Tuesday 26 June 2012

A choice between two worldviews


Worldview 1
If there is no personal Creator, our existence is most certainly a cosmic accident. We exist by chance, not by design or purpose. We exist in a deterministic universe governed by raw natural selection. And, if this is an accurate accounting for our existence, several facts follow:
1. Notions of ultimate meaning are based on wishful thinking and irrational fantasy. Discussions about such ideas are themselves unexpected in such a universe.
2. There is no ultimate morality; no right or wrong; no transcendent morality. On this version of reality, morals are simply matters of personal or societal opinion. The so-called problem of evil cannot be addressed and cannot (on rational grounds) really be called a problem .
3. Death is both the irreversible cessation of organismic functioning and the irreversible loss of personhood. There is no hope of anything outside of this life. 
Problem: Humans everywhere throughout all of history know (intuitively) and live in a way contrary to this version of life. 
Worldview 2
If, on the other hand, there is a Creator, a personal God who made us male and female in His own image, then at least three truths follow:
1. Life has value, meaning and dignity beyond the limitation of human opinion. We should expect to see people seeking value and meaning.
2. Personal identity, human freedom and responsibility become genuine markers of our existence. We have been endowed by our Creator with these qualities. We should expect to see people pursue these realities. 
3. The transcendent (which we intuitively recognize) elevates us out of the despair of human relativism and the limitations of human inquiry. We should expect to see people reach toward the transcendent and eternal.
Steve Cornell

Saturday 23 June 2012

Open Sesame Scriptures

June 22, 2012

As a child, I was enthralled by the story of "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves."

This ancient Arabian story tells of an everyday working guy, Ali Baba, who happens to overhear thieves discussing their hidden treasure. He follows them to their cave, hears the magic words Open Sesame (our English version of what they said, no doubt) which opens the door, and follows them inside. There he discovers a king's ransom in jewels and gold. Later, using the (ahem) password, Ali Baba returns and helps himself to the treasure.

You can see why a child would love that story. It contains so many of the elements we all like in a good story: free gold, easy living, the bad guys are conned, and simple words that do wondrous things.

I don't know any magic words other than I love you, thank you, you're beautiful/you're important/you are smart, and please. However, in studying the Holy Scriptures, I have come across a few which seem to work like Ali Baba's door. We open it and find all kinds of treasures inside.

Here are a few such scriptures. See what they open up for you.
I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you....and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)

The first promise God gave to Abraham contained the gist of all that was to follow: great blessings upon him and his household, a name known everywhere, and "all the families of the earth" to be blessed.
The last part--blessing all the families of the earth--is the open sesame.

Even though subsequent generations of Abraham's descendants were to forget this and assume that the blessings of Heaven were theirs and theirs alone, from the beginning the Father in Heaven had the entire human family on His heart.

The Psalmist sang of this great promise: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord (Ps. 22:27). All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord (Ps. 86:9).

Isaiah spoke of this: But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish...but later on, He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.... (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Likewise, see Isaiah 49:6 and 60:3. Daniel 7:14 and Hosea 2:23 repeat variations of the same promise.

Why, one wonders were the Jews of the New Testament period so closed to the idea of God loving the Gentiles and that the message of Jesus was intended for them also? You can see it all through the gospels....

In Matthew 8, just after the Sermon on the Mount, we see Jesus with the Roman centurion--a Gentile--and we find the Lord's comment to His followers which felt like a slap in the face to some. I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness.

How plain is that?

In the Acts of the Apostles, three buzz-words set off the enemies of the faith. As soon as Paul and his colleagues spoke of Jesus or the resurrection or the Gentiles, their fury was unleashed. (See Acts 4:18; 5:33; 7:55-57; 11:1-3)

In Acts 9, God calls Saul of Tarsus as an evangelist to the Gentiles.

How patiently the Heavenly Father nurtured His weak apostles along as He opened their eyes to the world-wide scope of His love. See the vision God gave Simon Peter in Acts 10. It's all about fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

Finally, at the culmination of it all, we have this heavenly picture: After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' (Revelation 7:9-10)

All God is doing is carrying out what He had said from the first.
His plans are always bigger than we can imagine, include far more people than we know, and achieve much more than we would have thought to ask.

Then the Lord passed by in front of (Moses) and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgressions, and sins; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. (Exodus 34:6-7)

Moses had asked something more than he was able to receive. "Lord," he said, "show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18).

Moses could no more see the glory of God--and survive the experience-- than a housefly can take in all the dimensions of sunlight from about a half-mile out.

God would have to tone down what He would show Moses. He would require a transformer. (Interesting metaphor: as the transformer on the light pole down the street from your house gentles the electricity to the point that it can enter your home without burning it down, and once inside it can run your computer or brown your toast, so the Lord Jesus gentled the glory of God to the point that we could see and marvel. John wrote, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). )
What the Lord did for Moses was to reveal only one facet of His glory, His goodness. (33:19).

This revelation--Exodus 34:6-7--is unique in Scripture. There is nothing like it anywhere else, with the exception of all the places where it is quoted or alluded to
From the very mouth of God, we have His confession of what He is like, His very character. These verses are well worth memorizing and meditating upon. They truly are life and nourishment to the soul.
God's very nature is compassion and grace. He is slow to anger, so patient with wrong-doers (see II Peter 3:9). He abounds--literally, overflows--with lovingkindness and truth.

This is His nature, who He is. These are not aberrations, exceptions to the rule, but they are the rule. On the surface and all the way down, God is grace and love and faithfulness.

The enemy attacks God the Father at this very point. In the Garden, the serpent called God a liar and assured Eve that He did not want the best for her (Genesis 3:1-5). One of the primary purposes of the Lord Jesus in coming to this rebellious planet was to straighten people out about the Father's nature. He said, "If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him" (Matthew 7:11).

When God said He "keeps lovingkindness for thousands," scholars believe He is saying "for thousands of generations." That would contrast with His "visiting the iniquity" of fathers to only three and four generations (Exodus 34:7).

So, in what way then is Exodus 34:6-7 an "open sesame" scripture? Answer: in that it is quoted, applied, and treasured throughout the Old Testament.

Moses claimed this promise in Numbers 14:18. It was the basis for his intercession.
Nehemiah sang it in Nehemiah 9:17.

Jonah confessed it in Jonah 4:2. This was the root of his rebellion (meaning he did not want God to forgive but "just knew" it was like Him to do so).

Joel preached it in Joel 2:8. It gave him hope.

And the Psalmist sang it in Psalms 86, 103, and 145 as a great treasure.

You'll also find bits and pieces of those two great verses cropping up in the writings of the prophets. For instance, we read in Jeremiah 33:11, "...for the Lord is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting" and in 51:56, "For the Lord is a God of recompense, He will fully repay."

And then we come to Jesus, the very definition of "Open Sesame."

Ah, but where to start. I can go long or short here, but there is hardly an in-between since the Scriptures Old and New are all about Jesus. He truly is the "open sesame" to all the riches God has.

"On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their father's households, a lamb for each household" (Exodus 12:3).

So begins the story of the original Passover Lamb.

Every lamb slain in the Old Testament time anticipated Calvary and the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

"Christ our Passover," Paul called Him (I Corinthians 5:7).

In Heaven, Jesus is the "Lamb standing, as if slain" (Revelation 5:6). The saints of the ages sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 5:12).

"Follow the Lamb" (Revelation 14:4). That is one of the great studies of Scripture.

Human language bursts at the seam trying to announce all that Jesus is in God's eternal program of salvation. He is the Great High Priest and He is the offering on the altar. He is the Judge and He is our Advocate. He is both the lamb on the altar and the scapegoat driven into the wilderness. He is the victim on the cross and the Victor over the grave. Jesus is Lord.

Finally, my brethren....

There are so many other themes found in the Old Testament which we may trace throughout Scripture with great benefit. To mention a few....

--The House of God. We go from no house at all to a portable tabernacle to the luxurious Temple of Solomon to the economical version rebuilt after Babylon into the New Testament where we read, "You are the temple of God" (I Corinthians 6:19; II Corinthians 6:16; I Peter 2:4-9). The dwelling place of God was with Jesus (John 1:14) and is in us (Colossians 1:27).

--The Word of God. In the beginning, God spoke the worlds into being (Genesis 1). Jesus is the Word (John 1). Nowhere does Scripture call disciples God's Word but we are to take His Word to the world.

--The Light of the World. God spoke the light into being (again, Genesis 1). Jesus was the Light (John 1:9) and called Himself "the light of the world" (John 8:12). Believers are sent into the world to be its light (Matthew 5:14).

--The grace of God. Those who say the Old Testament is all about law and the New Testament all about grace reveal a serious gap in either their knowledge of the Word or their understanding of it. Grace is found on every page of this book. In particular, Exodus 20, where we find the Ten Commandments (called "Ten Words") presents God as a Lord of grace. It was gracious of Him to give us these commands, and more than amazing that in the same chapter, He gives provisions for an altar (Ex. 20:24-26) since He knows we are going to be unable to live up to His standards. Exodus 34:6-7 has it just right.

Leadership Cartoons by Joe McKeever -- Cartoon Illustrations for Church Bulletins, Newsletters, Presentations, and more...
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Wow, you really let the Spirit work through you on this one...Thanks for allowing Him to do so....I will repost and share it....it will go viral....Your subtitle should be `` Grace is found on every page of this book.``
Your friend in the Lord
Posted by: Andre Delage at June 23, 2012 11:43 AM
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Thursday 14 June 2012

One Verse Does not Establish Doctrine

Ron Graham - twotug@embarqmail.com
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” 2 Peter 2:20. This verse is continually taken out of context and misquoted by those who would have the rest of us believe we can lose our salvation. But as we study the verse in context it’s impossible to establish an argument that proves salvation to be so fleeting. As we will soon see, the verse in question has nothing to do with the born again “in Christ” believer.
Before I continue I must point out these simple rules. Always consider the full counsel of God when studying His Word. Never pull one verse out of any chapter of the Bible and attempt to establish doctrine from that one verse. Never attempt to point to one particular verse to refute what God plainly states to the contrary in numerous other scripture verses. Only the foolish argue with God.
“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:” Hebrews 6:17-18.
As verse 18 clearly states “by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation”. In other words when God says something we are to consider what He says as absolute (immutable); when God repeats Himself, contradicting Him leaves a person with no other refuge to lay hold of. God’s word does not contradict itself. Rendering our interpretation by the whole counsel of God mandates we examine all relevant verses before coming to our conclusion.
Peter begins chapter 2 of his second epistle with the word “But”, which means we need to go back a chapter to get an idea of where he’s coming from so we can better grasp where he’s headed. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21. Peter is referring to prophecy and prophets of the Old Testament, which speak of the coming Messiah. The prophecies concerning the coming Messiah all pointed to Jesus Christ. He finishes up that chapter speaking of “holy men of God” who had received, by way of the Holy Spirit, the prophecy of the coming Messiah and as they were moved to do so they revealed those prophecies to mankind.
With that premise in mind, only now should we proceed with the chapter in question. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1. This chapter of second Peter is speaking about the coming of false teachers (shall be). As Peter delivers his message he equates these soon to arrive false teachers to the false prophets who had come in among the people of old. He tells us these false teachers who come in among us will bring with them damnable heresies. Peter dedicates this entire chapter to exposing the brethren to the truth about false teachers and their coming swift destruction. In this Peter gives a heads up warning to the followers of Messiah Jesus so we can be prepared.
We immediately begin to see the Apostle laying out in precise detail the characteristics of those he’s writing about. These false teachers will be Christ rejecters and fully corrupt. “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:2. Peter tells his readers many will follow these false teachers and their destructive teachings. The truth of the Gospel will be rejected by these false teachers, even to the point that they will speak of the Gospel maliciously. This tells us that these false teachers will have already been presented with the knowledge of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, but will reject it and replace it with another gospel (damnable heresies). “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you:” 2 Peter 2:3a. Peter goes on to explain that these heretics will have an agenda, which is to use those who follow them for their own selfish gain. Sound familiar?
Throughout this chapter Peter lays out a clear picture of just who these false teachers will be. He describes in full detail their wickedness. Once he exposes these false teachers for who and what they are, Peter then moves into the realm of their punishment. Interestingly, he compares their impossible escape from judgment to that of the angels that sinned as described way back in Genesis chapter 6 “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” 2 Peter 2:4. Everlasting condemnation is upon those who persist in the teaching of false gospels.
It must be understood that in this entire chapter Peter never refers to these heretics as being at one time born again or that they’ve lost their salvation. On the contrary, those who Peter continually refers to as false teachers will reject the knowledge with which they are presented. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” 2 Peter 2:20. Peter tells his readers that the knowledge of the Gospel is sufficient in regards to making a correct decision for Christ, but he never even makes an allusion to knowledge alone being the key to salvation. Only the belief in the subject matter (which in this case is the Gospel of Christ) can justify a person in God’s eyes. All the knowledge in the world can’t save anyone.
The Apostle makes the assertion that those who hear the true Gospel (those who are given the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ) are provided a clear avenue for escaping the entanglements of the pollutions (defilements) of the world. The fact that these false teachers will have rejected that knowledge is as plain as day. Thus through their rejection of the Gospel they will see no problem as they return to the defilements of the world. Those who reject Christ cannot claim son-ship with the Father.
When it comes to false teachers, Peter speaks of their end as being worse for them than their beginning. Their horrible end is substantiated by the Apostle Paul’s statement in the following verse. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:11. Paul is speaking of those who heard the word of truth (were presented with the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ) but who blatantly rejected it. As Peter states it “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning”.
“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:21-22. It is mistakenly assumed that these two verses are speaking of those who are born again. Since we aren’t saved simply by knowing the way of righteousness but by believing in the way, returning to the muck and the mire of the pollutions of the world can’t be a recipe for losing one’s salvation. Peter explains again that even though they were given the knowledge (the way of righteousness) they rejected that truth. He never tells his readers that they had believed, on the contrary these folks were steeped in rejection. 
By quoting the above proverb, Peter is attempting to show clearly the mindset of those who reject the truth. He confirms the fact that after hearing the truth many simply turn away and continue in the same filthy and corrupt lifestyles as before. The washed sow in the proverb is in no way speaking of those who have been washed with the blood of Christ, but is only an example of what happens to many people as they have been shown the way of righteousness (they’re presented with the perfect truth of the Gospel) and they reject its message, then continue on with their lives as before.
The truth of the matter is there are verses in the scriptures that seem to conflict with the fact that we can never lose what God has given us – His free gift of salvation which is His only begotten Son. However, there is always an explanation for every one of them. When the correct interpretation is explained and understood, all confusion is dispelled. Believing the truth of the Gospel is the key to everlasting life, rejecting that truth is the key to eternal damnation. Our salvation is secure because we are in God’s hands, and for no other reason. To state it more succinctly, without God’s mighty hands we are helpless to keep ourselves saved.
Finally, I’d like to add what James says concerning teachers. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” James 3:1. The word “master” is translated from the Greek word “didaskalos” which actually means teacher. Bible teachers today should put more emphasis on those words, particularly regarding the fact that as teachers of God’s word we are held accountable for the teaching the truth. If we teach a false gospel we will receive the greater condemnation just as Peter tells us happened to the angels who participated in the corruption of humankind as described in Genesis chapter 6. Be careful how you present the word of God to others.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed
Please continue to pray for me, I’m still battling the Myasthenia. Your prayers and gifts are greatly appreciated. If Holy Spirit is leading you to send a gift of support, please send it to Ron Graham – 96 County Road 5480 Salem, MO. 65560. Thank you my dear brethren, God bless
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