Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

Spiritual Stability

Stability is a quality we Christians expect and admire  in our political and spiritual leaders and it’s a quality we desire for our own selves.

Spiritual stability is based, not on how we are affected by our circumstances; but on our relationship with Christ and with one another. 

Spiritual stability, as well as humble accountability with one another,  will help protect harmony and success in our homes and  churches.  

Spiritual stability and unity are reoccurring concerns in the Bible. In John 15 Jesus likens Himself to a grape vine and Christians as branches in that vine. He teaches that we, the branches, must live in spiritual  union with Him to produce the Fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23.

In John 17 we read  Jesus’  final prayer for His disciples. His primary concern is that we His Church reflect the same love and unity for one another  which God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit experience as a Trinity.  That same unity ought to be the goal in every Christian marriage and every local church.

In Romans 12:3-10 and I Corinthians 12:12-27 Paul emphasizes the importance of the unity of His Church and likens that unity to the members of our body. Physical health is experienced as each member and organ of our body fulfill their functions together unhindered and in harmony. So spiritual health in a church is enjoyed  when each member of that church is surrendered to Christ and living in love, joy and harmony with every other member; each bearing the Fruit of the Spirit and fulfilling their spiritual gifts. Such churches are equipped and are actively fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.

DISRUPTIVE  DISHARMONY 

Discord is deadly to a church, as is false doctrine. That’s why Jesus, as well as Paul, dealt with it often.  

In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul kindly, but directly confronts  two influential women in the church, Euodias and Syntyche; two women who had been of great help to Paul in the past.  Now they were at odds with one another and were thus affecting the unity of the Body of Christ in Philippi. These two influential Christian ladies, no doubt, led opposing factions in the church.

The problem between them was not false doctrine.  If that had been the case, the Apostle Paul would have taken sides by identifying the one promoting false doctrine and correcting her.

No, the problem between these women was not false doctrine.  Rather, the problem was  pride, selfishness and lack of humility.   Each woman was insistent on having her own way, counting her opinion more important than the unity of Christ. The sad thing about this is that these two women had worked together with Paul in establishing the Philippian Church; but in their enthusiasm and sacrifice, they had locked horns over the best way to  accomplish the Lord’s work.  Their discord was beginning to affect the entire church.

HOW THEN CAN WE ENJOY HARMONY WITH BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST?

When Christians are in fellowship with Christ, they  bear the fruit of the Spirit.  Without a bitter, vicious judgmental spirit, they experience a personal, honest, loving involvement and humble accountability with one another,  thus protecting the peace and  harmony in their local church, Such churches, working together, can grow in spiritual stability and thus fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.

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January 23, 2010 Posted by | Philippians | Comments Off on Spiritual Stability

Peter’s Denial

Peter was no coward. He was loyal and zealous in his love for Jesus and he was head-strong and  confident that he could take on any of Jesus’ enemies.

He promised to stand with Christ, as did the rest of His disciples; and he meant it!  Listen to him in Matthew 26:35 as he boasts to Jesus, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.”

He was even ready to fight with his sword at the drop of a hat, so to speak.  Imagine the courage he showed as he lashed out with his sword in the face of the angry mob that came to arrest Jesus!  However, his fleshly struggle  to defend Jesus only added to Jesus’ burden.

Some Christians have fighting spirits.  They, like Peter, enjoy a good fight and they’re ready to fight at the drop of a hat.  But they are of no help to Jesus until they understand that warfare is not physical, but spiritual; fought with the spiritual weapon of prayer. Read II Corinthians 10:3-4  and Ephesians 6:10 on this.

In the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus we learn how over-confidence in himself,  following Jesus afar off and sitting by the fire with the enemy led to tragic failure.  I encourage you to read the full story of Peter’s denial of Jesus from the four Gospels.  You’ll find Peter’s trial and Jesus’ trial intermingled in the four accounts in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18.

The contrast is that Peter’s trial evidenced his weakness.  Jesus’ trial evidenced  His almighty strength.

The story of Peter’s denial actually begins at the table in the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples.  There Jesus, knowing Peter better than Peter knew himself, warned him of his coming denial and encouraged him concerning  his restoration.  When Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him, Peter immediately replied to Jesus.  (The words aren’t there, but this is what is implied.) “Jesus, you don’t know me as well as I know myself.  You have me wrong.  I would NEVER deny You!  Others may; but not me!”

Jesus continued with Peter. “But I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail.  When you recover, strengthen your brethren.”

Time proved Jesus right about Peter.  After Peter repented and returned to Christ,  God used him to preach that first sermon to the new Church at Pentecost and 3000 souls were saved and added to the Church.  Later God used Peter to write two inspired Epistles which we have in our Bibles as I & II Peter.

So Peter’s fall began with over confidence in himself.   The warning is given to each of us in I Corinthians 10:12  “Let him who thinks he stands, beware lest he fall.”

You may remember when the crowd, led by Judas.  came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; that Peter, in his over confidence in himself and also perhaps to prove how loyal he was to Jesus, took his sword to kill one of the men.  It turned out that Peter only got his ear.  Jesus restored the man’s ear to his head, perfectly healed.

Then Jesus gently reproved Peter, reminding him that those who commit murder; whether it is to try to protect Jesus, (and we could add) or who kill abortion doctors to try to prevent further abortions, face capital punishment, which is a responsibility of human government.  See Capital Punishment link on this web site for more on this.

Peter’s Decline

Briefly now, let’s trace Peter’s spiritual decline.

First, his revulsion with Jesus’ message about the cross.  This is found in Matthew 16:21-28

Second, his desire for glory rather than the shame that comes with identification with Christ.  Luke 9:28-35

Third, his brashness and self-confidence in the Upper Room. Luke 22:31-34

Fourth, his lack of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Luke 22:45

Fifth, his blundering zeal without direction in Luke 22:22:49-50

Sixth, his desire to follow Jesus from a distance.  Matthew 26:58

Seventh, warming himself by the enemies’ fire that cold night while Jesus shivered in his blood and perspiration soaked robe as he stood before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and his blood thirsty cronies.  Mark 14:54,  Luke22:54,

All of this led to his  three denials of Christ, denying even that he knew Jesus and denying with an oath. Matthew 26:69-74

At the time of his third denial of Christ, the cock crowed, just as Jesus had told him it would happen.  At that moment Jesus looked at Peter, and Peter melted into shame and wept bitter tears of repentance.  That moment marked the beginning of Peter’s restoration to fellowship with Christ and the opportunity to serve Christ in the future, as it does for us when we are broken before God in repentance.

Peter’s Restoration

Thank God for Peter’s restoration.  Jesus had told him he would be restored.  It happened on the shore of the Sea of Galilee one morning following the resurrection of Christ.

At a breakfast which Jesus had prepared for some of the disciples, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times, now Jesus gave him the opportunity to confess his love for Christ three times.  That morning, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed his sheep and his lambs.

By God’s grace, Peter turned out to be a faithful Apostle whom God greatly used in the early church and who was given the privilege of writing two epistles to the Church.

There in I Peter 1:1-8 Peter is able to write by his own experience as well as by divine inspiration that the trial of our faith, though difficult at the time, eventually brings praise and honor and glory to Christ. For that reason, we rejoice with unspeakable joy.

Thank God for the encouragement Peter is to us as we so often stumble in failure as we seek to faithfully serve our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | Passion Week | Comments Off on Peter’s Denial

Gotta Go!

The sound of Taps mournfully resounded across the hills of Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Greenville, S.C. as Geoffrey Alexander Whitsitt was laid to rest this afternoon.  This ended a lifelong dream of a young man who was born on February 5, 1988, in Travelers Rest, S.C.  As a young boy growing up, he often voiced his desire to serve in the military.  His brother, Steven, serves in the U.S. Navy; Geoff served in the U.S. Army.

Geoff was one of two soldiers killed Wednesday, January 13, when their vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device at Combat Outpost McClain in central Afghanistan’s Logar province, south of Kabul.  He was assigned to the 118th Military Police Company (Airborne), 503rd Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

The back of the bulletin at the funeral reads as follows:  “Geoff was a believer.  He was a believer in America and a believer in the King of all creation, a citizen of the freest, most blessed land in the world, and a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

“Geoff wanted that kingdom to come.  He prayed for that kingdom to come.  He worked for that kingdom to come.  He served for that kingdom to come.  In the end, he went there before the invisible became visible here.

“He will always live in the hearts of his mom and dad.  They love him, led him, admired him, and gave him up for the rest of us.  Their gift reminds us of the gift of all gifts- a Father who had sovereign control over all aspects of His Son’s substitutionary death, and who gave Him up for us all.

“Geoff lives in the nail-pierced hands of that Savior, and no one can snatch him out of those hands”

These paragraphs closed with these words taken from of a note which he had handwritten:

“Gotta go.  Love you guys!   Love,  Geoff “

In the homegoing celebration which was held for Geoff, a special resolution was read by the Honorable Bob Inglis, U.S. Congressman from Greenville, S.C.  Moving testimonies were given by his mom and dad, and his brother, Steve.  Steve, who serves in the Navy, admonished those in the audience who had never accepted the Lord as Savior to do so today.  A special friend and buddy in the army, Ryan McClymonds, gave a fitting tribute to one who served with him in the Army. 

One of the things which his father said will always remain in my memory: he and Geoff were conversing by phone a short while ago.  Geoff told his father that he had killed a man.  The thought that went through his mind was “I have killed someone’s daddy.”  Even in war, Geoff was tenderhearted.  This is so sad, but it is a fact of war.  I have often wondered what a soldier goes through when he is faced with the reality of pulling the trigger when a man is in the site at the end of the rifle barrel.   

Geoff was buried in a special section at Woodlawn Memorial Park reserved for men and women who have served in the military.    Two parts of the committal service were especially moving: (1) the folding of the flag.   I wonder what thoughts were going through the minds of Geoff’s parents, Steve & Debby Whitsitt, as they watched the soldiers in military precision folding up the flag which had covered Geoff’s casket;  (2) the 21 gun salute- a fitting tribute to a young man who had given his all for us.  With that, he was laid to rest.

In all my years, this was the first military funeral which I had ever attended.  The military precision, the sharp looking young men, and the camaraderie of those serving our country together, made me feel proud and grateful.  While it was terribly sad realizing that a young man’s life had been snuffed out, it was also a joyous occasion knowing that his was a life well-lived.  I am sorry that I never had the privilege of knowing him in this life, however, I knew his grandfather, Harry Bains.  

Geoff died in the service at a younger age than I was when I served in the U.S. Air Force.  He was 21 and would have been 22 on February 5, 2010.  I was 22 when I joined the Air Force in November of 1956.  Ever since I had the distinct privilege and honor of serving my country and my God in military service, I have always deeply admired our young men and women who unselfishly give themselves to fighting for and defending our rights and freedoms.  I get very upset when I hear people speaking disparagingly of our military men and women.  If I could live my life again, and if the Lord would allow me, I would gladly give my life in service as a military man.  I think that serving in the military is the one of the finest thing a young person can do.

What a sobering fact to realize that when we moved to Greenville in June of 1988, Geoff was a babe of four months in his mother’s arms.  Now at age 21, he lies in the arms of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, but his body lies entombed in the cold red clay of the Carolinas.  There, awaiting the call of the trumpet and the resurrection, his body lies in repose, but his spirit has departed to be forever with the Lord. 

Are we mindful every day of the supreme sacrifice which hundreds of young men and women have made for us? 

Written by Mel Lacock,  a fellow classmate who graduated with me from Bob Jones University in 1956

January 20, 2010 Posted by | WAR | Comments Off on Gotta Go!

TURKEY

To learn of an effective ministry to the people of Turkey worthy of your prayers and support I encourage you to visit this web site. www.two-fot.org

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Turkey | Comments Off on TURKEY

Jesus Betrayed

There’s probably not a more despicable word in the English language than the word “traitor”.  No one wants to name their child Judas.  We don’t even name our pets by that name.  How horrifying and repulsive is the kiss of a traitor.  We recoil in horror and disgust at what Judas did.   This is such a crucial moment in Jesus’ life that it is recorded in each of the four Gospels:  Matthew 26:36-56,  Mark 14:32-52,  Luke 22:39-53 and John 18:1-13. 

Jesus extended evening in the Upper Room with His disciples had ended. Judas had gone out into the darkness to consummate his arrangements with the High priest for betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave.

After they had sung a hymn Jesus led His disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives just east of the city of Jerusalem. There near the entrance of the Garden, Matthew 26:36-38 records that   He asked His disciples to sit and wait.  He chose, Peter, James and John, to go with Him a little further, asking them to watch and pray with Him.

Then sensing the need to be absolutely alone with His Father in Heaven, Jesus asked the three disciples to wait there and pray while He went a little further. There He fell on  His knees and prayed as a man; for though He was God in human flesh, He was also fully man and felt the fear and terror that we would feel. So He prayed, “Father if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done.” With the weight of the world’s sin on Him, and facing total separation from His Father as He hung on the cross for our sins,  He possibly would have died right there in the Garden; but God the Father sent an angel to strengthen Him for what was yet to come.

What He experienced next was more than any human could grasp.  With the sins of the whole world settling upon Him  it was as if His heart was being squeezed to death.  Blood from His broken capillaries was oozing with His sweat from His pours.

When He rose up from prayer, He returned to the three disciples sleeping from sorrow and emotional exhaustion.  Matthew 26 records that He repeated  this three times and each time He found them sleeping. 

The third time, He said to them as they were waking up, “Sleep on now and take your rest; behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold he is at hand that doth betray Me.”

While He was speaking, Judas approached, leading a great multitude with torches, lanterns, swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders of the people. John 18 records that there were Jewish officers sent to arrest Jesus.

As pre-arranged with the Jewish leaders,  Judas approached Jesus boldly and brazenly, exclaiming, “Hail Master!” and kissed Him on the cheek.

Jesus then stepped forward and faced the murderous mob and asked them, “Whom seek ye?”  

They answered, “Jesus of Nazereth”.

Jesus then spoke two words,  “I AM.”  

Immediately the entire multitude of perhaps over a hundred people fell backward to the ground as if struck by a bolt of lightning.   

“I AM” were the very words that Jesus had spoken earlier in His ministry as  recorded in John 8:58. Those were the words with which He claimed that He was God.  It had infuriated the Jews and they would have stoned Him right there, but  He disappeared from them at that time.  It was not God’s time for Him to die then. Now He had pronounced that name again and like a stun-gun, it stunned them to the ground.

Peter, in reckless boldness, remembering that Jesus had warned him that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed in the morning, no doubt thought, “I’m going to prove my loyalty to Jesus.”  Or perhaps he did not think at all, but rashly lashed out at Jesus’ enemies. by drawing his sword, trying to cut off the head of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest. Malchus, no doubt. ducked and so Peter got his ear instead of his head.

Jesus immediately touched his ear and he was instantly healed. Then He addressed Peter.  “Put up your sword into its sheath, the cup that My Father gave Me, shall I not drink it?”

What was Peter thinking?  Well, he had remembered Jesus talking about the need to buy a sword just two or three hours earlier in the Upper Room.

Jesus continued to reprove and teach   Peter- and us. “For all that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”   So what does the Bible teaching about self defense and avenging ourselves?

Killing in self defense is Biblical.  That’s why in the Upper Room Jesus advised His disciples to buy and carry swords.

Killing to avenge ourselves is murder. No individual has the right to avenge himself.  See clear teaching on this in Romans 12:17-21

No, rather than avenge ourselves, we are to leave vengeance to human government.  If is the responsibility of human government to put to death anyone who purposely kills another.  That is clearly taught in Genesis 9:6 and in Romans 13:1-7.  Learn more on this topic by going to CAPITAL PUNISHMENT on this web site.

Jesus continued to teach Peter- and us, by explaining in Matthew 26:53 that at that moment He could have called twelve legions of angels to come to His aid.  How large is that?  One legion is six thousand.  Twelve legions are seventy-two thousand angels.  What did one angel do?  In II Kings 19:35 we learn that one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night.

Why then did Jesus not call on angelic help at this time? Matthew 26:54 gives the answer.  Jesus, referring to His arrest and crucifixion said, “It must take place.  Jesus did nothing to stop the progress of these most painful hours of His life.  He must die to pay  man’s penalty for sin.

At this point in Jesus life,  all His disciples, including Peter, James and John, fled for their lives, leaving Jesus to the angry mob. The Prophet Zechariah in  Zechariah 13:7 had prophesied that over four hundred years earlier.

As the disciples fled,  Peter did not go with them.  Instead  he distanced himself from Jesus, but kept his eye on Him.  Peter loved Jesus intensely, but at this moment he was probably rather disgusted  that Jesus did not allow him to at least try to defend Him.  Already, Peter had forgotten that Jesus had warned him that before the cock crowed that morning, he would deny Jesus three times.  As you read the rest of the story in Matthew 26, Mark 14,  Luke 22 and John 18, you read of the shameful way Peter denied his Lord.   The question for us is how many times have we denied that we know him since we’ve been Christians?  How many times have we been silent when we should have shared the Gospel with others?  How many times have we followed Jesus “afar off”?  How many time have we sat by the fire with Christ’s enemies to warm our hands?

Note finally, Jesus question and answer in Luke 22:52-53 to the crowd that arrested Him?  His question was, “Why did you wait until now to arrest me?  Why didn’t you do it when I was teaching in the temple during this last week?  You had opportunity to do it.  I was right there out in the open. Why didn’t you do it then?

Then Jesus answers His own question. “That was not your appointed hour to capture Me.  You didn’t have the power and authority to do it.  BUT THIS IS YOUR HOUR.  THIS IS YOUR POWER OF DARKNESS!”   It was now time for Jesus to be arrested and die for sinners.  He would die on the 14th day of Nisan, the day of the Passover, when lambs were being slain throughout Israel.  On this day, not a day earlier or later  but on this day, God would allow Satan to do his dirty work and move the mob to arrest and crucify Jesus.   That was the day that God’s  promise in Genesis 3:15 would be fulfilled.  Satan would bruise Jesus heel by having him crucified.

But there is coming another day when Jesus’ hour comes.  “And He shall bruise or crush Satan’s head.”   Will you be there in the redeemed crowd  described in Revelation 19 and 20 when Jesus crushes Satan and brings an end to sin and brings in everlasting righteousness? 

The answer to that question is that you will be there only if now in the age of grace you have humbled yourself before God as a sinner and received the sacrifice of His shed blood as your only atonement or covering for your sins?  You and I cannot face God in our own righteousness.  Isaiah 64:6 says that it stinks in His nostrils as bloody, rotten rags.  We must have His imputed righteousness.  Read Romans 3- 5 and settle this matter today.

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Passion Week | Comments Off on Jesus Betrayed

Swords and Christianity

Christians have always lived in a world  hostile to Christianity. In the early centuries Christians were thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum and burned on stakes.  Even to this day, Christians are being persecuted and killed throughout the world, perhaps more than at any time in the past 2000 years.

In America where there is still a quiet tolerance for Christians, the pressure continues to mount for Christians to be silenced.  America has already thrown the Bible out of public schools, where once the Bible was read and honored and taught.

There is a constant move among enemies of Christ to silence, or at least control what a preacher can preach from his pulpit.  These enemies of Christ consider preaching what the Bible says about sin as “hate speech”.

Whereas some religions are advanced by the sword, true Biblical Christianity does not and has never been advanced by force.

Why then does Jesus tell his disciples in his last conversation with them in the Upper Room, as recorded in Luke 22:35-36 to buy a sword and carry it?

He reminds them that throughout their three years as His disciples, they did not have money nor extra clothes; just the basics.  They did not have to carry swords.  He was there to protect them and supply all their needs.

Now, as Jesus is preparing them for His departure back to Heaven, He teaches them to start preparing to take over the responsibility for their own needs, including a wallet, money and a bank account to pay their bills.  He even encourages them in verse 36  to do whatever is necessary to purchase a sword for their own protection.   They would be traveling in dangerous  places and would need to defend themselves from  hostile men and wild animals.

Does that mean that we Christian today should do the same thing;  carry swords or guns for our protection?   I personally have never carried a weapon.   I’d rather trust my protection to government which is given the responsibility of protecting and avenging us from our enemies. That is clearly taught in Romans 13.   Government does us a terrible disservice when they fail to avenge us when we have been harmed or lost a loved one to murder.   See my article  CAPITAL PUNISHMENT elsewhere on this web site to learn what the Bible says about it.

Understand this!  Christians do not advance the Gospel of Christ with guns. They never have and they never will. False Christianity has done that in  past centuries, but Bible Christianity is never advanced by force.  We have a much greater power than mere weapons.  The Bible itself is described in Hebrews 4:12 as being sharper than a two-edged sword which pierces  the heart and exposes sin.   That’s why you find the Bible throughout this web site.  Throughout my ministry of over fifty-four years, I have never trusted in my ingenuity or opinions or psychology  to change lives; but I have learned to use the Bible to accomplish what I could never accomplish.

Not only do I use the Sword of the Lord, the Bible,  but I am also clothed in the armour of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Jesus, in His final conversation with His disciples in the Upper Room, warned them of the hostility they would face from a hostile world. Read of it in John 15 and 16.   In fact, going back to the beginning of His earthly ministry in His Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5,6 and 7. Jesus reminds the people  in Matthew 5:10-12  that they are blessed of God when they face persecution for Christ’s sake. 

Christ is now in Heaven. The sinful world can no long harm or even touch Him.  But we Christians remind the world of Christ and for that reason they pour out their hatred on us.  “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in Heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Passion Week | Comments Off on Swords and Christianity

Contentment

“Christian contentment is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord and to be totally at His disposal in the place He appoints, at the time He chooses, with the provision He is pleased to make.”        Randy Alcorn

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Gems | Comments Off on Contentment