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Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

Daily I’m reminded of this fact.

My soul’s three enemies:

The World

The Flesh

The Devil

The one I most constantly battle is The Flesh and its three agents:

Me

Myself

I

Try as I might, I am weak in the flesh.

Rom 7: (KJV)

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Romans 8:1-39 ESV — There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a promise!

God is Faithful! Even when we aren’t.

We sing about it:

🎶Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with Thee

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me🎶

We talk about the faithfulness of God. But do we grasp it, and understand it and trust in Him as we ought? I’m guilty of forgetting and turning away from what I know of God’s nature. I too often look inward instead of remembering it is he that holds me, and not me who holds him. I have no power in myself to hold on… The Lord has all power (And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”)

Lamentations 3:21-24 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

God is faithful when we are not. 

Christian, God gave his only son in order to fulfill the Father’s perfect requirements for the redemption from sin in order that by his Grace we who are being saved can be called sons and daughters, in Christ Jesus.

Every day I need to be reminded of this.

The Gospel is not just a means to an end, it’s not merely the means of salvation, but it is the very essence of life in Christ. It is the foundation of life in Christ Jesus, and there is no life without it. 

We need to remind ourselves and one another of this truth daily, and worship El ’emunah, the Holy one who is Faithful.

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I’ve lived long enough to realize that we have seasons in our lives. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Not just physical seasons but spiritual seasons as well. And recently I’ve began thawing out from a long hard, cold winter in my soul. I was too long alone in the wastelands of my frozen, ice hardened heart. I’ve been dark, cold and miserable.

Recently a Spring breeze has been warming my soul, awakening my stoney, cold heart. And a still small voice on that wind has been speaking “life” to my darkened mind. Remaining me whose I am. That I have been chosen by the Father and given to his Only Begotten Son. It’s all of Grace!

My soul is being revived! The love of God is crushing this heart of stone and replacing it with a heart that is tuning into Christ. His love and patience is breaking into the darkest corners of my mind with light, life, and truth. He is restoring my soul!!
All I want right now is to be with him. To walk with him. I understand what Paul was saying now… to live is Christ!
“In Christ”
I get it now! To be in Christ as He is in The Father… my sin is blotted out because of what Jesus the Christ did on the cross in obedience to the plan of redemption he and the Father prepared before he ever created the first thing. That is the Sovereignty of the one who created everything that was ever created. He is the Sovereign God over all the Universe, over all Creation!
And I am his!
I am in Christ.
His will, his plan, his workmanship!

Do you understand?
Do you see?

What a savior!

He is my Lord, my redeemer, my God!

Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

How can I be quiet any longer!?
How can I not witness what He has done for me?
I am a Child of Love, I’ve been adopted and am in Jesus Christ, God the Father’s accepted, saved by His Amazing Grace!!

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Anyone else like me?

I know whose I am but I often do not live like it. Take for instance, Life.

What is life? Is it just the living, the breathing, and being conscious? Yes, those are necessary in order to sustain life. 

But what is life?

Is life what we do? 

Is life who we are?

What is life?

When I was a younger man I didn’t think of these things. I took them for granted. I was…  therefore I was alive. And if alive then I had life. I never questioned what life actually was/is. So what is life? 

Genesis 1:26-27

¶Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

¶So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:7

…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

So…

All these years I have misunderstood what life was. I was under the delusion that life is about me. It’s actually about God. Just as I have misunderstood the Bible. It’s not the story of man but of God. Man is secondary. Man is the result of the will of God. Life is the result of the will of God. 

John 1:1-4

¶In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Are you beginning to see as I see?

Life is a gift of God. When one speaks of the sanctity of life this is what they are talking about. Life is not man’s to give and therefore it is not man’s to take unless according to God’s Law. 

Obviously I have much to learn about life.

At this point I see my learning is sorely lacking as to what life is and how I should regard it. I have only seen life as a series of circumstances and how they affect me personally. My life has been based on my reactions to the events of life and I haven’t stopped to think on what life is, and where life comes from. Right now I see through a cloudy, dimly lit, out of focus glass. I pray I will grow, mature and begin to see with more, and more clarity. 

Yesterday at church, Pastor Kyle mentioned that when we are in distress and need clarity (at least this is what I got from what he said) we should give thanks in everything, and for everything be thankful. That caused me to think of the most basic thing of all,”Life.” 

Now as scripture says, “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” we see life is literally, God breathed.

Later, in the Garden of Eden, man disobeyed God’s one command and became spiritually dead, becoming separated from Adonai through his sin. Thus Death entered the world. 

And so death reigns from then until now on the physical body. But God had, before creation, prepared for us a sacrificial lamb, without spot to take away our sin and restore us to himself: his son, Jesus, the Christ. 

John 14: 6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the LIFE*. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

(*Emphasis mine)

All of John 14 is Jesus’ witness to the Truth, of himself, and of the Father. 

Our restored life is in Jesus Christ, who is in the Father. 

Again, “life” is a gift from God.

Yet how lightly we esteem it. How flippantly we care for it… how often we neglect and abuse it as if it were our own. 

Anyone else with me?

Do you see what I see?

Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

God has to deal with me in degrees, as with an infant. I have to learn to crawl, and then walk before I can run. In this case I have a small taste of the truth and small understanding about life now. 

So here is something I was given earlier as I was thinking about all of this. How do I start my morning? What is the first thing I do when I wake up?

I reach for my phone.

I check in on the world before I recognize the very one I claim is Sovereign Lord over all Creation, Adonai.

What if I change that?

What if instead of reaching for my phone I would recognize Adonai first and as Kyle said, give thanks. What if a prayer of Thanksgiving was the first thing I do every morning?? How would that affect my day? How would that change my life? My approach to life?

I found this Prayer

Morning Prayer

I give thanks unto You, Adonai, that, in mercy, You have restored my soul within me. Endless is Your compassion; great is Your faithfulness. I thank You, Adonai, for the rest You have given me through the night and for the breath that renews my body and spirit. May I renew my soul with faith in You, Source of all Healing. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who renews daily the work of creation.

Maybe seeing life as less about me, I will appreciate the life I have more… because I will see it for what it really is a gift from God. 

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I’ve told the story “Tears Unbidden” regarding the death of my father, this is the story about Mom’s passing.

Mom passed on Friday, July 21st, 2006. This is the story that led up to her home going.

After dad died in ’77 mom grieved hard, very hard. There were days, that to tell the truth, I don’t know what kept her going. For the better part of the following year, every day I would come in from school and would find her sitting at the dining room table crying her eyes out. I had lost my dad and in some respects I had lost my mom there for a while. Often she would tell me that the only thing that kept her going was me …that if it wasn’t for me that she would just as soon die and leave this world so she could be with my dad and with Jesus, her savior, in heaven. I know that she was trying to give me comfort or something, but the way that she presented it was pretty rough to deal with at that time. So for at least a year it was very sad existence.

She finally decided that she needed to go to work and do something to get her mind off of her grief, because the way she was going was not healthy. She had the skills to work in the office, because that’s what she did before she got married and became a housewife and stay at home mother, but she chose to take on physical work so that she could work herself numb to where she could just come home and collapse. More than once she told me that she chose to do physical labor in the school cafeteria as a way to work herself to exhaustion so that when she came home she would be too tired to grieve. Unfortunately that’s not the way that it worked out she was exhausted and she continued to grieve.

In the meantime, I graduated high school, went on to college, went in the Marine Corps, and got married. The last year of my enlistment I got a call from mom saying that they had found cancer and she was going to have to have treatments. In 1991 the Marine Corps gave me a humanitarian transfer closer to home so that I could be near to help get her to her treatments and doctor visits. That was a fairly rough year on all of us. We didn’t realize the consequences of the treatment that she took and how that would affect her there at the end. The radiation treatments caused arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, from about the middle of her stomach down through her pelvis and down to just above the knee on both legs. She had surgerical replacement of the damaged arteries that would come into play at the end.

Thankfully she beat that round of cancer and was around for many years… so we fast forward to about 2003-2004. This time the diagnosis was lung cancer. Surgery was performed and they took out about half of her right lung in order to get the cancer. Things looked pretty good for a while. Unfortunately lung cancer is a b**** and you may beat it in the lung but it has a tendency to either go up into the brain or down into other vital organs. In Mom’s case it settled in the adrenal gland at the kidneys. Mom quickly developed renal failure and was put on dialysis. I can tell you with out reservation, because mom made it very clear, how much she detested being on dialysis. She got to the point where she actually made me promise her that if things got worse that I would not let her die at dialysis if it was at all possible. She begged me to not let her die at dialysis.

As the cancer progressed, and the renal failure took its toll she began having other complications, namely, that just below the arterial replacement on the left leg her own artery collapsed and her left leg was dying on her. If you have never seen that happen to a person you cannot imagine the amount of pain that they have, because the blood supply is no longer getting to where it should, we literally watched as her foot begin withering and dying on her. By this time hospice and palliative care had been called in to give us a hand but Mom was a very independent woman and she absolutely refused to go into hospice care at their facility. Another conversation that mom had with me was that I was not to allow them to carry her to the hospital or there to hospice care because she wanted to die at home. She did not want to die in a hospital, she did not want to die at dialysis, she wanted to die at home. And to the best of my ability I saw that her wishes were carried out.

After much pleading with the doctors regarding pain management of her left leg the doctors finally scheduled a surgery to put a stint in to open the artery back up so that she would have blood flow restored to that leg. At the time the doctors were not sure that she would even survive surgery but the pain was so bad that surgery was the only option. Mom was given the option of either the stint (the doctor gave it less than 50% chance of success) or they could do an amputation and take the leg off but she would probably still have phantom pain even if they took the leg off. The doctors had serious reservations about her even surviving that surgery. At the time I did not fully understand why they were not helping her more, but looking back I now understand that they just didn’t want to tell me that she was that close to death. The stint surgery went well and she pulled through and did much better with pain management after that. Unfortunately, she had some recovery problems and was in the ICU for a while and that was always fun with mom because she did not do well on high-powered pain medications especially if they were opioids and caused hallucinations …we had some interesting evenings with the ICU staff and Mom.

Eventually, she was well enough to come home and the pain was manageable, she was no longer in that awful moment by moment pain that she had before. But she took constant care, I had already been living over there at night and Tammy was dropping the kids off at school and coming over and helping her out until time to go get the kids from school and then we passed in the evenings and she went home to take care of the kids as I got off work and took care of Mom. That’s just the way mom wanted it… she didn’t want non-family taking care of her… that’s just the way she was. And when she would talk to other family members she was very chipper and she played her pain and her her problems very close to the chest, if you just talked to her on the phone you wouldn’t know that she was in the pain that she was in, and… you wouldn’t have known that she was as close to death as she was.

Which brings us to the evening of Wednesday June the 19th. The hospice nurses had told us that week, if Mom did not want to go to dialysis that was fine, because it was her choice and that she shouldn’t be made to go to dialysis if she didn’t want to. We didn’t realize things were so close to the end. I did not read between the lines and understand they were saying things were really close now.

That Wednesday evening mom spilled her drink sitting on the couch and got it all over herself and the floor, I knew something was up. Looking back I’m fairly certain that she had a stroke. We cleaned her up and we were able to get her back to bed and let her get some rest and sleep. The next morning she didn’t wake up normally and as we were talking to the hospice nurses they said that it’s time to call the family in. So I started making phone calls to let everyone know that if they wanted to say goodbye to Mom they probably needed to get here. Kasey and Daniel were on a church youth trip and we got a hold of the youth pastor and let him know that they needed to be brought back home as soon as possible. They made it back that afternoon of the 20th. The friends and family there on that Thursday got to see her rally. Sometime after noon, when everyone was in the room, she woke up. The kids were there and she was telling everybody that she loved them and it seemed like she was in good spirits but the hospice nurse told me on the side, that this is a rally …this is her saying goodbye to her loved ones. In fact she was in such good spirits that everyone left that evening thinking that there would be more time.

About 1:00 in the morning the hospice nurse came in and woke me up. She said that it was about time, that mom was having a very hard time breathing, her heart rate was all over the place, she was very agitated, very labored, and if I had anything I wanted to say I should say it.

The hearing is the last thing that we lose just before death, no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. I went into the room and her breathing was very labored and she was fighting …you could tell she was fighting, so I started talking to her and knowing that her favorite song was, “Amazing Grace” I began singing it to her. The hospice nurse joined in and we sang “Amazing Grace” to Mom.

(Whew, this is tough to get through, I can’t see the keyboard)

By the time we got to the third verse, mom’s breathing changed, it was much less labored and she was no longer fighting. We sang it again along with several more songs that I knew she loved (I can’t remember what they were now but we just had Church right there that evening.) The Spirit of God with there in that room, that’s the only way I can explain it. That evening I was able to say everything that I needed to say to my mama, there were no shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. One of the last things I told her was that she could go ahead, it was time to let go, there was nothing holding her here and she can let go of this world with all the pain, all the suffering, all the heartache… and she could go home. That no matter how long I had left on this Earth, I’d be along directly. That I would do everything I could to make sure her grandchildren came along as well. At that moment I knew she had peace. I gave her a kiss, and told her I loved her. It was about 3:00 in the morning and I was wore out so I went and laid back down for a little while, then about 6:00am the nurse came back in and woke me back up, telling me, “your mom is gone.”

Mom had gone home to be with her Lord and Savior. For those who didn’t live that last year with mom, especially those last six months, you could never understand my reaction to Mom passing. I was glad for her! She was beyond the pain, the suffering, and the hurt of this world. Yes, I was rejoicing about her home going because I knew what it meant. I couldn’t cry then. That moment she passed from this world she was truly alive… More alive than she’d ever been in her life and I could not grieve that. She went home and I celebrated that. My tears flow freely now, but even now the tears of joy out number the tears of my loss.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

(if you want to know more about this peace, this joy, and the reason I celebrate my mom’s passing with joy I’d be happy to talk to you about it. It’s all about the Good News found in Jesus, the Christ. )

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altar call

The altar Call is an outward show of how the pastor can emotionally manipulate his followers to do what he says through guilt and other pressure tactics.  It is a power play so that there is visible evidence of a successful sermon.  The (so-called) “Altar Call” is the pastor’s way of  “proving that he is worth his paycheck.”  It is part and parcel of the Man-centered Gospel of the Church Growth Movement in Modern Churchianity.

The church lecture series is all about the man in the pulpit no matter how much he claims to the contrary.  The Cult of Personality is the glue that really holds the congregation together.  Take away the charisma in the pulpit and the so called church that meets in the temple they have built for themselves will dwindle down and die.  The sheeple will find themselves another proxy god to put in the pulpit.  They must have their very own idol to listen to and to worship.

“Not a god,” you say?  Really?  Pastors are the gods over their congregations.  His is the only voice allowed to speak during the lecture and he cannot be questioned about anything he says from behind the so called sacred desk.  He is infallible and not to be questioned.  He demands loyalty and obedience.  His word is law.  The sheeple are conditioned to passively, and unconditionally accept what the man in the pulpit is saying no matter what he says.  The pastor is in fact speaking “ex cathedra” as he is the head of his church no matter who he gives lip-service to.

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”   -Lord Acton  expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887

_________________________
My premise is that any man who is given authority over others will, if left unchecked, make full use of that authority for both personal gain and personal power. The amount of corruption by this person will ultimately be decided by the amount of power that is available. As Lord Acton says, “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority.”

In modern Christianity most church congregations are based on a simple design. The authority is vested in the persons of the (so called) clergy, usually at the consent of, or at least the tacit agreement of the (so called) laity. This Catholic Idea of Clergy/Laity came from the teachings of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprias, and Augustine who created and promoted the whole “Christian” class/ caste system. While not addressing the theological issues of this problem Lord Acton actually does a marvelous job of attacking just such a system, “There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” As true today as when Acton said it.

-excerpted from my blog:  https://persifler.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/corruption-is-directly-proportional-to-the-level-of-control-that-is-available/

The “Altar Call” is nothing more than a way for the Pastor to practice his manipulation tactics while stroking his own ego.  I dare say that what most people claim to be a movement of the Holy Spirit is at best ginned up emotionalism brought on through guilt and spiritual/emotional manipulation.  Why would I say such a thing? Because the “feeling” is generally gone by the time you reach the parking lot, that’s why.

Finally, and most importantly, the Altar Call promotes a man-centered humanistic approach to religion and “salvation.”  It portrays a weak frail god who can only work in “his building” following the pastor’s sermon.  I have heard testimonies from folks who sweated bullets all week long until they could get to the Altar Call part of the service so they could get saved.  That screams of a god in a box who is so weak and so inept that that he has to have the work of the Man of god (little “g” on purpose) in order to save someone.  I have also heard of so called soul winners who got people to say the sinners prayer on visitation coaching them to come to church on Sunday and come down during the altar call in order to make their decision official with the preacher.  *groan*   No, no I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just now asking the right questions.  I just know that this Kabuki theatre that is being called “Church” these days is a sham and a shame.

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The biblical Basis for Election.  Not merely the opinion of man.. but what the Scripture says regarding election.

 

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 An expository sermon on the Doctrine of Regeneration/New Birth from:

Twin City Bible Church | A Christ-Centered, Bible-Believing Fellowship

via Man\’s Greatest Need.

Man’s Greatest Need

April 22, 2012
Scripture Reference:
John 3:1-10
Filed Under:

One of the most famous statements by Jesus is this: “You must be born again.” This passage explains what He meant, and why being “born again” is so important.

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Book 1, Chapter 14: In the creation of the world, and all things in it, the true God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods.

Section 22. Another object of this knowledge, viz., that perceiving how these things were created for our use, we may be excited to trust in God, pray to him, and love him.

The other course which has a closer relation to faith remains to be considered, viz., that while we observe how God has destined all things for our good and salvation, we at the same time feel his power and grace, both in ourselves and in the great blessings which he has bestowed upon us; thence stirring up ourselves to confidence in him, to invocation, praise, and love. Moreover, as I lately observed, the Lord himself, by the very order of creation, has demonstrated that he created all things for the sake of man. Nor is it unimportant to observe, that he divided the formation of the world into six days, though it had been in no respect more difficult to complete the whole work, in all its parts, in one moment than by a gradual progression. But he was pleased to display his providence and paternal care towards us in this, that before he formed man, he provided whatever he foresaw would be useful and salutary to him. How ungrateful, then, were it to doubt whether we are cared for by this most excellent Parent, who we see cared for us even before we were born! How impious were it to tremble in distrust, lest we should one day be abandoned in our necessity by that kindness which, antecedent to our existence, displayed itself in a complete supply of all good things! Moreover, Moses tells us that everything which the world contains is liberally placed at our disposal. This God certainly did not that he might delude us with an empty form of donation. Nothing, therefore, which concerns our safety will ever be wanting. To conclude, in one word; as often as we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us remember that the distribution of all the things which he created are in his hand and power, but that we are his sons, whom he has undertaken to nourish and bring up in allegiance to him, that we may expect the substance of all good from him alone, and have full hope that he will never suffer us to be in want of things necessary to salvation, so as to leave us dependent on some other source; that in everything we desire we may address our prayers to him, and, in every benefit we receive, acknowledge his hand, and give him thanks; that thus allured by his great goodness and beneficence, we may study with our whole heart to love and serve him.

This is an excellent note with which to end this series.  Glory and praise to the Sovereign Creator and loving Redeemer.

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Book 1, Chapter 14: In the creation of the world, and all things in it, the true God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods.

IV. The practical use to be made of the history of the creation, Section 20 22.

Section 20. The latter part of the chapter briefly embracing the history of creation, and showing what it is of importance for us to know concerning God.

Section 21. The special object of this knowledge is to prevent us, through ingratitude or thoughtlessness, from overlooking the perfections of God. Example of this primary knowledge.

Section 20. The latter part of the chapter briefly embracing the history of creation, and showing what it is of importance for us to know concerning God.

Meanwhile, being placed in this most beautiful theatre, let us not decline to take a pious delight in the clear and manifest works of God. For, as we have elsewhere observed, though not the chief, it is, in point of order, the first evidence of faiths to remember to which side soever we turn, that all which meets the eye is the work of God, and at the same time to meditate with pious care on the end which God had in view in creating it. Wherefore, in order that we may apprehend with true faith what it is necessary to know concerning God, it is of importance to attend to the history of the creation, as briefly recorded by Moses and afterwards more copiously illustrated by pious writers, more especially by Basil and Ambrose. From this history we learn that God, by the power of his Word and his Spirit, created the heavens and the earth out of nothing; that thereafter he produced things inanimate and animate of every kind, arranging an innumerable variety of objects in admirable order, giving each kind its proper nature, office, place, and station; at the same time, as all things were liable to corruption, providing for the perpetuation of each single species, cherishing some by secret methods, and, as it were, from time to time instilling new vigour into them, and bestowing on others a power of continuing their race, so preventing it from perishing at their own death. Heaven and earth being thus most richly adorned, and copiously supplied with all things, like a large and splendid mansion gorgeously constructed and exquisitely furnished, at length man was made – man, by the beauty of his person and his many noble endowments, the most glorious specimen of the works of God. But, as I have no intention to give the history of creation in detail, it is sufficient to have again thus briefly touched on it in passing. I have already reminded my reader, that the best course for him is to derive his knowledge of the subject from Moses and others who have carefully and faithfully transmitted an account of the creation.

Section 21. The special object of this knowledge is to prevent us, through ingratitude or thoughtlessness, from overlooking the perfections of God. Example of this primary knowledge.

It is unnecessary to dwell at length on the end that should be aimed at in considering the works of God. The subject has been in a great measure explained elsewhere, and in so far as required by our present work, may now be disposed of in a few words. Undoubtedly were one to attempt to speak in due terms of the inestimable wisdom, power, justice, and goodness of God, in the formation of the world, no grace or splendour of diction could equal the greatness of the subject. Still there can be no doubt that the Lord would have us constantly occupied with such holy meditation, in order that, while we contemplate the immense treasures of wisdom and goodness exhibited in the creatures as in so many mirrors, we may not only run our eye over them with a hasty, and, as it were, evanescent glance, but dwell long upon them, seriously and faithfully turn them in our minds, and every now and then bring them to recollection. But as the present work is of a didactic nature, we cannot fittingly enter on topics which require lengthened discourse. Therefore, in order to be compendious, let the reader understand that he has a genuine apprehension of the character of God as the Creator of the world; first, if he attends to the general rule, never thoughtlessly or obliviously to overlook the glorious perfections which God displays in his creatures; and, secondly, if he makes a self application of what he sees, so as to fix it deeply on his heart. The former is exemplified when we consider how great the Architect must be who framed and ordered the multitude of the starry host so admirably, that it is impossible to imagine a more glorious sight, so stationing some, and fixing them to particular spots that they cannot move; giving a freer course to others yet setting limits to their wanderings; so tempering the movement of the whole as to measure out day and night, months, years, and seasons, and at the same time so regulating the inequality of days as to prevent every thing like confusion. The former course is, moreover, exemplified when we attend to his power in sustaining the vast mass, and guiding the swift revolutions of the heavenly bodies, &c. These few examples sufficiently explain what is meant by recognising the divine perfections in the creation of the world. Were we to attempt to go over the whole subject we should never come to a conclusion, there being as many miracles of divine power, as many striking evidences of wisdom and goodness, as there are classes of objects, nay, as there are individual objects, great or small, throughout the universe.

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Book 1, Chapter 14: In the creation of the world, and all things in it, the true God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods.

Section 16. The wickedness of the devil not by creation but by corruption. Vain and useless to inquire into the mode, time, and character of the fall of angels.

Section 17. Though the devil is always opposed in will and endeavour to the will of God, he can do nothing without his permission and consent.

Section 18. God so overrules wicked spirits as to permit them to try the faithful, and rule over the wicked.

Section 19. The nature of bad angels. They are spiritual essences endued with sense and intelligence.

Section 16. The wickedness of the devil not by creation but by corruption. Vain and useless to inquire into the mode, time, and character of the fall of angels.

But as the devil was created by God, we must remember that this malice which we attribute to his nature is not from creation, but from depravation. Every thing damnable in him he brought upon himself, by his revolt and fall. Of this Scripture reminds us, lest, by believing that he was so created at first, we should ascribe to God what is most foreign to his nature. For this reason, Christ declares, (John 8: 44) that Satan, when he lies, “speaketh of his own,” and states the reason, “because he abode not in the truth.” By saying that he abode not in the truth, he certainly intimates that he once was in the truth, and by calling him the father of lies, he puts it out of his power to charge God with the depravity of which he was himself the cause. But although the expressions are brief and not very explicit, they are amply sufficient to vindicate the majesty of God from every calumny. And what more does it concern us to know of devils? Some murmur because the Scripture does not in various passages give a distinct and regular exposition of Satan’s fall, its cause, mode, date, and nature. But as these things are of no consequence to us, it was better, if not entirely to pass them in silence, at least only to touch lightly upon them. The Holy Spirit could not deign to feed curiosity with idle, unprofitable histories. We see it was the Lord’s purpose to deliver nothing in his sacred oracles which we might not learn for edification. Therefore, instead of dwelling on superfluous matters, let it be sufficient for us briefly to hold, with regard to the nature of devils, that at their first creation they were the angels of God, but by revolting they both ruined themselves, and became the instruments of perdition to others. As it was useful to know this much, it is clearly taught by Peter and Jude; “God,” they say, “spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgement,” (2Pe 2: 4; Jude vs 6) And Paul, by speaking of the elect angels, obviously draws a tacit contrast between them and reprobate angels.

Section 17. Though the devil is always opposed in will and endeavour to the will of God, he can do nothing without his permission and consent.

With regard to the strife and war which Satan is said to wage with God, it must be understood with this qualification, that Satan cannot possibly do anything against the will and consent of God. For we read in the history of Job, that Satan appears in the presence of God to receive his commands, and dares not proceed to execute any enterprise until he is authorised. In the same way, when Ahab was to be deceived, he undertook to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets; and on being commissioned by the Lord, proceeds to do so. For this reason, also, the spirit which tormented Saul is said to be an evil spirit from the Lord, because he was, as it were, the scourge by which the misdeeds of the wicked king were punished. In another place it is said that the plagues of Egypt were inflicted by God through the instrumentality of wicked angels. In conformity with these particular examples, Paul declares generally that unbelievers are blinded by God, though he had previously described it as the doing of Satan[8]. It is evident, therefore, that Satan is under the power of God, and is so ruled by his authority, that he must yield obedience to it. Moreover, though we say that Satan resists God, and does works at variance with His works, we at the same time maintain that this contrariety and opposition depend on the permission of God. I now speak not of Satan’s will and endeavour, but only of the result. For the disposition of the devil being wicked, he has no inclination whatever to obey the divine will, but, on the contrary, is wholly bent on contumacy and rebellion. This much, therefore, he has of himself, and his own iniquity, that he eagerly, and of set purpose, opposes God, aiming at those things which he deems most contrary to the will of God. But as God holds him bound and fettered by the curb of his power, he executes those things only for which permission has been given him, and thus, however unwilling, obeys his Creator, being forced, whenever he is required, to do Him service.

Section 18. God so overrules wicked spirits as to permit them to try the faithful, and rule over the wicked.

God thus turning the unclean spirits hither and thither at his pleasure, employs them in exercising believers by warring against them, assailing them with wiles, urging them with solicitations, pressing close upon them, disturbing, alarming, and occasionally wounding, but never conquering or oppressing them; whereas they hold the wicked in thraldom, exercise dominion over their minds and bodies, and employ them as bond-slaves in all kinds of iniquity. Because believers are disturbed by such enemies, they are addressed in such exhortations as these: “Neither give place to the devil;” “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith,” (Eph 4: 27; 1Pe 5: 8) Paul acknowledges that he was not exempt from this species of contest when he says, that for the purpose of subduing his pride, a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him, (2Co 12: 7) This trial, therefore, is common to all the children of God. But as the promise of bruising Satan’s head (Gen 3: 15) applies alike to Christ and to all his members, I deny that believers can ever be oppressed or vanquished by him. They are often, indeed, thrown into alarm, but never so thoroughly as not to recover themselves. They fall by the violence of the blows, but they get up again; they are wounded, but not mortally. In fine, they labour on through the whole course of their lives, so as ultimately to gain the victory, though they meet with occasional defeats. We know how David, through the just anger of God, was left for a time to Satan, and by his instigation numbered the people, (2Sa 24: 1) nor without cause does Paul hold out a hope of pardon in case any should have become ensnared by the wiles of the devil, (2Ti 2: 26) Accordingly, he elsewhere shows that the promise above quoted commences in this life where the struggle is carried on, and that it is completed after the struggle is ended. His words are, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,” (Rom 16: 20) In our Head, indeed, this victory was always perfect, because the prince of the world “had nothing” in him, (John 14: 30) but in us, who are his members, it is now partially obtained, and will be perfected when we shall have put off our mortal flesh, through which we are liable to infirmity, and shall have been filled with the energy of the Holy Spirit. In this way, when the kingdom of Christ is raised up and established, that of Satan falls, as our Lord himself expresses it, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” (Luk 10: 18) By these words, he confirmed the report which the apostles gave of the efficacy of their preaching. In like manner he says, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils,” (Luk 11: 21, 22) And to this end, Christ, by dying, overcame Satan, who had the power of death, (Heb 2: 14) and triumphed over all his hosts that they might not injure the Church, which otherwise would suffer from them every moment. For, (such being our weakness, and such his raging fury,) how could we withstand his manifold and unintermitted assaults for any period, however short, if we did not trust to the victory of our leader? God, therefore, does not allow Satan to have dominion over the souls of believers, but only gives over to his sway the impious and unbelieving, whom he deigns not to number among his flock. For the devil is said to have undisputed possession of this world until he is dispossessed by Christ. In like manner, he is said to blind all who do not believe the Gospel, and to do his own work in the children of disobedience. And justly; for all the wicked are vessels of wrath, and, accordingly, to whom should they be subjected but to the minister of the divine vengeance? In fine, they are said to be of their father the devil[9]. For as believers are recognised to be the sons of God by bearing his image, so the wicked are properly regarded as the children of Satan, from having degenerated into his image.

Section 19. The nature of bad angels. They are spiritual essences endued with sense and intelligence.

Having above refuted that nugatory philosophy concerning the holy angels, which teaches that they are nothing but good motions or inspirations which God excites in the minds of men, we must here likewise refute those who foolishly allege that devils are nothing but bad affections or perturbations suggested by our carnal nature. The brief refutation is to be found in passages of Scripture on this subject, passages neither few nor obscure. First, when they are called unclean spirits and apostate angels, (Mat 12: 43; Jude vs 6) who have degenerated from their original, the very terms sufficiently declare that they are not motions or affections of the mind, but truly, as they are called, minds or spirits endued with sense and intellect. In like manner, when the children of God are contrasted by John, and also by our Saviour, with the children of the devil, would not the contrast be absurd if the term devil meant nothing more than evil inspirations? And John adds still more emphatically, that the devil sinneth from the beginning, (1Jn 3: 8) In like manner, when Jude introduces the archangel Michael contending with the devil, (Jude vs 9) he certainly contrasts a wicked and rebellious with a good angel. To this corresponds the account given in the Book of Job, that Satan appeared in the presence of God with the holy angels. But the clearest passages of all are those which make mention of the punishment which, from the judgement of God, they already begin to feel, and are to feel more especially at the resurrection, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Mat 8: 29) and again, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Mat 25: 41) Again, “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 judgement,” &c., (2Pe 2: 4) How absurd the expressions, that devils are doomed to eternal punishment, that fire is prepared for them, that they are even now excruciated and tormented by the glory of Christ, if there were truly no devils at all? But as all discussion on this subject is superfluous for those who give credit to the Word of God, while little is gained by quoting Scripture to those empty speculators whom nothing but novelty can please, I believe I have already done enough for my purpose, which was to put the pious on their guard against the delirious dreams with which restless men harass themselves and the simple. The subject, however, deserved to be touched upon, lest any, by embracing that errors should imagine they have no enemy and thereby be more remiss or less cautious in resisting.

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