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Archive for May, 2011

Even the Appearance . . .

The apostle Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians (5:22) said, “Abstain from all appearance (form) of evil.”

These words were a living reality in the life of the apostle Paul who took public opinion very seriously and did everything within his power, as long as it did not compromise the Gospel, to avoid any appearance of evil.

Living for the glory of God was Paul’s consuming desire. He did not want any shadow to fall on that Blessed Name. He took great precautions to avoid any hint of scandal. Paul’s wisdom in this matter arose from a deep respect for God and a divinely-given humility, which put the name of Christ before his own concerns.

“It was not enough for the apostle to do right, he recognized the importance of appearing right,” Charles Hodge writes. “It is a foolish pride which leads to a disregard of public opinion. We are bound to act in such a way that only God, who sees the heart and knows all things, may approve our conduct, but also so that men may be constrained to recognize our integrity. “

It doesn’t matter who you are, a manager a teacher, a parent, a student or a housewife, your duty before God and men is not only to be honest but to appear honest. It may take extra effort and prior planning to arrange a situation so that you do not put yourself in a compromising position. It may take sacrificing the easier way or doing what you want to do at a given moment in order to remain pure in appearance.

This does not mean though that you become bound by the consciences of others. Remember, the greatest act of love is to put others first and to place the honor of God before our own desires.

May you have a blessed week serving the Lord and submitting to our God’s commands out of obedient love to Him.

Blessings and Peace to You,

Pastor Mark

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Only A Seed . . .

It was just before Christmas during my second year at the first church I was called to pastor.  As I spoke with this dear little lady who happened to be the wife of one of the earlier pastors of the same church,  now widowed and alone, she spoke to me of the future, drawing attention to a little shriveled pecan that had remained on the branch of the tree just outside her kitchen window.  All the other pecans had fallen to the ground – but this one remained – tenaciously holding on to the branch, not letting go.

As we talked she lifted her gnarled and wrinkled hand and pointed and placed her finger on the window pane.  The little shriveled pecan became a reflection of her own finger as if she were pointing to a mirror.  She said it was “no good for nothin'” – that it was like her – that when that pecan fell she too would fall from the branch of the tree of life God had placed her on.  For some reason she felt that her life was very closely tied to that one little pecan – stuck on the branch – wanting to move on the next stage of life, but for some reason still hanging on.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but she had touched on a very profound thought which the Apostle Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians.

But God  gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of  fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable  body; it is  sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is  raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So  also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

1 Corinthians 15:38-50

In death, what will the future be like?  In this life our bodies may be worn out and tired, shriveled and wrinkled,  but what will the resurrection life be like?  What kind of body will we have?

In an attempt to describe the essentially indescribeable and to express the inexpressible, Paul uses the analogy of a seed. The seed is put into the ground and is transformed, but ultimately it rises with a very different kind of body from that which was sown.  Paul shows that at one and the same time, there can be dissolution, difference and continuity.  The seed is dissolved;  when it rises from the ground there is a vast difference in the body God gives it;  yet in spite of the differences, it is the same life, the same seed. There is continuity.

Our earthly bodies will be buried and will in a sense dissolve.  Yet they will rise a different form, but it is the same person who rises.  Our loved one may be dissolved by death, but our assurance is that same loved one will be changed by resurrection into a glorified body – ‘sown in weakness, raised in power’.

Paul asserts from this analogy that there is not just one kind of body.  Each separate part of creation has its own body.  The acorn is resurrected into an oak tree, never into a spruce.  Wheat seed produces a wheat stalk and wheat grain, never rye.  Corn produces corn.  The tulip bulb always becomes a tulip.  The pecan always becomes a pecan tree.  There is an identification and continuity in nature, with each seed having its peculiar resurrected stalk and blossom.  So God gives to each of us human creatures a body that is uniquely ours.  It is reasonable to expect a suitable, recongnizable body suited for resurrection life, the same, but different, particularly suited for immortality.

In order for a seed to do the work of a seed, it must be sown. It must fall from the tree.  It must die in order to live.  That pecan one day fell from the branch of that tree and in a sense so did that dear little lady.  She let go of this earthly existence and fell safe and secure into the mighty hands of our living God.  Torn between remaining here and going to be with the Lord she seemed to be saying with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Corinthians 15:51-58

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Pastor Mark

Categories: Death, Faith, Resurrection Life

The Truth

“. . . I am the truth . . .”
John 14:6

A few years ago, my wife and I took a ‘road trip.’ Travelling over 2200 miles round trip we covered all different types of terrain. From the mountains of the Colorado Rockies to the deserts of Nevada and Utah, one might say we had our ‘ups and downs’, but we arrived back safely, following the many different road signs along the way. The highway department has apparently placed those signs along the side of the roads to help those who are driving maneuver their automobiles safely to their final destinations.

You may have encountered one that says, “Dangerous Curve Ahead.” Immediately you are confronted with making a choice. On the one hand you could observe the warning and slow down. On the other, you could ignore the warning and maintain your present rate of speed. Or you could simply ignore the sign completely, defy the warning, and speed up.

No matter how you respond, you will not change the truth of the sign. It was put there for a purpose by someone who knows the road situation better than you. The curve is dangerous, regardless of whether you acknowledge the fact or not. How you respond to the truth doesn’t change its truth.

As in our driving along the highways so in our daily lives we encounter many different road signs along our spiritual journey. Unfortunately some have been placed there by the great deceiver, Satan. I remember one of the Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch years ago. It was about “Coyote and Roadrunner.” Wiley Coyote was always changing the road signs so Roadrunner would be misled and fall into Coyote’s traps.

So it is with Satan. John 8:44 says that “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” His main objective is to sidetrack each of us on our spiritual journey. He wants us to end up on the dead end street of eternal death and destruction. He wants us to speed up as we go around those curves, ignoring the warning signs that are placed there to protect us from danger. The main weapon in his arsenal is deception. He deceived Eve in the Garden, and he will try to deceive each of us.

But thank God that in a world full of darkness and deception, there stands one road sign that is totally dependable – the cross of Christ and the way leading to it is the Word of God. God’s Living Word directs us along the path and warns us of dangerous curves and hazardous intersections. His Word reveals to us what lurks ahead and gives us warning signs to keep us from harm.

The question is, “Will you pay attention to the truth of His Word and heed the warnings? Will you listen to His divine directions?” Jesus is the Living Word of God. When He speaks, He speaks only the truth. When He gives directions, we are assured that they are totally trustworthy and completely without error.

He alone is the dependable source of redemptive revelation keeping us on the highway to heaven and eternal life with God, the Father. In order to discern the difference between Satan’s signs of deception and Christ’s pathway of truth, you must keep His map and instruction manual close at hand and remain close to his word. Read your Bible daily. Pray without ceasing. Meditate upon God’s most precious word and store it in your heart.

And when Satan tries to deceive you and attempts to get you to take his deceptive detour you can stand firm in the power and strength of the Truth of the Word of God. You can with confidence stand boldly upon the Living Word, Jesus Christ who was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. You can know that the truth of God’s gracious provision will never lead you astray.

Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as we are so disposed and inclined to all kinds of errors, to so many and so various forms of superstitions, and as Satan also ceases not to lay in wait for us, and spreads before us his many snares, – 0 grant, that we may be so preserved in obedience to you by the teaching of your word, that we may never turn here and there, either to the right hand or to the left, but continue in that pure worship which you have prescribed, so that we may plainly testify that you are indeed our Father by continuing under the protection of your only-begotten Son, whom you have given to be our pastor and ruler to the end. Amen.

a prayer from Calvin’s Commentaries on the Minor Prophets.

Blessings and Peace to you all,

PastorMark