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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pearls Before Swine

"And as we see it in experience, that dogs do always bark at those they know not, and that it is their nature to accompany one another in those clamors: so it is with the inconsiderate multitude; who wanting that virtue which we call honesty in all men, and that especial gift of God which we call charity in Christian men, condemn without hearing..."

From "Preface to the History of the World" by Sir Walter Raleigh (1614)

Alice C. Linsley

In Matthew 7:6 we read Jesus' warning: "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces."

Perhaps you have attempted to reason with someone who simply will not hear a word you have to say. You may have discovered that further attempts to reason with this person only produces hostility.

In Matthew 7, our Lord is teaching those who would take up their cross and follow Him. The Cross is the very symbol of the world's hostility toward Jesus Messiah and His followers. Perhaps that is why some churches have removed the cross from their worship spaces.

 As the chapter continues, we hear more about those who are hostile to the Gospel.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness (Matt 7:21-23).
Jesus wants his followers to make disciples, but He also warns us to be cautious. We do not waste time by offering the Good News to someone who does not understand it. We do waste time in arguments with those who are hostile to the Gospel. They are driven by their hostility to win every argument. It is not possible to reason with them. The Cross offends them. Holiness offends them.

Holiness has many expressions. There is holiness of life, holiness of worship, holy space, and holy events such a Baptism and Communion. These are not for the unholy. They are for the holy people of God.

Congregations who offer "seeker-friendly" worship should take Jesus' warning very seriously. Those who are not saved cannot worship the Savior. Evangelism is what Christians do Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, we worship in the beauty of holiness and are renewed.

Vouchsafe unto us, O Lord God, that we may stand before thee in purity and holiness; and with knowledge and fear, in the beauty of spiritual order..."


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Stewardship and the Imago Dei

Alice C. Linsley

Stewardship is a biblical value and at its core is the recognition that humans were created in the image of God (Imago Dei) with a God-like role in superintending God's Earth.

We tend to look at stewardship too narrowly; in the sense of local church giving of time, talent, and treasure. However, in the biblical view humans have responsibility for protection, preservation, and restoration of wholesome environments for humans and other living creatures. For the most part, we do this rather well, though often out of self-interest rather than as divinely-appointed stewards (Genesis 2:15).

Animal activists play a part. Those who seek to preserve endangered species and protect shrinking habitats play a part. Agriculturalists who plant crops to prevent erosion play a part. One need not be religious to feel the impulse to work for such causes. It may be that the impulse to tend life on Earth comes from being made in the image of the Creator. If that is so, that is worth considering and honoring.

Each week I pass a Presbyterian church that has a sign that declares the congregation to be "an environmentally caring" community. That sign troubles me for two reasons: it seems trendy, and a church should be known for it commitment to the Gospel. Stewardship of Earth's resources from the secular perspective is a legitimate ethical issue. Stewardship of Earth's resources from the perspective of the biblical worldview is a matter of living in the image of God.

Living consciously in the image of God is to live in one of the greatest gifts humans have received. That gift needs tending more than ever.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Repenting of the Original Sin

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Have you repented of the original sin?

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6)

What did the woman base this fateful decision upon? She based it upon the suggestion of Satan.

Satan said: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5).

Satan's corrupt gospel involved trying to be god. This sin made him the enemy of God: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:12–14).

Satan began by causing the woman to doubt God's goodness. Satan responded to God’s warning sarcastically: “Yea, hath God said, . .” (Genesis 3:1). And denied the danger by asserting: “Ye shall not surely die:”(Genesis 3:4). Further, he asserted that God was holding out on them.

Satan then proposed that they would be their own authority through getting wisdom. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5).

This is still true since all people must either trust God and His Word, or believe Satan’s gospel of self authority and autonomy from God. Satan continues to use the same method, and this is the result: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

The way of faith trusts both God’s love and character. Each of us must resist the same temptations that led to the original sin.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7, 8).

“...without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

This is the way of faith: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverb 3:5–7).

When people choose separation from God, they assuredly are going to experience the fate of Satan and his demons. Their fate is that of a defeated nation.They will share in the fate of their fallen leader (Matthew 25:41).

There is another far better way! Repent of being your own god. Trust God's infinite love and Christ’s promise of a heavenly home. The Lord Jesus says: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).

Related reading: Repentance is Necessary; Forgiveness Precedes Regeneration; Repentance Unto Life

Friday, October 4, 2019

Formed and Informed by the Bible

Alice C. Linsley

The person who professes to be a follower of Jesus, the Son of God, must also profess to believe the truth of Holy Scripture concerning Jesus. St. Jerome wrote, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

The Spirit of God breathes through the inspired pages of the Bible, a unique book. God has superintended these texts through many ages so that the Church may test every doctrine by the written Word of God.

We cannot dismiss Church Tradition when attempting to understand difficult Bible passages. For the most part, these have been studied by persons of great wisdom and spiritual discernment and a consensus has been reached on what the passages mean and do not mean.

Schisms have arisen when "strange doctrines" and extra-biblical innovations have been imposed on Christians. Anglicans insist that in the spectrum of Scripture-Tradition-Experience, the Bible is the foremost authority. This is articulated in Article 6 of the Articles of Religion:

Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation. Consequently whatever is not read in Scripture nor can be proved from Scripture cannot be demanded from any person to believe it as an article of the faith. Nor is any such thing to be thought necessary or required for salvation. By holy Scripture is meant those canonical books of the Old and New Testaments whose authority has never been doubted within the church.

St. John Chrysostom warns that, “The ignorance of Scripture is a great cliff and a deep abyss; to know nothing of the divine laws is a great betrayal of salvation. This has given birth to heresies, this has introduced a corrupt way of life, this has put down the things above. For it is impossible, impossible for anyone to depart without benefit if he reads continually with attention.”

Heresies arise when some insist that their experiences of God are as valuable as the written Word of God. Such claims often result from individual experiences that resemble trance like states attributed to the Holy Spirit. This has been the case from the earliest days of the Church. The Church Fathers frequently warned people of this tendency.

In an 1866 sermon, the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote:
I have no right to expect that the Spirit will reveal truth to me without the use of a book when I can find it out for myself with the book. “The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities,” but not our idleness! He is given to us on purpose that He may help us when we are weak, but not that we may be indulged where we are slothful.

The serious seeker after truth will read the Bible as a discipline of life and gradually be formed by the biblical worldwide. This can make one seem odd to those who are being formed by the shallow values and fleeting glories of the world. The one formed by the biblical worldview will face scorn and even persecution, yet this is endured for the surpassing joy of experiencing the love of God through Jesus Christ.

In this life, spiritual yearnings can be satisfied by what we find in the Bible. They will be fully satisfied when finally we enter into His perfect peace. Until that day, we are to dwell on the biblical texts which are "given by inspiration of God" and are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" so that Jesus' followers may be made "complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Through Bible study one discovers the path to communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We gain confidence in the redeeming work of the Savior. We embrace assurance of the gift of immortality through Jesus Messiah. We find healing of the broken heart, a wholesome environment for spiritual growth, the correction of hardness of heart, the satisfaction of forgiveness, and hope in dark times.

The Bible informs us about the Trinity, the purpose of life, the faith that endures, the subtle nature of sin and evil, the necessity of repentance, and the ultimate victory of Christ our God.

John of Kronstandt reminds us that, "In the Holy Scriptures, we see God face to face, and ourselves as we are" (My Life in Christ, Holy Trinity Monastery, 1971, p. 2). Seeing ourselves in the true light of God's written Word is a necessary part of our salvation.

Ignatius Brainchaninov, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, exhorts, "Never cease studying the Gospel until the end of your life. Do not think that you know it enough, even if you know it by heart." (The Arena, Diocesan Press, 1970, p. 15)

In his instructions to the young evangelist Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Till I come, give attendance to reading.” (1 Timothy 4:13) The Scriptures to which Paul referred were what we know as the Old Testament, texts available to Timothy mainly in Greek. Today, the Bible or portions of the Bible are available in nearly every written language on earth. That cannot be said about any other book.

Great effort, sweat, and blood have gone into preservation and dissemination of the Bible. To millions the book is precious, a source of light in a dark world. As Psalm 118:15 reminds us, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Archbishop Foley Beach wrote, "You and I are blessed to have the written Word because of the sacrifice of others who literally gave their lives, preserving it, translating it, and printing it – so we could read it ourselves."

Thomas Cranmer, the architect of the Book of Common Prayer, encourages us to pray:
“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Prayer as a Spiritual Lifeline

Alice C. Linsley

A lifeline is a rope or line used to rescue someone in danger or to provide a means of escape from a difficult situation. Using the line, rescuers can pull a person to safety. This is a realistic image of prayer, and the message of the old hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

O what peace we often forfeit, 
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.

When we don't pray we fail to take hold of the spiritual lifeline that God has provided. We make excuses for this failure. We are too busy. There are too many demands on our time. Too many interruptions! Too few hours in the day.

The Lord Jesus recognized all these problems. That is why he urged his disciples to "Come away to a quiet place." (Mark 6:31)  Jesus never gave his disciples a method for praying. He led them to a space where they could pray without interruption.

Jesus spent hours in solitary prayer. The Gospels speak of how He withdrew to a mountain or stole away from the crowd to commune with His Father in Heaven. His disciples observed this and recognized that their prayer lives did not measure up to the Lord's prayer life. So they asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).

Jesus responded by giving them a prayer, not a method. He didn't tell them to ritually wash before praying or to put on their prayer shawls. He didn't tell them to go to the synagogue. He did not designate a prayer posture. Prayer is not a method. It is a conversation.

Conversations are two-way communications involving both speaking and listening. Listening is the hardest part of prayer because it requires silence. This is why some people have prayer closets and others withdraw to monasteries. This is what motivates people to go on retreats. 

Prayer is also communal because each Christian is in Jesus and He is in us, making us members of the "mystical Body of Christ." We pray as living members of His Body. Our prayers, as personal as they may be, are joined to others in that Body. God hears the prayers of individuals as a liturgy of the Body. This is evident in the way Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father..."

How is this possible? By grace and the in-dwelling Holy Spirit our praises and petitions coincide as an offering. Being united to Jesus Christ, we pray as individuals and as a body.

In prayer we confess, request, adore, plead, gain clarity, receive forgiveness, are refreshed and restored. We laugh and cry over the double mystery of God's mercy and our misery. His grace brings miserable sinners to the realization that we are capable of sharing the beautiful life of God because that is how God made us. Joy comes in the morning!

There is a lovely image in one of C.S. Lewis's books, The Horse and His Boy.
Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh, and trotted across to the Lion.
“Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” 
“Dearest daughter,” said Aslan, planting a lion’s kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”

In prayer, we come to God as Christ’s own forever, as a child of the High King. Our fears are set aside and our movement toward the Savior is rewarded. “Joy shall be yours.”


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Overcoming Violence in the Land

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

I believe the solution to mass shootings is a national revival that calls people to a biblical faith and strengthens the moral foundations of the nation. This is not something that can be brought about by government action or congressional legislation. Christians must unite in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to do a mighty work.

Violence and disregard for life are expected outcomes of the political forces that remove Judeo-Christian morality from public discourse. Political correctness promotes lies and undermines the moral fiber of a nation.

A study of the origin of political correctness was done by Professor Angelo M. Codevilla who wrote:
“The notion of political correctness came into use among Communists in the 1930s as a semi-humorous reminder that the Party’s interest is to be treated as a reality that ranks above reality itself.”
The semi-humorous reminder went something like this:
“Comrade, your statement is factually incorrect.”
“Yes, it is. But it is politically correct.”
Political correctness requires revising history to fit the party narrative. When the Constitutional Convention finished its work, the majority of its members went to a three- hour worship service. It was an occasion for giving thanks. This is not the politically correct narrative, but it is the true one.

Prayer, worship, and thanksgiving have characterized American governance from the beginning.  Until recently, there has been a nearly universal recognition of the God of the Bible. Almost every state of the Union has some expression of trust in God. Federal and state legislative sessions begin with prayer. Government officials are held to a higher oral standard, whether or not they like it.

Should we be surprised by the present moral decline and violence in our land? 

While the Ten Commandments are still on the doors and over head in the Supreme Court, they are subject to lower courts orders for removal from public places. If they could, some would remove every reminder of the Judeo-Christian framework of Western civilization.

In 1933 and in 1973, Humanists made a “Humanist Manifesto” to rid America and the world of belief in God's existence. Without God as Judge, the human conscience becomes warped and silent. Signers of the document include Richard Dawkins who regards the human fetus as "less human than an adult pig" and Lester Mondale, a retired Unitarian-Univeralist minister.

With so little regard for human life and liberty we should not be surprised by the increase in mass shootings. The answer is to turn to God with humble and obedient hearts. God promises, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Related reading: The Media Stokes Anger and Radicalization

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Discipling Church Speaks Truth

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

“I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

The church is the pillar and ground of truth by God's design. For where God dwells the truth is present, for He is Truth. When the faithful honor God they gain access to His truth. The truth sets us free from spiritual bondage and equips us to stand for the Gospel as Christ’s soldiers (II Cor 10:4).

The scriptural design for the Church is to develop mature followers of Jesus Christ. The Lord requires spiritually gifted and mature leaders to make this happen. I am not speaking of super Christians, but rather of people who daily walk the way of faith. These are the salt and light of which the Bible speaks.

People will not hear the truth from the world. Where can they turn but to the church? Is your church a place where truth is spoken? Do you hold leaders in your church accountable for speaking the truth from the pulpit and in the classroom?

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Way of Faith

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

What is the way of Christian faith? How is it described in the Bible?

The way of faith trusts both God’s love and God's character. His love is shown to us in that "while we were still sinners" he gave his Son for us (Romans 5:8). His character is that of perfect and immutable Goodness. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

The way is described as narrow. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

There are many obstacles in the way: temptations, distractions, hypocrisy, pride, demonic activity, etc. Walking the way of faith requires single-minded obedience and trust. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Do not become distracted by disputations and foolish arguments. As the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy: “Useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Timothy 6:5-6).

The way of faith is pleasing to God and is rewarded. For without faith it is impossible to please God. To come to God we must "believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:6).

Related reading: INDEX of Topics on Discipleship; Are You His Disciple Indeed?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Greater Than Unconditional Love

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Unconditional love has been cited as the greatest kind of love. It has been implied that this is the nature of God's love, expressed when Christ died for the sins of the world. This love is alleged to be unconditional since sinners do nothing to merit or win God's love.

But is this unconditional love characteristic of God's plan? Unconditional love is one way. God in Christ offers us everything and we have nothing to offer. There is no reciprocity of love. Surely, this is not the highest expression of love.

When Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah, God's love for Israel did not disappear. Rather, the love relationship like that of husband and wife never became established. Jesus lamented this. He said: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)

The highest expression of love is reciprocal. It is made evident in trusting relationships. The relationship must go beyond initial flirting. It must move to commitment and fidelity based on mutual love. God's love is relational. God's love can be trusted because God is worthy of our trust. One learns this through experience in the relationship.

In Christ, God offer forgiveness, a new nature, and eternal eternal life with unimaginable blessed conditions (Ephesians 2:7). As with human love, this is not fully realized until faith establishes a family relationship. We are to receive Christ as our Savior and Spouse. (Ephesians 5:22–32)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Word to Those Who Preach

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr

My main concern is to teach principles of discipleship, but today I want to say a word to preachers. Specifically, I'd like to address five points.

Make disciples 

The local congregation is God’s primary base of operations: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Preach to seekers. Be an apologist. Share from a heart grounded in the truth of the Gospel: Jesus is Messiah. He is the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners. He died, rose again, ascended to the Father, and intercedes continually for His own. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Strengthen and equip disciples

The Lord commanded his disciples to make disciples by teaching them stewardship of His Word. They were to preach the Gospel to the end of this age (Matt 28:16–20). The Apostle Paul made this the point of his final instruction to Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2, 3).

Preach to the spiritually mature as well as to the seeker.

The disciples must be fed both milk and meat depending on their needs. Preach according to the maturity levels of believers (John 21:15-17). God’s Word makes us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:31–36). Living in this freedom requires maturity. The preacher and elders of the congregation are to model mature Christian living.

As Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

Do not abuse the pulpit

Your words can edify or injure. Truth is described as a two-edged sword. Be aware of its power. Small group discussions after the sermon under the leadership of mature teachers can be very helpful.

The preacher is not the message. Get over yourself!

Remember that your family members don't appreciate being used to illustrate a sermon point.

Do not allow discouragement to hinder your preaching.

The Lord Jesus was a great preacher, but even the greatest preacher can find his powerful and precious words falling lifeless on the rock-hard surface of souls.

Expect opposition, criticism, and hardship. Even the greatest apostles suffered for the sake of the Gospel.

Stay in the Word! Meditate on the whole Bible: Old and New Testaments (Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:1-4; Eph. 3:7-9). The Holy Spirit wants to open the mysteries of Jesus Christ to you so that you may faithfully feed the flock.

Related reading: Pulpit Abuse; Survey of the Fundamentals of Discipleship; Beware a Different Gospel; Our Common Confession; A Gospel-Centered Church Starts with the Pulpit; Formed and Informed by the Bible

Friday, May 10, 2019

God's Power and Divinity Are Evident

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

In John's Gospel the animosity of the world against Jesus Christ and his disciples is evident. In John 16:33 we read: "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

The world is bent against its Creator and the Creator's plan to bring salvation through the Blood of Jesus. The world rejects the offer of boundless love that John describes: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to the end that all who believe in him might not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Paul insists that there is no rational excuse for turning away from God, for that which is known about God is evident in the order of creation; for God made it evident. "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-21).

In the beginning, when man was in the condition of innocence, God manifested His presence in a more immediate way. Genesis 3:8 says that the Creator communed daily with Adam and Eve in the garden, walking there in the cool of the day.

After the fall, there was estrangement. Encounters with God became hot ones. Abraham was visited “in the heat of the day” by he Three-Person God (Gen. 18:1). Sodom was destroyed in brimstone and fire.

Abraham was among the righteous to whom God revealed his plan. John 5:56 says, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." These were the words of Jesus, a descendant of Abraham.

One of Abraham's ancestors was Enoch the Righteous. He "walked with God" (Genesis 5:24) and did not die. This is the pattern for all the righteous who are hidden in Christ Jesus.

God's universal witness is expressed in John 1:9 where we are told that the pre-incarnate Christ came into the world as “the true Light" which "enlightens every man." God has not withheld his revelation from humans. His divine power and eternal nature have been made known and continue to be manifested.

Further, humanity is innately religious. Paul found a clear illustration of this in Athens where he encountered “an altar with this inscription: "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” (Acts 17:23)

The evidence of over 100,000 years of human burial in red ocher is evidence of an impulse to immortality. The practice of red ocher burial speaks of hope for life beyond death, and the blood symbolism testifies to a propitiatory impulse among archaic and ancient populations, an impulse that is preserved most intact in Christianity.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes of the moral consciousness of humans. He sees this (as did Paul) as evidence that God has created us with a conscience. Even those who live corrupt and perverted lives demand justice, though justice is defined according to their standards.

So a reasonable case can be made that God has reached out to the world offering hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and boundless love. Pray for the world!

Related reading: Love PrioritiesThree Essentials of the Christian Faith

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Meditation on Good Friday

"But the righteousness wherein we must be found, if we be justified, is not our own; therefore we cannot be justified by any inherent quality. Christ hath merited righteousness for as many as are found in him." -- Richard Hooker, Anglican Divine (1554-1600)

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Glory of Cleansing

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

In the Bible cleansing rituals involve deliverance from defilement and shame. They represent a forgiven state. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

In the Scripture, sin is not confined to unbelief and transgression. It also involves failure to complete tasks that the Lord has committed to us. This is the meaning of the parable of the talents. Talents are personal investment to achieve an increase of what God has given. Indeed, one definition of sin is coming short of completion: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” (Romans 3:23).
In the course of serving God, and in the business of forgiveness, sin is more that just disobedience and moral iniquity, sin defiles and gives the appearance of guilt and disgrace so that the sinner has a corruption that is seen like leprosy. A clear picture is the consequence of Miriam’s sin against Moses’ authoritative leadership in Numbers 12. As a part of her punishment she had to remain outside Israel’s camping while she awaited her cleansing.

So especially when one’s sin is obvious and defiles the person’s testimony, a part of reconciling forgiveness is to be cleansed, that is, to regain a testimony of no longer being identified with the defiling sin. Cleansing from sin involves the washing of water by the application of God’s Word: “cleansed the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

The ministry of the Word is a central function of any ministry (John 8:31-36). For “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).

The believer who has defiled his testimony and wants cleansing must diligently examine himself and pray to be restored as David prayed: "Create in me a clean heartO God, And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; Take not Thy holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:10)

God is faithful to restore the value of the repentant sinner's testimony in the body of believers: “. . you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, . a repentance without regret, .” (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10).

This redemption or cleansing from shame and defilement comes of Jesus applying His blood. His blood is precious to the Father and is acknowledged from the Throne of Grace.

At His Judgement Seat (1 Cor 3:8-15) each believer's works will be judged. The glory of cleansing will be the Lord’s lack of rebuke on the Day of Judgement and these words from Jesus: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21).

Related reading: "Washed from Head to Toe" (a poem); Forgiveness Precedes Regeneration; Praying Hebrews 2:14-17