was very close. We took two vans with us (for all our gear). When we knew that we needed to take cover, we went to the nearest vehicle - which was our grey Plymouth Voyager, rather than our green Dodge Caravan, which was no more than thirty feet away. To comfort the children, and to give them a sense of the wonder of the moment, I began reading Psalm 18 to them - Psalm 18 is where King David likens the power of God to that of a lightening storm! Well, it wasn't but a few minutes later that we saw, and heard, a remarkable bolt of lightening strike...



The lightening struck this tree and then rippled down towards the green van beneath...

The lightening bolt then hit the van and ripped several holes in the metal exterior of the van...
Then the bolt wrapped around the exterior of the rear of the van and headed for the ground near the rear right wheel...
It was here that the lightening terminated and blew out the rear tire - leaving a hole large enough for me to stick my hand inside!
In the providence of God - our old van was destroyed, and, with the generous help of the brethren at Pilgrim Bible Church, we were able to replace the Dodge van with a newer, larger - people mover - A Ford F-350 11 passenger van!