Suffering: Correct Responses Have Rewards

    Thursday, July 23, 2015, 8:04 PM [General]

    There is the physical and spiritual life, suffering, and death.  This essay is attempting to discuss suffering in this life.  I only wish at this point to caution the reader not to make hasty conclusions regarding death being a final solution to a matter with eternal consequences.

    No one is unacquainted with some concept of suffering.  But its purpose in life is to many an unsolved mystery.  Most people have seen in some measure, small or great, the instructive powers of suffering.  If I did not know that a hot stove would give me a painful burn and touched it, the pain endured should be sufficient to caution me from doing so again.  If knowing that a hot stove would burn me, and I purposely touch it, I should be thought a fool and had earned the suffering of a burn.

    As one considers the proportions of suffering that fills the earth, he may suppose the foregoing observation to be too elementary and naive for serious consideration.  However let us not be unmindful that even the most advanced physicists concentrate the most intense studies on the most elemental substances; and the most eloquent orators would lose their standing if they neglected the most minor details of grammatical construction.  One should not expect to have a successful examination of the complexities of suffering, without a firm foundation on its simplicities.  Likewise, one should not partake of its flowering or fruition, without starting at the roots.

    It was not God's will for man to suffer, just as it was not God's will for man to disobey Him.  There are a number of reasons for suffering, just as there are many ways in which people suffer, and also many responses to it.  Man in his own free will disobeyed God, and brought suffering on himself.  But there is good news: all suffering can lead to good.  Do not misquote me.  I did not say that all suffering leads to good, but ‘can’ lead to good.  The good may not necessarily be realized in this earthly life, but could be.  A proper response to suffering increases a person's growth in education, strength, and character.  The key is A PROPER RESPONSE.  When it comes to suffering, it’s the response to suffering that offers the reward.

    There are a number of ways people can respond to suffering.  (1) A person can grow bitter and withdraw into himself.  (2) A person can become vengeful and seek retribution.  (3) A person can fall into self-pity and beg for sympathy.  (4) A person can seek compensation in worldly pleasure.  (5) A person can look to God, and learn in deeper depths an understanding of God's love.

    In the first two chapters of Genesis we find that God created man to tend His garden and have fellowship with Him.  This was not designed to be any tedious task, but a richly fulfilling devotion of loving care.  If God simply wanted garden workers, He could have created robots; but He created man with intellect and feelings.  He could have given man a blind mentality that blindly served; but He gave man the freedom to make his own decisions.  He created man in His image, and gave him a free will and dominion over the earth.

    Being created in God's image, having dominion over the earth, and fellowship with God, while exercising free will, is a serious responsibility.  God wanted man to obey Him, because God knew what was best, and did not want man to make wrong decisions.  God tested man's obedience by commanding him not to eat of a certain tree.  Man disobeyed God and as a result sin, suffering, and death entered the world.  God's will is that all of creation live according to His will, which is love.  By disobeying God, man showed that his love for God was not what it should be.  Suffering is the result, and it ends in death.

    Suffering first entered the world after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit.  This brought a curse on the land which affects all people.  The first effect of the curse on the land was that man would have to toil and labor with much difficulty to provide for his needs.  "... an idle soul shall suffer hunger." (Proverbs 19:15)  After this people could have been born, survive in this life for a time, and die without any promise or hope for an eternal life with our Creator.  However, our Creator, out of His love for us, offered us just such a promise of hope (expectation).  But that did not mean that those who accepted the promise would escape the curse that was on this land.

    Suffering is still available to all people, and some more so than others.  The sun shines on the good and the wicked; the rain falls on the good and the wicked.  The common suffering of surviving and providing touches everyone.  Good times come and good times go.  But when bad times come, we often ask, "Will we ever get through this?"  (Because of length, this subject will have to take more than one post.  I plan to take this subject up again in my next post.)

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    Being Prepared for the 2nd Coming

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 6:31 PM [General]

    The Old Testament has many prophetic references to both the first coming and the second coming of Christ.  Jewish religious scholars in the early AD period did not recognize the first coming of the Messiah.  Christian religious scholars of today are basically looking for the signs of the time.  But when Jesus told his disciples about His second coming, He said they were to lift up their heads, for their redemption was drawing nigh.  Many people who are trying to pay so much attention to seeing and understanding the signs are overlooking the prime objective.  More important than knowing the time is knowing that our redemption is drawing nigh.  Are we truly ready for that redemption?

    Jesus used a parable of people preparing for the Lord’s next coming as bridesmaids going to a wedding feast with lamps.  Some had enough oil, others ran out of oil.  God’s Word is to be our lamp to guide our way.  But the oil that keeps the lamp going is to have God’s Word in our heart.  The Bible says that Christ is that Word (John 1).  That Word is manifested in the heart by God’s Holy Spirit within us.  Because someone is not necessarily aware of the Spirit does not mean the Spirit is not there.  We are to guard ourselves against ‘quenching’ that Spirit of God (1st Thessalonians 5: 19).  To quench could mean to ‘extinguish’ (as to put out completely) but can also be used to stifle or hold back.  The Christian’s effectiveness depends very much on how that Christian exercises his good works that God has called us to, and our faith.  The further a Christian’s life is from God’s will, the more the Holy Spirit is quenched.  The weaker a Christian’s faith, the more that Spirit is quenched.  Oil (remember the oil in the bridesmaid’s lamps above) is used as fuel for the light.  The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the oil from the olive tree that provides fuel for the true Light that shines through the Christian life.

    Ephesians 2: 10 says that we were created for a life of good works that God has prepared for us.  It is through those good works that God intended for us that our spiritual gifts are used.  Christians’ works differ in nature, and thus the spiritual gifts are given as necessary for those works.  As Christians busy themselves doing the works that God intended, then they are filling their lamps with the oil for the Lord’s coming.  Those works may involve preaching, teaching, evangelizing, among others and may be as simple as living a life that is a good example and doing good for others that come from the heart of love- that love being God’s law in the heart.

    In the Song of Solomon reference is made to a rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley.  Christ is often referred to as the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.  So if we think of Christ in the heart, and Christ as a flower, then perhaps we could think of having God’s Word planted in our hearts as a flower.  So to keep the oil in the lamps, it may be thought of as keeping that flower watered and fertilized.  This is why Jesus said a Comforter would come, the Holy Spirit to keep that flower of Christ growing in one’s heart.  And of course, a flower is not much good to anyone unless it can be seen.  So in a manner of speaking, how many church pew sitters are showing their flowers?

    Many church pew sitters have religiosity in their heads, but is it really planted in their hearts?  How many have the flowers in their hearts, but others can’t see it because it is wrapped up in their religiosity?  Still there are others who have the flower in their hearts, but they are so burdened with so many problems and issues and dramas in this world, that even they have trouble seeing that flower themselves.  If the pastors of the church are to be like under-shepherds to God’s flock, then are the shepherds aiding the church pew sitters in discovering and displaying the flowers that are inside the members of their flock?  I’m sure there are many who are.  But I fear there are many who are teaching more religiosity than Christian living.

    If Christ is in a Christian’s heart, then what should the Christian be showing to the world?  Christ came in love to seek and to save the lost by sacrificing Himself for the lost.  How many Christians believe they are to go to the lost and show Christ’s love to the point of sacrificing their own selves?  How many go to those who are burdened and help to lift the burden and help them find their flower within?

    A study of the end times is an important and noble study.  More important is to open the flower that is in the Christian heart to love and save the lost.  Then when we see the signs of the end times, we will be ready to lift up our heads as our redemption is drawing nigh.

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    Are You Ready to Answer in God's Judgment?

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 7:21 AM [General]

    There are people who are cold, hungry, they have been hurt, used abused, and are sorely confused.  In their hearts they cry out, “Oh, Lord, why?  Oh, Lord, how long?”  They will stand radiant in God’s presence wearing white robes.

    There will be those who kneel before the Lord thinking they will have great rewards who will say, “Lord, I went on visitation, I talked to people about You, and I prayed with people.”  The Lord will say that He was hungry and you didn’t feed Him.  They will ask when.  The Lord will tell them when they didn’t feed His friends, they didn’t feed Him.  Then they will see those who suffered on earth and recognize that they had seen them hurt and cold and hungry.  James said, “What good is it if you tell someone to be nourished and warm, if you don’t give him food and a coat or blanket?”  Many church pew sitters who stood at the door to the kingdom but didn’t go in will be cast away.  Many church pew sitters who went through the door but were barely saved by the grace of God will hang their heads in shame and disgrace for thinking what great rewards they would have, only to discover that the people they had neglected will be the ones with the rewards.

    In Jeremiah 29: 13 God said through the prophet, “You will search for Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Many suffering people in this world say, “Lord, why?  Lord, how long?”  People who really search for the Lord will find Him.  Many church pew sitters and preachers will hang their heads in shame and disgrace when they come face to face with how they have neglected taking care of the people who are suffering as God intended.

    Jesus taught that more will be expected from those who have (or claim to have) and that those in authority (or even those who pretend to have authority) have the greater responsibility.  Many who claim to be Bible teachers will be made lower than their students.  Many who call themselves preachers will be made lower than their church pew sitters.  There are many fine Christians.  But beware who you listen to.  Don’t look for a preacher who talks about love, but look for people who know how to show God’s law of love.

    The Jews were chosen to represent God to earth.  When they did not adhere to God’s expectations, they were taken away into captivity, first to Assyria, then to Babylon.  They were not just warned, but were given much time to change their ways.  It was more than a simple matter of not adhering to God’s expectations.  They totally avoided doing what God expected and continued so.  Then they went to extremes to do contrary to what God expected and continued at that.  God patiently waited and warned them until finally He acted in complete justice.

    As the Jews were carried into captivity, they were told by the prophets to make the best of it.  They were to acclimate themselves to their situation by founding homes and business.  That advice was to inform them that they could not expect this decision for their going into captivity to be immediately reversed.

    In the New Testament warnings of the end of the church age again involved Babylon.  In the book of Revelations reference is made regarding the fall of that great city.  This occurs (by most interpretations) near the end of the period of tribulation.  It indicates that Babylon was prosperous and a world leader.  Most interpreters refer to ‘Babylon’ as being symbolic of some city or nation.  Suggestions include the Roman Empire (or present day Europe), Vatican City in Rome, Japan (because of its extensive trade agreements), New York (referencing the World Trade Center and New York Harbor), and the United States of America as a nation (for those who differentiate New York City from its country).  The nations that originally carried away the Jews are today Muslim, and some suggest that Babylon refers to the present day setting of the original Babylon or at least a major city in that area (perhaps Dubai). 14: 8 And there followed another angel, saying , Babylon is fallen , is fallen , that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

    16: 19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell : and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

    18: 1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.  2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying , Babylon the great is fallen , is fallen , and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.  3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

    Consider the increasing storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, terrorism, the oil spills, wars, the US failing economy, and Europe’s failing economy.  Since Europe consolidated their money market, they’re more like the old Roman Empire.  Remember how strongly the Roman Empire fits in with the end times in the Bible.  The Muslims are taking over this world with their population explosion and also with their petroleum wealth.

    Many people are studying Revelation and early in Revelation (Chapters 2 & 3) they want to measure their churches against the churches in the letters to the churches.  Many people try to study to acquire a great deal of knowledge of Revelations.  There is nothing wrong with that, but too often one of the major items is neglected: being ready for the second coming.

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    The Branch of the Gentiles May Be Cut Off

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 6:47 AM [General]

    In 1st Corinthians Paul spoke of a man who was living in sin with his father’s wife.  The rule could apply to anyone who is seriously avoiding God’s reason, purpose, and will.  True no one perfectly follows God’s perfect will.  People who are not saved may prosper here, but they will pay eventually.  People who are saved, but totally evade when God is trying to show His reason and purpose or totally do not listen when they have clear signs that God is trying to tell them something may lead God to turn their body over to Satan to purge their souls for salvation.  This does not say that anyone loses their salvation, but not finding God’s reason and purpose leaves Christians without any reason or purpose.  Now from Job we find that God can allow Satan to bring a person into total vexation of spirit (we might call that insanity).  Satan could destroy a person’s family life.  Satan can bring serious illness and/or injury to a person.  Or, as in 1st Corinthians, God could allow Satan to go so far as to destroy the body, but that does not mean that his soul is not saved.

    The Bible teaches that Satan is the prince of the power of the air and the ruler of this world.  People who serve this world can expect to be prosperous because they serve their ruler.  Jesus taught that His followers would be known for their love.  They could expect to be treated by this world as their Savior was treated.  Paul said that if we suffer with Christ, we will also be glorified with Christ.  Pray for people who seek their rewards in this world.

    The Jews were chosen to be God’s people.  They were warned that if they did not live up to God’s will, they would be cut down and the Gentiles would be given an opportunity to become God’s people.  Paul taught that the Jews were represented by a tree.  Because they failed in God’s will, then a branch from that tree was cut off so that the Gentiles could be grafted into that tree.

    The prophets taught that God found the Jews covered in their own filth.  [In other words, they were bathed in their own bodily fluids.].  God had pity on them, lifted them up, bathed them, dressed them, healed them, and prepared them to serve Him.  The prophets continue that they did not serve him.  They turned away from Him.  They became harlots whoring after other gods, seeking to find satisfaction in other gods.  Anyway, God cut the branch from the Jewish tree and grafted in the Gentiles.

    When Jesus opened the door to the Gentiles, He gave His followers a “new law”.  This “new law” involved a deeper understanding of God’s law of love.  From God’s perspective this was not a new law.  It was the law that He meant for all peoples from all nations to find.  To the Jews who had been given God’s covenant law, the concept of this new law was fully imbedded in that covenant law.  But as Jesus taught, it was a new law to the peoples because they had never fully found or understood or realized that original law as it was intended to be.

    God’s love was not something that was only intended for the Jewish nation.  The Jews were chosen to be a chosen people to teach God’s law to the world.  In the days of the prophet Elisha, there were Jews who had the disease of leprosy.  It was a Syrian general who had leprosy and had made war against the Jews who God showed His love and mercy to by the word of Elisha and healed him of his leprosy, even though Jews (who were to be God’s chosen people) had leprosy but were not healed.

    Now as the Gentiles have been chosen to carry the message of God’s kingdom offered with His law of love, Paul warned that the branch of the Gentiles could be chopped off, and the Jewish branch that was chopped off could be grafted back in again, if the Gentiles lost that purpose in sharing God’s law of love and mercy to the world.  The axe is ready at the tree.  The Jews are fast being reestablished in their land.  There are many Christian Jews who are winning the Jews who were chopped from the tree into the fuller knowledge of God’s law of love.

    Many Gentiles (church pew sitters) came to the door of God’s kingdom and looked inside.  They were so impressed that they went around singing ‘glory to God, hallelujah, amen.’  But though they came to the door, they never fully went into the kingdom.  Many went through the door, but once inside the doorway became like those who were still standing just outside the door, and never went further into the full maturity of God’s law of love.  Many of these people are like the people Jesus spoke of when He quoted Isaiah (who was speaking God’s Word) in saying that this people’s knowledge of Me is precepts taught by the rules of men.  Ezekiel spoke for God in saying that the people talk much about love but their hearts go after their own desires.  Are not people whose hearts go after their own desires like the people Jesus spoke of who in the last days would be lovers of their own selves?

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    Do You Believe?

    Monday, July 20, 2015, 9:27 AM [General]

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.

    Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved

    Do you believe?  But what do you believe?  What does it mean to believe?  Satan knew Jesus face to face; did Satan believe?  Jesus taught that there were few who would find the path to His Kingdom and many were on the path to destruction.  Jesus also taught that there were those who would be at the judgment who would claim that they had done many good works in Jesus name, but they would be told that Jesus never knew them (Matthew 7: 22- 23).  Did those who did good works in Jesus name not believe in Him?  What does it mean to believe?

    Paul said that your salvation was to be worked out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 12).  So what does it mean to work out your salvation, if all that is called for is to believe?  The problem is in the language.  Words change meanings, even if only ever so slightly, over time.  Belief should not simply mean to ‘acknowledge something’, but in the Biblical sense from ancient times the words translated belief and believe meant to have a firm conviction, and belief in a person (such as Jesus) meant a firm conviction in who that person is, what he/she stood for, and what he/she taught.  Believing in Who Jesus is, what He stood for, and what He taught is where we have our salvation, and in that firm conviction are led to the works that come from the love which is the foundation of God’s law.

    People can ‘acknowledge’ Jesus, and go around doing ‘good works’ without having that firm conviction that was preceded by that working out in one’s own mind with fear and trembling the consequences of this earthly life of sin that one could not be saved from except by Jesus.

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