Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Brief Lesson From Jonah

We started a brief study in the book of Jonah last night in our small group. It is interesting that when the supernatural storm started, the sailors tried to save themselves by human effort. That was the natural thing for them to do. "The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them..." (Jonah 1:4-5, NASB). Even after Jonah told them their only hope was to throw him overboard, they still continued their human efforts to save themselves. "However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them" (Jonah 1:13, NASB).

This same situation exists today. Just as the ship was in grave danger, sinners are in grave danger without the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Even though it is human nature to try very hard to overcome that danger, as Jonah said, "Salvation is from the Lord" (Jonah 2:9, NASB). No amount of human effort can succeed in saving a soul. Only the Lord can do that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

But My Good Outweighs My Bad

Imagine someone accused of murder standing before a judge and saying, “But your honor, I admit killing one person, but look at the billions of people in the world that I didn’t kill. Obviously, my good outweighs my bad.” That individual would not have even a snowball’s chance on the sun of being acquitted. However, he would have an infinitely better chance than those who rely on their “good” to outweigh their “bad” when it comes to standing before a holy God.

God’s standard is His own perfect righteousness, and anything less than perfection is insufficient to allow anyone into God’s heaven. Clearly, not one of us can come even close to perfection, and by His standard, no one can truthfully say, “My good outweighs my bad.” Only those who are by faith clothed in the righteousness of the crucified and risen Son of God will be admitted. 

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB).  

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19, NASB).

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Truth vs. Emotionalism

Much of the conflict we see today is between emotionalism and truth. Often, emotionalism is perceived to be winning, but in reality, truth always has and always will come out on top in the end. That's because truth is that which is consistent with reality, and no amount of wishful thinking, warm and fuzzy feelings, false hope, or emotionalism can ever change reality.

No one is helped when truth and reality are denied and replaced with "feel good" ideas. Paul asked, "...have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16, NASB). Jesus Himself IS truth (John 14:6). Only He can set us free. "...you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32, NASB). This truth is to be spoken in love, and it cannot be loving to withhold the message of Christ. "... speaking the truth in love..." (Ephesians 4:15, NASB).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

50 Years

I posted this on Facebook on December 20, 2018 as a tribute to my first marriage to my late wife Sue, and also to my marriage to Janet.

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Today would have been my 50th anniversary with my late wife Sue. On December 20, 1968, neither the thought of 50 years going by, nor the thought of her dying at a relative young age was in my mind. When she went to be with the Lord in 2001, I was utterly distraught. The thought of ever getting married again seemed like an impossibility and maybe even a betrayal. Then Janet came into my life in 2003, and I soon experienced in a very real and practical way that the Lord in His love and grace both gives and takes away.

Being married to Janet does not negate the reality of my love for Sue. Likewise, Sue in my past does not negate the reality of my love for Janet. One does not replace the other. The Lord has blessed me twice far beyond what I could possibly deserve. There is no way to explain to anyone who has never been through it what it is like to lose a spouse in death and then have the Lord provide a whole new situation. Neither Janet nor I would have wanted our first spouses to die, but we continue to praise the Lord for His great love and faithfulness to us.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good..."

It is totally fitting that we should have a special day set aside to give thanks to God for all our blessings, although we know it is important to give thanks to Him on a regular basis. Giving of thanks is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Scriptures, and only a small handful will be referenced in this brief article.

Every blessing we have is from the hand of God, the all-powerful ruler of the universe. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17, NASB). 

We cannot take credit for God’s blessings. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7, NASB). This Scripture always reminds me of an athlete who hits a homerun, scores a touchdown, or makes the game-winning basket as time expires, and then beats his own chest as if to say, “Look at me, look at me,” implying that he created the God-given ability to perform well and receive great wealth in doing so. Such individuals fail to give God the glory, and they ultimately bring His judgment on themselves.

The blessings of God extend not just to those who believe in Him and follow Him but also to those who call themselves atheists and regularly blaspheme His name, and everyone in between these two extremes. …He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45, NASB). God’s grace is poured out on believers and unbelievers alike. Some live in corrupt countries where His blessings are stifled because of Socialism, Communism, and all levels of corruption.

Giving thanks to God is a major theme that is seen throughout Scripture. God expects our praise and thanksgiving, and He commands us to be thankful. 

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NASB).

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
(Psalm 105:1, NASB).

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psalm 107:1, NASB).

When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one bothered to show his thanks. The others just took for granted what He had done for them and went on their way, never making an effort to show thankfulness.

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:15-19, NASB).

Deep down, every individual knows that God exists, regardless of their denials, and it is ludicrous not to give Him praise and glory for His great blessings. He has provided us with an earth on which we live that is perfectly suited to support life. It gives us water, food, and raw materials to produce the things we need to live and thrive. We who live in the United States of America need to be especially thankful, because He has provided us with so many things, including the privilege of living in a free country where we can actually vote and where we have the freedom to exercise our God-given rights and privileges. 

It is quite sad to see crowds of people rioting and demanding rights they already have, and even more so to see people demanding things that are wrong in the eyes of God. No blessings can result from this, and it is a certainty that His judgment will ultimately fall on those who want Him out of their lives. Lack of thankfulness is one of the great sins mentioned in Scripture. Rather than complaining and taking His blessings for granted, such people ought to give glory to God for all He has given them.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools… (Romans 1:21-22).

It is imperative to mention the greatest blessing of all. None of the physical blessings He gives means anything when compared to the great gift of salvation He has given us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given believers that gift so that they may serve Him and bring glory to His name.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as 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 so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10, NASB).

Let’s be thankful for His great blessings today and every day.

Other articles on giving of thanks are found here and here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Forgiveness

This past Sunday at Grace Bible Church, our pastor preached a powerful sermon about the stoning of Stephen. It culminated in a great example of forgiveness. As Stephen was dying, his prayer was for the forgiveness of his executioners.

Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60, NASB).

Stephen followed the great example of our Savior as He was dying on the cross. “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing…’” (Luke 23:34, NASB). He not only asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him, but we as believers, whose sins put Him on that cross, know He has also forgiven us.

We, as humans, cannot forgive sin in the same way God can, but we can forgive in our hearts. How often do we hold grudges and harbor ill-will?

“See to it that … no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled?” (Hebrews 12:15).

We have great examples of forgiveness in Stephen and ultimately in our Lord Jesus Christ.

You can hear this sermon here. You will be blessed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Total Blindness of Unbelief (Believing is Seeing, Not the Reverse)


By Ed Cardwell

Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NASB).

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In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, we find that while Jesus was ministering on the eastern side of the Jordan, word was sent to Him from Bethany near Jerusalem that his friends Mary and Martha needed His assistance because their brother Lazarus was sick.

Rather than return promptly to come to their aid Jesus purposefully delayed his stay two days longer, as He knew what He was intending to do.

Lazarus died in the meantime and when Jesus and His disciples finally arrived near the village of Bethany, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

Martha, naturally grieving over the loss of her brother, when she heard that Jesus was approaching the village, went out to meet Him:

“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (verses 21-22). 

When Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, she said,

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (verse 24).

Jesus responded:

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (verses 25-26).

Martha replied:

“Yes, Lord. I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (verse 27).

Mary coming out later to greet Jesus also expressed her faith and in a similar tone:

Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 25).

Both Mary and Martha, because of their belief in Him, were about to witness the greatest miracle that Jesus performed prior to His crucifixion, and they were given to understand even more through their eyes of faith His divine nature, His eternal power, and His infinite love. 

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It was a highly emotional scene:  bitter weeping and mourning over the death of this beloved brother and friend. We are told that even Jesus Himself, being moved and troubled in spirit, wept. But as the great healer Who could calm even the mighty elements and could open the eyes of a man born blind would not be shedding the same kind of tears as these other mourners. Might He have viewed His friend’s body as a hideous testimony of sin’s consequence upon His perfect creation? Could He have in view His final victory and yet with all the agony in between?

Finally Jesus was led to the tomb where they had laid Lazarus.

Against Martha’s protest that the body was already decaying after four days and there would be a stench, Jesus commanded that the stone lying against the tomb be removed.

And Jesus turned to Martha and said, "Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (verse 40).

“And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.’ And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ [literally, ‘Lazarus, here!  Outside!’] He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (verses 41-44).

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It is crucial for our benefit to focus attention on the results of this miracle as to its effect on the witnesses. We notice that the multitude in attendance at this scene was quickly divided into two very different camps.

The first is described in verse 45:

“Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him.” 

They “beheld” what Jesus had done. The Greek word is qea,omai (theaomai); it means to “gaze upon,” “view attentively,” “contemplate.” They could not but believe what their eyes told them and they interpreted the miracle correctly. They were compelled to conclude that this man was indeed THE MESSIAH.

They must have reasoned in their hearts the obvious: “If He has the power to raise Lazarus, He can raise the dead; then He can raise me! Hallelujah, praise God! Here is our Redeemer, come to us in the flesh!” We can almost hear them shouting out praises to God at this unrivaled and majestic display of supernatural power.

And the results were as Heaven had intended:  “THEY BELIEVED IN HIM” – And that He was sent to them from God (cf: verse 42).

We can only rejoice at the eternal significance of this great sign which Jesus performed and be humbled by His demonstration of great power and glory. Yes, He raised Lazarus; He can raise me!

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Alas, there was an entirely different group present at this event. They saw the same thing that the first group saw. And their eyes had not deceived them. They saw a dead man come out of the tomb at Jesus’ command. They saw him bound from head to toe, and they saw him walking. They believed what their eyes told them. But they had a different interpretation and reaction to what they saw.

They did not see the glory of God displayed. They did not understand nor could they interpret the sign of the miracle. As amazing as it was, they were totally blind to the glorious significance of this event. To them it was an obvious threat, a monumental challenge to the universal status quo of governmental and religious authority. Why, this would definitely change the balance of power forever. And what if He raised everyone from the tombs?  Might it be that some of them had been responsible for the deaths of countless souls targeted by the council of selfish religionists? Oh, the manifold wickedness of unbelief!

So, their response was quite different from that of the first group. Verse 46 tells us what action they took:

“But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.” 

They ran back to those who held their trust to report the event and its potential dangers.

The chief priests and Pharisees did not delay in convening a high level cabinet meeting to deliberate on how to respond. They did not deny that what they were told was true. They believed what their minions had related and did not waver as to their certainty of all that was told. This Jesus, the bane of their “righteous” rulership, had indeed raised the dead!  And they could not cope nor endure it.

The council came to order with Caiaphas addressing the Sanhedrin :  

“What are we doing?  For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." (verses 47-48).

The arrogance, the avarice and self-preservation that had always dominated this assembly quickly emerged to set the tone.

Jealousy and fear gripped the members. The high priest stood to calm his colleagues and to offer a “final” solution to this dangerous archenemy. His plan was not to be misunderstood:

“You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish" (verses 49-50).

There is no record of dissension among the council. The die was cast. 

“So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” (verse 53).

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What was the difference between the two groups who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus? What is the difference between any two such groups who look at the stars, the mountains, or a sunset? Both groups see the same thing; they believe what their eyes tell them. So there is a certain commonality to their fundamental belief. But beyond that, there is an infinite dissimilarity between the two as to what the mind and heart perceives.

The one group had an active faith in the one true God of Israel, and they believed in the prophets He sent who testified in the Old Testament concerning the promise of the coming One, He who was to restore all things. The other group had no such preparatory faith. Their “religion” was a dead orthodoxy.

To this second group their unbelief resulted in suspicion, hatred, fear, even conspiracy to commit murder. They were stone-blind to the fact that the sign was for their benefit as well. The hardness of unbelief had so clouded their eyes that they could not see, and this truth was totally lost on them.

But to the first group the showers of manifold blessings descended as they were the privileged to have been eyewitnesses as the Son of God performed this miraculous feat in their very presence. It was their faith in God that had given them eyes to see, to behold this demonstration of His divine power and glory.

One must now ask the question, “To which group do YOU belong?”

Knowing the Creator and trusting in Him allows one to see His handprint in places and circumstances that the faithless cannot see. Faith equips one to view beyond the veil, as it were, and to see the guiding hand of the Almighty in things that to the unbeliever are invisible. And the stronger the faith, the clearer is God’s hand seen. It can be compared to a dark room with lights controlled by a rheostat. The higher we turn the control of faith, the brighter the light and the clearer we will be able to see His loving touch.

Regardless of the hardships, heartaches, and disappointments experienced in this life, and even in the face of the sadness of death, the believer is able to rejoice with total confidence that the Redeemer is able, just as He was able to call Lazarus out of the tomb, to bring every afflicted one through the veil of tears and into a quiet rest safely and eternally in the Savior’s loving arms. 

One does not have to have witnessed this miracle in person to receive all its benefits. Jesus told Thomas, one of His closest disciples,

"Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”  (John 20:29, NASB).

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"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®,
Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995
by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."