Nov 062012

For the Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who can annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

Isaiah 14:27 (ESV)

God has ordained the time and place of our dwelling. “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Ultimately, we did not choose the country in which we would live. God did. There are different types of governments in the world, and we read in Scripture that all of these governmental authorities have been given by God (Romans 13:1).

The Scriptures makes clear that Christians, no matter which country they inhabit, have certain responsibilities to the nation in which they live. First of all, believers, like other citizens, are to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15-22). Paul told the Roman believers that they were to pay taxes because the governing authorities were ministers of God on their behalf. They were to pay what was owed them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, etc. (Romans 13:6-7)

Secondly, believers are to submit to governing authorities. We read this in Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 3:5-6, and Titus 3:1. Paul is writing in regards to the Roman Empire! Of course, when man’s laws contradict God’s Word, we must obey the Word (Acts 5:29). But in the general course of our lives, we must obey and submit to those over us. Just as an example, believers should respect and obey the speed limit on our roads. We should respect and obey other driving laws that are designed to keep the public safe. In America, driving in the left-hand lane will cause accidents and death. In Britain, driving in the right-hand lane will cause accidents and death. Each nation’s rules should be respected and obeyed.

Thirdly, believers are called to pray for those in authority over us. Paul told Timothy to urge the believers in Ephesus that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we might lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). How do I pray for our leaders? First of all, I pray that God would grant them a humble spirit and that they would seek the wisdom that comes from God. I pray that they would acknowledge God as the sovereign King and recognize that they are accountable to Him. I pray that they would seek wisdom from God’s Word, which is truth, and which speaks to every issue of life. I pray that they would fear God and not man or other nations, and would seek to please God. I pray that God would protect their marriages and families. I pray that they would pursue righteousness and forsake the spirit of our relativistic age. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). I pray that God would use these leaders for His own sovereign purposes. There are many others areas where prayer is needed for our leaders, but these are just a few.

Fourthly, as mentioned in the verse above and in Romans 12:18, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” No question that believers must speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves (such as the unborn and the weak), and believers should stand up for what is right in other areas (such as God’s design for marriage as one man, and one woman, for life). But we should be respectful. Yes, we must be bold and courageous, but we should never be arrogant. We should strive to live at peace and to be an example of godliness. Yes, we must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), but we must not be contentious! We won’t go around looking for a fight, but we won’t back down from one either!

I take great comfort today in the fact God is working His sovereign plan and He can be totally trusted. Our lives, as children of God, are absolutely secure! The only way I can truly rest and press on is to know that God is doing something that is so much bigger than what my feeble eyes can see and what my ignorant mind can comprehend. This morning in my devotions and prayer time, a hymn that we sometimes sing at RBC came to mind and I found that it eased my anxiety over our troubled land and helped me to rest in God’s sovereignty. The hymn was written by Margaret Clarkson and is entitled “O Father You Are Sovereign.” The second verse says this:

O Father you are sovereign in all affairs of man;
No powers of death and darkness can thwart your perfect plan.
All chance and change transcending, supreme in time and space,
You hold your trusting children secure in your embrace.

O what a great and mighty God we serve! There is none like Him! One day Nebuchadnezzar stood on his roof and looked over Babylon and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” But a voice came from heaven, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdoms of men and gives it to whom he will.” Then, after his humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar, this pagan king, blessed God and declared, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Praise be to God! He rules! So RBC, let us trust Him. Let us love Him. Let us submit to Him as our King!

I love you all!

Pastor Bill

Oct 202011

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV)

Cotton Candy Christianity is all around us. It is all fluff and no substance. It can get a crowd excited and make them feel good and comfortable. It looks great on the outside and projects an image of health. Its pews are full and its calendar is even fuller. It is consumer-driven; that is, it gives the people what they want. You will notice in these gatherings that the people are sovereign. The focus is about “my success,” “my attitude” and “my personal growth.” Pastors are viewed as professionals who organize ways to give the people what they want. If the pastor doesn’t do what they want, they simply go somewhere else.

Let me give you an example of a pop-cultural, pop-psychological message from a new book on the New York Times best-seller list. Every week, 45,000 people gather in person to hear this same message, not to mention countless more receiving it through other media. “If you make the mistake of dwelling on those [negative] thoughts, you are preparing to have a lousy day. You are using your faith in the wrong direction. Turn it around and say, ‘This will be a great day. Something good will happen to me. God has favor in my future, and I’m expecting new opportunities, divine connections, and supernatural breakthroughs.'” The author goes on to say, “When you begin each day in faith, anticipating something good, God tells the angels to go to work and arrange things in your favor. He gives you breaks, lines up the right people, and opens the right doors. That is what allows God to show up and do amazing things.” (emphasis mine)

So you see, in this man-centered message, God is crippled and unable to help you unless you have the right attitude. If you simply have faith and the right attitude, you will get that promotion, you will close that real estate deal, you will have excellent health, your children can attend the best schools and you can snag that beach house.

The Bible is very clear that no matter what your attitude, God could have a different plan in mind that He will execute for His sovereign purposes. Let me give you two examples (though the Bible is full of them). First, from Hebrews 11:32-40. By faith, some conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, etc. Now, in verse 36, we see that by faith others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated.” In God’s sovereignty, we see here that some were rescued and others were not. Second, Acts 12 tells us that Herod killed James with the edge of the sword. Peter also is captured, but in God’s sovereignty, Peter receives a dramatic rescue. One is killed by the sword, the other is not killed by the sword. Was James killed because he did not put on the garment of praise and Peter did? Absolutely not! The author I quoted above says that when he heard birds chirping and singing he asked them, “Hey birds. Have you read the newspapers lately? Did you see the stock market last year? What was it with those birds? They know a secret (follow me here, if you can believe this). They know their heavenly father is in control. They know God has promised to take care of them, so they go through the day singing and enjoying life, regardless of the circumstances.” I wonder about the bird that flew into my truck a few weeks ago. Was God not taking care of him? Maybe that bird didn’t know that God would take care of him or maybe that bird did not sing that day and was being punished. This teaching is rubbish.

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul commands Timothy to preach the word to the Church in Ephesus. He tells him to be ready always, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching, because a time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine. Notice that the people are the focus here, not the cotton-candy preachers. It is the people who do not want to hear sound teaching. They want cotton-candy and ice cream rather than vegetables and hearty meat. Because they have “itching ears” they accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Paul says these people have turned away from truth and wandered off into myths. What an indictment on the people! In the case of the book quoted above, it tells us more about those that buy it and support it than it tells us about the author. I only downloaded the free sample of this book to my Kindle. One chapter was all that I could handle.

What is absent in these gatherings and in the author’s books are the words “original sin”, “depravity of our hearts”, “justification by grace through faith in the cross”, “the sovereignty of God in all things”, “patiently endure suffering”, “trusting God through the pain”, and “that Christ would be exalted in my body whether I live or whether I die. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is no teaching on the Trinity and redemption history. When sin is mentioned, it is treated merely as not living up to your potential, rather than being a great offense to a holy God who must punish it. Anything that is perceived as negative by modern culture will not be found in these books.

Deep down, cotton-candy Christianity is rotten and weak and impotent. It centers on man and his needs rather than on God and His glory. And let me tell you: modern, American evangelicalism is full of it!

Yesterday, this New York Times best-selling author was in Atlanta to sign the new book. Only 200 could do it, no more than 2 books per person, no pictures with him, and no message written inside the cover but his name. He doesn’t need to write a message on the inside cover. The book itself contains the message that the people want to hear, and if you read, it says nothing. Maybe someday John Owen’s work, On Temptation and Sin, will make the New York Times best-seller list. Sorry! Not unless there is a great reformation of truth in our day. O God, please bring genuine revival based on Your Truth. In Jesus name, Amen.