Posted in creation, discernment, God, paul, southern lights

What do Aurora Australis, Romans 1, and Apostle Paul have in common?

In Romans 1, the famous passage in which Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit describes the pagans’ reaction to experiencing the God of Creation, begins in verse 18.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

How does this play out, exactly? How are His invisible attributes seen and known? How is it that what can be known about God is made plain to people whose minds are darkened?

I was watching a very excellent documentary called “Antarctica: A Year On Ice”. It follows the people who live and work through a year’s cycle at the various scientific stations on the most remote and brutal continent on the planet. The continent is staffed with about 1100 people at various international stations up and down the Antarctic coast. The largest is the United States’ McMurdo Station. In most documentaries, they show the scientists working. Penguins, climate change, volcanic action, geology…but this documentary features the people who staff the stations in support of the scientists’ work. The regular folks.

The documentary further features the many hundreds of regular people who both work there during the summer, and who “winter over.” They man the store, staff the fire station, fix tractors, cook the meals, wash the dishes, take inventory of all the equipment, etc. When the last plane out at the end of summer leaves, they stay. Thus, the wintering over experience is unique to only a few individuals each year, as the full swell of 1100 during summer dwindles to only about 200 souls spread out among 30 scientific stations during winter in the Antarctic.

Living where there is no hope of departure for 6 months, in brutally cold and windy conditions, in darkness as the sun disappears below the horizon, with only a few dozen people around you…is something that only a few are allowed to experience.

Screen shot from “Antarctica: A Year On Ice”. Aurora Australis

Interestingly most of the people who “winter over” in the Antarctic love it. The landscape under the moon has a stark and glowing beauty. There is an astounding resplendence in the sky that only a few people are privileged ever to see. The stars, planets, Milky Way, moon, and of course the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) dance across the sky in majestic processions, all the time, for there is no sun to hide their glories.

Now here comes the Romans 1 passage lived out among a Gentile. One of the workers described her experience seeing all this for the first time. Here is what she said:

I was out on the sea ice, and all of a sudden comes rolling these waves and waves of green like fairy dust. Giant curtains of fairy dust, just kind of undulating over me. It filled the whole sky and moved in waves across the sky. And I thought this is either what it looks like when aliens are about to abduct you…lol, because this is the green stuff coming down and you feel like you can reach up and touch it. Or if you are a person who believes in heaven, maybe this is what you see in heaven. I’m not sure.

But it was really an emotional, life-changing experience for me. I found myself, not believing I’d done it, when I’d figured out where my body position was, I was actually on my knees crying. That’s how beautiful it was to me.

She sounds like every other person who had an encounter with the Living God. She didn’t directly meet the Living God like John, Paul, Isaiah, or Ezekiel did, but she experienced His power through His creation. When you do, you grope for words. You fall on your face. She had a mental reaction and a physical reaction.

First, you notice she described her experience in supernatural terms. It was either aliens, and in context it was clear she was joking, or it was God (“heaven”). Here she was more serious. The blinded mind does see and know of the Living God when they perceive His qualities through His creation, and her description was exhibit A in this process.
 
She lives and works with scientists in a place that only exists to perpetuate science and to discover scientific reasons for the way the planet is and how it works. All her conversations with people on McMurdo are founded from that basis. That is why they are there in the first place. Yet when she encountered the creation power of the Living God, her first thought was heaven. She did not say “Wow the Big Bang all those billions of years ago manifested itself in perfectly organized ions that traveled over millions of miles in a beautiful display!” She said “heaven” … and who lives in heaven? God.

Secondly, you notice her physical reaction. She was so overwhelmed with glory of His creative power she became insensate. She didn’t know if she was ‘in the body or out of her body’. She had to ‘come to’ and when she did, noticed she had fallen to her knees. Do we fall on our knees when we detect a scientific principle at work? Are we so awed by the process of pasteurization that we cry tears of joy on our knees? Maybe Louis Pasteur did, but anyone else? No.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. (Ezekiel 1:28b)

screen shot from the documentary. McMurdo station under southern lights

In the Bible men and women fell down when they experienced the direct glory and power of the LORD. Peter fell to his knees when Jesus brought all the fish to the boat, for example. Isaiah fell down in his vision seeing the heavenly throne room. However, people also fell down when they encountered the near-glory of God, experiencing the things sent from heaven. John fell down at the angel’s feet. Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet. Saul Saul, he fell down when the light from heaven shone around him. The difference as the Romans verse reminds us, is that we are not to worship the creation, not angels nor light nor other men, which are all created. We are not to worship southern lights or the sun or birds of the air nor creeping things.

But those who encounter a direct power from God through the creation react. This reaction is from a conscience which knows what they are seeing is from God and that He exists. This is what the Romans verses mean.

When Apostle Paul witnessed, he always began in the synagogue when giving the Gospel to Jews, reasoning from the scriptures. (Acts 17:2-3). With the Gentiles though, he always started with creation. He did this with the Lycaonians (Acts 14:6, 15) and the Greeks (Acts 17:22–31). Paul started with Creation and God’s attribute as Creator, and he exhorted Gentile listeners to see what can be seen in nature as the evidence for this.

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry. (Romans 11:13)

That is because they know the truth. They know God has created all, but they suppress it. Knowing but suppressing, understanding but denying, is an ongoing mental and emotional struggle inside each and every Gentile. It takes energy to suppress the truth that manifests itself in unwanted forms, such as falling to one’s knees, becoming insensate, or crying. The question is, what will they do with the information afterwards?

That’s where we as Christians can bring some more pressure to bear on their internal emotional and physical tension. We are witnesses to the God of creation. Before I was saved I lived unplugged close to the land and on the sea, experiencing the natural world in many ways. It became obvious to me that there IS a God. Nothing of what I was seeing in His creation could have come about through haphazard bangs and solar wind and evolution. So, I knew God is real because I was seeing His invisible attributes. But that is where I became stuck. What now? What does it mean? Who is this God and what does He want from me?

That is where we can be effective in sharing the next step for the questioning pagan. That next step is sharing knowledge of Jesus, sin, and judgment. Paul used but switched their concept of the God of creation to the God of intimate, loving involvement in their lives, a God who demands holiness but provided the way to achieve what we could not.

Posted in discernment, galatians, grace, jesus, law, paul

Why did Paul spank the Galatians so hard?

Last week I wrote Should We Love False Teachers? in which I took a look at the aforementioned question and put forth an answer. (Answer: no).

O you foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you!?

I’m reading the book of Galatians this month, and the associated commentaries. The book I finished before this was 1 Corinthians, all about that rowdy crowd of raucous Christians Paul had to tame by reminding them that Christian liberty is not license to sin. The book of Galatians is a book about defending salvation by grace and not of works. In it, Paul refutes the Judaizers, a gang of false teachers who upset the Galatians into thinking they had to be circumcised and do other Mosaic law keeping in order to be saved. Paul had to remind the Galatians of their freedom in Christ is given by grace and not of works.

When you start reading the book of Galatians, one thing immediately strands out. Paul cut to the chase. Paul is usually blunt, but in no other book, however, did Paul fail at first to give a loving greeting full of thanks toward the recipients. He always found something to commend, even in the rowdy Corinthians.

Not so with the Galatians.

He says, “Hi, it’s me, Paul, and WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?!” to paraphrase.

Wait, weren’t the Corinthians worse? Why was Paul being so tough on the Galatians? The answer is, because sinful doctrine is worse than sinful behavior. Here is John MacArthur on the Galatian situation from his commentary.

After exposing the dangers of the false doctrines that threatened the Galatians, Paul exposes the wicked character of the men who espoused the doctrines. Like his Lord, Paul had great patience with those who were caught in even the deepest moral sin. As much as they condemned the sin itself and warned against its consequences, their love for the sinner was always evident. For the oft-divorced woman at Jacob’s well and the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus’ rebukes were gentle, and His offers of help were kind and encouraging (John 4:7 26; 8:3-11). And even before the hated and larcenous Zaccheus repented and came to saving faith, Jesus was not ashamed to eat with him (Luke 19:1-10).

But for the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees—whose outward lives were ceremonially impeccable, but who refused to recognize their spiritual need and Who continually corrupted the people’s minds with their legalistic perversion of true Judaism—Jesus had only condemnation. The scribes and Pharisees were the primary teachers and interpreters of Scripture. When a man was initiated into the scribal office, he was given a key that symbolized his qualification to teach. Yet Jesus called them hypocrites, deceivers, extortioners, misguided proselytizes, blind guides, fools, inwardly corrupt and foul, partners with those who killed the prophets and murderers themselves, serpents and vipers, and future persecutors of His church (Matt. 23:13-36). Their worst evil, however, was one that Isaiah had prophesied of them more than six hundred years earlier: “In vain do they worship Me, leaching as doctrines the precepts Of men” (Matt. 15:9; cf. Isa. 29:13).

Paul, too, was longsuffering with those who were caught in sin, as his letters to the immature, factious, and immoral believers at Corinth attest. But also like the Lord, the apostle’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for those who pervert God’s truth and lead others into falsehood.

EPrata photo

Paul extols the Law for its place to remind us of mercy. However, misuse of the Law condemns! THAT is the horror of false teachers! Wrong behavior is external and can be corrected, a poisoned heart full of false notions about Jesus is condemning!

Charles Spurgeon said, in his sermon on Galatians 3:13, “The Curse Removed“,

O ye who trust in the law for your salvation! ye have erred from the faith; ye do not understand God’s designs; ye are ignorant of every one of God’s truths. The law was given by Moses to make men feel themselves condemned, but never to save them; its very intention was to “conclude us all in unbelief, and to condemn us all, that he might have mercy upon all.” It was intended by its thunders to crush every hope of self-righteousness, by its lightnings to scathe and demolish every tower of our own works, that we might be brought humbly and simply to accept a finished salvation through the one mighty Mediator

Anyone who believes – or teaches – differently is ignorant:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. (1 Timothy 6:3-4)

Posted in celibacy, encouragement, glennon doyle melton, paul, singleness

Joy in Singleness, part 2: Gifted to live singly for Jesus

Joy in Singleness part 1 
Joy in Singleness, part 3: Famous biblical singles
Joy in Singleness part 4 conclusion: Personal Note and Opinion 

While some singles are waiting impatiently for God to change their circumstance,
other singles are not walking in a fog of depression but joyfully serve from His gift

Singleness in the church today. Singleness in the Body Christ is forming for His glory. Though there is a heavy focus on married couples in preaching, ministering, and fellowship life, there are single people in the church. We know this by the data the Census and the Christian church demographics. Yet as the number of singles in the church increases, churches are increasingly either unable or unwilling to minister effectively to this normal segment of the family of Christ.

Many single people report that they feel left out, overlooked, or worse, are treated as second-class citizens in church life.

This is part two of a three part series on being single in today’s Christian church. I’d said yesterday in part one that we can drill down even further into examining what the Bible has to say about being single. In my view, there are two branches of singles. Some people are single because they are going through a life phase in God’s timing where marriage hasn’t happened for them yet, or they were married and are now widows or widowers, perhaps to marry again. Others are temporarily single as spouses serve in the military, work far away, or are incarcerated. I’m not discussing these singles, these precious folks who know that God will provide a mate for them.


The other type of single today are men and women Jesus calls and ordains as single permanently. It’s the divinely ordained singles I’ll discuss. These are modern-day ‘eunuchs’, as Matthew 19:12 illustrates. The Bible directly teaches the gift of singleness, the status whereupon Jesus is forming people for His glory who will never marry, or if they were married, will never marry again. Rarely does preaching, ministry, or church fellowship reflect this biblical reality.

In this part I’ll look at what the scriptures have to say generally about singleness. In part 3, the last part, I’ll look at specifically named single individuals in the Bible and their work for the glory of Jesus.

In dividing singles into the two branches, the temporarily single as a phase of life and the sovereignly, ordained single as a permanent status, it allows churches to edify each by uniquely focusing on their special gift or need. Teaching about the gift of singleness also honors the Word of God as we preach or teach about this segment of our family demographic from scripture. The Bible specifically addresses the ordained single- but these verses seem to be invisible in today’s preaching and as a result, these folks are often invisible also.

But this demographic certainly was not invisible in the Bible! Yet with article titles like these,
–Why So Many Singles?
–Surviving Church as a Single
–Are Singles the Lepers of Today?

Is it any wonder many permanent singles wonder where and how to minister to the Body and honor Jesus in church?

Julia Stager at Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspective Ministries wrote,

I’ve always felt encouraged by how singleness is addressed from the pulpit. I hear how, being single, I have the opportunity to love and serve God in a way that’s undivided and different from how I can do it when I’m married. But things get a little more challenging in the foyer. It’s there I hear things like, “So, have you started dating anyone?” Or, “Whatever happened with you and that guy?” Or, “You’re so great. I can’t believe you’re not married!” These questions, though well-meaning, can come across as invalidating my singleness or as insinuating that the only goal of singleness is to end it.

John Stott, Wikipedia photo

The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 7 focuses on marriage, singleness, lust, celibacy, and the duties of each person whether married at the time or not. Above all, one should understand that some people today in the body of Christ have been gifted with singleness. God has given a gift to the person and by extension to His Son’s Body. Acknowledging this is paramount, an important step in puncturing church conceptions about permanent singles. Not to say some singles are better than anyone else, but simply to say that their lifestyle has been given them by Holy God and that ministering through this gift will bring blessing to His body of believers that seems uncommon today.

The great preacher John Stott was single for 90 years. His period in office was 1945–2010. He was interviewed specifically about singleness, in this article appearing just after his death in 2011.

We must never exalt singleness (as some early church fathers did, notably Tertullian) as if it were a higher and holier vocation than marriage. We must reject the ascetic tradition which disparages sex as legalized lust, and marriage as legalized fornication. No, no. Sex is the good gift of a good Creator, and marriage is his own institution.

If marriage is good, singleness is also good. It’s an example of the balance of Scripture that, although Genesis 2:18 indicates that it is good to marry, 1 Corinthians 7:1 (in answer to a question posed by the Corinthians) says that “it is good for a man not to marry.” So both the married and the single states are “good”; neither is in itself better or worse than the other.

We know marriage is a gift from God. In 1 Corinthians 7:6-7, Paul specifically addresses singleness as a gift for some.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

John MacArthur said in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:6-7,

His comments were not meant as a command for every believer to be married. Marriage was instituted by God and is the norm for man-woman relationships, and it is a great blessing to mankind. But it is not required for believers or anyone else. His point was, if you are single, that is good, if you are married or get married, stay married and retain normal marital relations for that is of God. Spirituality is not determined by marital status.

This biblical truth is countered and overshadowed by “Christian” writers who unfortunately have much influence, especially over young women. Mommy bloggers like Glennon Melton who claim to be a ‘truth teller and hope spreader’ wrote in her oddly titled “Ways to Secure your Happyish Ever After“,

“Marriage is still the best chance we have to become evolved, loving people.”

Source

Of course it is not true, as we see in the scripture above. Sadly, Melton’s insinuation is not uncommon, that if one is not married, one cannot become “evolved” or become loving. Yet it is the Spirit Who grows us (if that is what is meant by ‘evolved’). Further, it is the Spirit Who delivers the spiritual fruit of love. (Ephesians 5:9, Galatians 5:22). Marriage is a God-given institution but it is not the marriage itself that grows a Christian into maturity. MacArthur commentary continues,

The attitude among Christians today about singleness, however, is often like that of the Jewish tradition in Paul’s day. It is looked upon as a second class condition. “Not so,” says the apostle. If singleness is God’s gift to a person, it is God’s will for that person to accept and exercise the gift. If that person is submissive to God, he can live in singleness all his life in perfect contentment and happiness.

Yet sadly it’s often other believers who seem discontent for the content single, a concern that deepens the more the contented single asserts his or her state of unmarried peace. Jesus spoke acceptance of singleness in Matthew 19:12.

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.

Here, Jesus classifies the 3 kinds of single/celibate persons. There is the one who was born with congenital deformities or other diseases which make marital relations impossible and conceiving children nonviable. Others have been made that way by men. In the Bible times, men were purposely castrated if they were destined to work in a harem, for instance, or as a court administrator, as we read in 2 Kings 20:18, Esther 2:3, or Acts 8:27. The Lord’s care for those who were born or made eunuchs was stated in Isaiah 56:3b-5, where God welcomes all believers, without distinction of persons, under the new economy of salvation-

Philip & the Ethiopian Eunuch. Source

and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

dry tree—barren (compare Lu 23:31); not admissible into the congregation of Israel (De 23:1–3). Under the Gospel the eunuch and stranger should be released from religious and civil disabilities. (Source: Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary)

How comforting God is when announcing that those who are not by their own choice unmarried, childless, celibate eunuchs will be given a monument and a name. Their marital and family status were a lament to them but they still sought God’s glory and chose the things that pleased Him. What comfort and care He gives to the person who is made eunuch through no act of their own. What a Godly example given to show that no matter what the physical state of a person or their marital status, one can and should seek the things that please the LORD.

Singleness is not my identity. I don’t want to be separated from the Body of Christ based on my marital status.” SourceThe New Testament verse in Matthew 19:12, Jesus said there was a third kind of eunuch, “and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.

What kind of single/celibate person is this? MacArthur explains in his commentary,

Unlike the other two forms, this one is not physical…Jesus is speaking of voluntary celibacy of those to whom the gift has been granted by God (v. 11). In that case, celibacy should be used for the sake of the kingdom of God and be pleasing to Him and used by Him. Paul had the gift of celibacy and strongly exhorted others who had the gift to be content with it and use its obvious advantages for Gods glory. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

You may have noticed I shifted from discussing divinely given permanent singleness to the topic of celibacy. That is because the two are entwined. One cannot be without the other. If you are single, you are to be celibate. Outside of marriage, celibacy is a mandate from God. We are NOT to be fornicators. (1 Corinthians 6:9, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 5:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, 1 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 21:8). Whether young or old, virgin or widowed or divorced, we are to be chaste. (1 Timothy 2:2, 1 Timothy 5:2, 1 Timothy 4:12, Galatians 5:23, 2 Corinthians 6:6

God provides. God sustains. If He gives to some the gift of singleness, would He not also provide the strength to refrain from lust and remain chaste for His name? MacArthur’s commentary again,

Although celibacy us good for Christians who are not married, it is a gift from God that is not given to every believer. Just as it is wrong to misuse a gift we have, it is wrong to try to use a gift we do not have. For a person who does not have the gift of celibacy, trying to practice it brings moral and spiritual frustration. But for those who have it as God’s gift, singleness, like all His gifts, brings great blessing.

Both Jesus and Paul make it clear that the celibate life is not required by God for all believers and that it can be satisfactorily lived only by those to whom God has given it.

These folks are a great blessing to the church. I don’t say that because I am one, lol. I am single, childless and have a job where I have time to focus on kingdom work to a degree other church members may not be able to. This is both my choice and God’s ordination. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Yet my married brethren are rearing children for His name and leading and teaching us, so their kingdom work is equally valuable as mine or anybody else’s! We are a body, each formed uniquely as a snowflake, spiritually given gifts in unique hues to benefit each other and most importantly, Jesus.

God’s care for the celibate, permanent single is obvious from scripture. Singles of any kind are not second class citizens, nor are they in a waiting room for marriage (read: maturity and acceptance). Jesus does not look at us that way and nor should the church. Celebrate His diversity in installing people in the Body from all demographics to labor for His good and glory.

Final part: looking at named and unnamed singles in the Bible and their work for God. And lots of quotes from S. Lewis Johnson!

Joy in Singleness part 1 
Joy in Singleness, part 3: Famous biblical singles
Joyful in Singleness part 4 conclusion: Personal Note and Opinion

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further Reading

Though this article still makes the assumption that all singles are going to be married, I can forgive it because many singles ARE going to be married. However for the permanent single, there is good advice for you here too
Desiring God: Single, Satisfied, and Sent: Mission for the Not-Yet Married

Christianity Today: John Stott on Singleness 

Biblical Christian Counseling Coalition: Single in the Church

GotQuestions: Does the Bible teach that there is a gift of celibacy/singleness?

Singled Out: Does the Church Ignore Singles?

Life does not begin at marriage. Life begins in the exact moment when we submit ourselves to Christ and make Him Lord, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us and take residence within us.

Posted in discernment, glorify, jesus, paul

Philippians 1:10- Why do we want to abound in all discernment?

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; (Philippians 1:9-10)

Let’s look specifically at verse 10. Whenever there is a ‘so that’ or a ‘in order to’ it means there is a causal relationship. We are supposed to DO something in order that a result can come about.

Here I’d like to focus on the “all discernment”. Why does Paul want the Philippians (and us) to have all discernment? Because discernment is a critical ingredient in an important process. The result Paul is praying for his people to have is to be pure and blameless on the day we stand before Jesus. So now let’s look at this process and see how in honing our discernment it helps us strive toward this end.

Literally, “With a view to your proving (and so approving and embracing) the things that excel” (Ro 2:18); not merely things not bad, but the things best among those that are good; the things of more advanced excellence. Ask as to things, not merely, Is there no harm, but is there any good, and which is the best?

Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 361). 

Now this is interesting. There are three questions the Commenter said we ask in discerning.

–Is there harm?
–Is there any good?
–Which is the best?

We already know that at the basic level, discernment means sifting between what is good and what is bad. That’s the part in asking ‘is there harm?’ In addition, as Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” That’s the second question.

And now here we have a third part of the process of discernment, distinguishing between what is good and what is best. This is an often overlooked part of discernment.

If your son or daughter is choosing a college to attend, if you’re able, don’t you want them to choose the best? If you’re buying a book to read, all other things being equal, don’t you choose the one with the best reviews? If you are a Sunday School Superintendent choosing new material to use in class, don’t you want the best? No one says, ‘Nah, I’ll pass over the best and settle for the merely good.’

It’s like if a tsunami is coming. The waters are rising and you’ve gotten to high ground. It’s good ground. You’re pretty sure it’s good enough. But you still have time to reach the best ground, where you can be sure you won’t get swept away. Do you stay put? Of course not. To save your life you strive for the best and highest ground.

Discernment is like that. I remember reading a Christian woman’s essay about this very thing in practical terms. Sunny Shell, on why she chose to no longer follow John Piper.

I’ve found the teachings from John Piper and “Desiring God” (after testing it with God’s word) requires more discernment than I currently possess. And since there are other Christian teachers/ministries I can learn from (e.g., John MacArthur/Grace to You, Alistair Begg/Truth for Life, R.C. Sproul and son, R.C. Sproul, Jr./Ligonier Ministries) that don’t give me tired-head, I’ve chosen to only follow those who are clearly and faithfully following the Lord (Heb 13:7).

Discernment includes searching out the best holy ground we possibly can, so that Jesus is MORE glorified rather than LESS glorified. Seek out what you know to be the best, and stick with that.

Keep going up and up

Our ultimate aim always is to glorify Jesus. However there are several additional reasons why we want to “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent”. The first reason is so that others will benefit.

all discernment – The term aisthēsis refers to the ability to make decisions for the benefit of others. 1:10 what is superior When the Philippians’ love abounds, they will be able to determine what is most valuable or beneficial to the community of believers.

Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Php 1:9–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

What if you were running from the rising waters of the tsunami again. And you were not too familiar with the ground and you thought you’d reached the highest you could go, and sat down to see if the waters would reach you or not. But along came someone who had hiked that hill before and knew there was a narrow pass that led to even higher ground? Would you stay put? Of course not, you’d be grateful someone came along and showed you that though where you were was good, it was beneficial to move to where it was best.

The second reason we discern is so that our minds can be renewed. And here we have the most critical reason why discernment is important. (along with the other items Paul prayed for us to have). The process of discernment helps to sharpen the mind and to renew it according to Christ’s likeness. This is the process I spoke of at the beginning.

Gills Exposition explains this aspect of the Philippians 1:10 verse

Or “try things that differ”. There are some things that differ one from other; as morality and grace, earthly things and heavenly things, carnal and spiritual, temporal and eternal things, law and Gospel, the doctrines of men and the doctrines of Christ; all which differ as much as chaff and wheat, as gold, silver, precious stones, and wood, hay, stubble.

These are to be tried and proved; they are not to be received without distinction, but should be examined, which is right and best to be chosen and preferred; and to such trial and examination it is necessary that a man should be transformed, by the renewing of his mind, that he should have spiritual light, knowledge, and experience, have his spiritual senses exercised to discern the difference of things.

Let Jesus freshen and open your mind
as you practice discernment. EPrata photo

Gill said these things are not to be received without distinction. In today’s Christianity we are barraged with the notion that we are to let the false teachers alone. We are not to point out the false doctrine. We are not to say this or that is a bad book. ‘Let God judge’ they say. ‘It will be taken care of in the end’ they say. However, failure to participate in the important process of discernment means you are choosing deliberately NOT to renew your mind.

The process of choosing, testing, weighing, examining, reading, comparing…all these are part of the process of how the Lord transforms our mind. As we hear a teaching and go back to the word, He transforms our mind. Through hard work, trial and error, we gain experience.

It would be nice if we were sitting around and Jesus simply plopped discernment and experience into our minds. This is what many of the false teachers say happens to them. They sit on their porch or sequester themselves in a cabin or shell peas and all of a sudden presto, a new revelation from God and a new ‘level’ of ‘fresh experience.’ They say, “God told me.” “God wrote the book for me.” “I saw Jesus and He said…” But that is not how it works.

When Paul said ‘persevere in the struggle’ and ‘run the race’, he didn’t mean as a sidelines armchair quarterback waiting for a personally dove-delivered epiphany. LOL, that is hardly running, now, is it? The practice of discernment is part of the struggle and through it, we gain experience and a transformed mind.

The more I practice discernment the more my love for Christ abounds, because that means I see Him more clearly than the day before. We still see through a glass dimly, but in practicing discernment, it’s like when we walk into a dark room, instead of choosing to turn on only a flashlight, we are using a floodlight.

So we end as we began, with Paul’s prayer:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; (Philippians 1:9-10)

Posted in elijah, enoch, paul, prophecy, rapture, two witnesses

All the raptures in the bible

I was listening to Tommy Ice on pre-Tribulation rapture on a youtube video last week. It was a long video, over an hour, and I only had time to listen to about ten minutes. I figured I’d get back to it.

But I lost it in the flow of the dozens of music videos I subsequently watched while on vacation. Viva vacation.

All this to say I’m sorry I can’t post a link to the video, but here is the part that interested me.

We Christians know about the rapture. We understand that at the moment the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (the full number, Romans 11:25), the rapture will occur and Jesus will descend from heaven. We will vanish from the earth in a moment, a twinkling of an eye. The dead will be no means be left behind, they will also be raised and we’ll all meet in the air. Jesus will lead us to heaven. Then, the final 7 years remaining to complete the Old Testament decree regarding the Jews will resume on earth. It will be a time of Godly wrath, unleashed full force.

It’s fascinating to think about going on our daily business, driving, washing, feeding the dog, and suddenly we will hear the trumpet of God, and the next moment we’ll be airborne! The next moment we’ll be in heaven, where no eye has seen nor any ear has heard the things prepared for us!! It is a singular, unique, momentous event!

However as I listened Dr Ice put something together in my mind. There have been several raptures already.

Enoch.

James Tissot, ~1900

Father of the longest lived man on earth, Methuselah. Enoch was the 7th from Adam. He was a prophet. (Jude 1:14). He lived 365 years, then God took him home. He was the only one in a long line of the genealogical record to not have died. “And then he died…And then he died…And then he was not, for God took him.” Raptured.

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)

Elijah.

Prophet, servant of God. Slew all the false prophets of Baal by the sword. (1 Kings 18). Mentored Elisha. Raptured.

And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:11)

Jesus.

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11). Raptured.

Paul, Isaiah.

Paul wrote about “a man” who was caught up to the third heaven. Most scholarly consensus is that Paul is speaking of himself. Note that Paul says “caught up” in some translations it’s “snatched up”. In the Greek it’s the word harpazo. This means snatched up. It is the same word that describes the bride’s snatching up, or of being caught up.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Isaiah- This one is more speculative, but in Isaiah 6:1 Isaiah wrote that he saw the throne room. Whether in the body or not…we can’t be sure. He described the altar, the train of the Lord, the pillars,the seraphim crying HOLY HOLY HOLY. However after Isaiah exclaimed he was undone, he was a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, the seraphim took a coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips. If Isaiah was not in the body then this is metaphorical, however the word for mouth in Hebrew is mouth, the word used here. My personal opinion is that Isaiah was bodily caught up to heaven as Paul was.

Two Witnesses.

In Revelation 11 we are told that there will be Two Witnesses sent by God to preach to the entire world. This will be during the Tribulation

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. (Revelation 11:11-12).

Many people think, and I include myself, that the Two Witnesses are Enoch and Elijah. Since it is appointed for man to die once then the judgment, and they never did, that this means the Two Witnesses are those two men and their death will occur during the Tribulation. Anyway, The Two Witnesses will be raptured.

Philip.

I wrote about his remarkable instant journey from point A to point B in Gaza: here. I have always been fascinated by the practical moments. After Philip was finished baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch, he was snatched up and set down 20miles away. He wasn’t raptured to heaven but to two places on earth, but still, the notion of being bodily taken up by the scruff of the neck like a kitten and plunked down some there else with no warning is amazing. In the sense of a harpazo, a catching away, Philip’s experience fills the bill. His snatching up is the same word used on the Bride’s rapture: harpazo.

And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:39-40).

We’ve talked about various raptures in the past. They’ve all been one man or at most two. The most startling and eagerly anticipated event of all is no doubt

THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

This will occur at an unknown time in the future, and it will happen to a large number of dead and alive believers.

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 shall 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.(1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,d that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

While being raptured is not a usual nor a frequent event, neither is it made-up as some like to claim. As we can see in the bible, it has happened before and will happen again. It isn’t far-fetched and it isn’t an “escape.” A catching up or a snatching away of persons or groups of people is an event that God uses in His plan to accomplish the things He wants to accomplish. Simple as that.

How wonderful He is so sovereign He is able to put us where He wants and to take us up when He wants. How majestic are His ways. What a blessed hope our rapture is.

Come soon Lord Jesus!

Posted in bible, longing, paul

Is it better to be here, or there?

As I arrived to work, someone passed me in the hallway and said, “Good morning how are you?” I said, “Great! Just great. It’s a good day.” My colleague said, “It surely is a blessing to be on this side.”

I thought about that for a while. I suppose it is a blessing to be on this side of the veil, praising Jesus and worshiping Him and working for Him. He put us here. Therefore, I agree with the sentiment.

However, it is also good to remember that the curse is all around us and it is in us.

Woman, and all mankind, is cursed. (Genesis 3:15-16)

The ground is cursed. (Genesis 3:17-18)

The creation is cursed. (Romans 8:20-21)

The animals are cursed. (Genesis 3:14)

The creation which was once perfect is subject to futility, in slavery to corruption, is cursed and dying. Our hope is Jesus and His kingdom. While we are part of His kingdom now, being indwelled with the Spirit at our regeneration, which gained us entry into it, the glorified kingdom is in heaven. What a day when the curse is lifted and the Kingdom of Heaven descends to earth!

O, it is a double edged sword, wanting to be here and do well, wanting to be there and be glorified. Wanting to shed our sin-nature and desiring to be in the presence of Jesus! But we are not without Jesus now, for prayer is so sweet, our victories here sweeter- because they are accomplished through the Spirit in spite of our sin-nature. Yet we long for release, it is our ultimate aim.

The reason the bible is so tremendous is that there is nothing in it that is not common to man! Read of Paul’s struggle over these very things-

Our Heavenly Dwelling

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

No matter here or there, our aim is to please Him. He is worthy of all praise.

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
(Psalm 145:1-3)

Posted in paul, prophecy, timothy, ungodly

Paul’s warning to Timothy about church godlessness in the last days

Paul wrote to Timothy as a warning, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

This verse is meant to be understood that people in the church will be acting this way. If you can imagine people in the church acting that way, how much worse the general population will be. In the church they will be appearing to try and be godly, and fail. People outside the church won’t even be trying.

Of the second verse in the passage, Wesley’s Notes say,
“For men – Even in the church. Will be – In great numbers, and to an higher degree than ever. Lovers of themselves – Only, not their neighbours, the first root of evil. Lovers of money – The second.”

Barnes Notes explains,
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves – It shall be one of the characteristics of those times that men shall be eminently selfish – evidently under the garb of religion; 2 Timothy 3:5. The word here used – φίλαυτος philautos – does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means a lover of oneself, “selfish.” Such a love of self as to lead us to secure our salvation, is proper. But this interferes with the rights and happiness of no other persons. The selfishness which is condemned, is that regard to our own interests which interferes with the rights and comforts of others; which makes self the central and leading object of living; and which tramples on all that would interfere with that. As such, it is a base, and hateful, and narrow passion; but it has been so common in the world that no one can doubt the correctness of the prophecy of the apostle that it would exist “in the last times.”

Whoa. That is bad. The one place where there is supposed to be love…will be lacking of it in many places. Or at least, there will be a pale imitation and when push comes to shove, it will be revealed as ungodly love. I think that is the worse condition. To be faked out, I mean.

Here are some examples of selfish and ridiculous behavior in the general population that are a harbinger of what is coming to the church. As Barnes said, ‘been so common in the world that no one can doubt the correctness of the prophecy of the apostle that it would exist “in the last times”‘ in the church too. These news articles are from my local daily and local weekly. I live in a low crime area that is fairly rural. As soon as a few years ago I left my front door unlocked for the day. (Not anymore, things are always locked up tight.)

9-year-old moons bus driver, spits at police
“A 9-year-old girl mooned a school bus driver Friday afternoon and generally behaved so badly the driver had to pull over on the Outer Loop and call authorities, according to an Athens-Clarke police report. As an officer boarded the bus, he wrote he saw the girl trying to kick the driver. He convinced the girl to leave the bus with him, but once outside she tried to run away, the officer said. The officer managed to catch the girl before she got into the street and handcuffed her after she said she wished a vehicle had hit her. In the back of his patrol car, the officer said the girl repeatedly kicked the glass divider. He had to call for back up so someone could bring him a device to restrain her legs, according to the report.”

It goes on, the things the girl did. She attends a special alternative school for unruly children. The sad part is that she had to be handcuffed because she almost ran into traffic, and when the policeman was cuffing her she said she wished a car had hit her. It is so sad that children are so broken so young, that they defy educational authorities and even civil authorities like police officers. At age 9?! Decades ago, can you imagine the culture would have devolved so quickly to so taint the tender youngsters?

Even the older youth don’t know any better. See this story about a spate of police calls for youths n buses being transported home from the Middle School and High School in my county. And this next article, is simply outrageous.

Drunk UGA student urinates on shelves in Athens store
“A drunken University of Georgia student damaged merchandise valued at hundreds of dollars when he urinated inside a downtown Athens convenience store early Friday morning, Athens-Clarke police said. Austin James Smith, 23, of Lawrenceville, relieved himself in an aisle at Lay-Z-Shopper on East Clayton Street shortly before 2:30 a.m., damaging $200 worth of snacks and $100 worth of household items, according to police.”

Gross, gross, gross. What, was he raised in a barn?

This next one happened a few miles up the road from me. Scary.

Hull residents alarmed at finding severed dog heads on front porch
Four days have passed and no more severed dog heads have been left on the front porch where Zachary Osburn lives in Hull. For two days straight — Nov. 23-24 — the heads of dogs were found on the steps leading to the home where Osburn, his sister, and girlfriend all live on Old Elberton Road. Osburn called the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, which sent a deputy to investigate the bizarre matter, but the motive for someone leaving the heads, or even how the dogs died, is a mystery. … “My sister didn’t even go to work the first night because she was so shook up about it,” he said, explaining that his sister refused to take a close look at the head.”

I’d be shook up, too. It seems demonic, like something people do in satanic cults like voodoo, or in the ancient days of bloody pagan practices.

I am sure that examples abound of people doing strange things like these in your area too. But the interesting thing is that the Paul wrote that men will be selfish, brutal, slanderous, uncontrolled… etc., in church! The heightening of bizarre behavior outside the church seems to me to be a dark stain that is slowly encroaching into the last sanctuary- the local worship place. When it starts seeping in in greater force, I wonder what that would look like? Would it look like the above, youths showing up drunk to worship and urinating on the couch? With youngsters so out of control in AWANA that the police have to be called?

I know one thing Paul’s prophecy looks like, is spiritual abuse. I’ve written about that before, several times. Spiritual abuse is performed by men who seem godly, adopting a form of it but denying its power. At root, abusive pastors, leaders, deacons, teachers etc are selfish, because they deny God’s power so they can exalt their own power. Spiritual abuse is brutal.

I’d imagine that being slandered in church is a terrible blow to a Christian, too. We open ourselves up to trust levels we don’t even do in families or workplaces. When our character is impugned by someone who had purported to love the truth, it is a severe blow. Paul knew this. In 1 Corinthians 10 he spends a good deal of time defending his ministry. After Paul founded it, he left the Corinthian church to check on his other churches. Immediately, false teachers swooped in and through small lies and big ones, not only succeeded in making the Corinthians doubt Paul’s teaching, but their doubt extended to impact against the spread of the Gospel. When a person’s character is doubted it destroys their teaching. Maybe it was those fake-godly men he was remembering when he warned Timothy about future encroachments of other ones inside the church.

Note how Paul ended the first set of verses at verse 5: “Avoid such people.”

We are not just to intellectually note that such people exist in the church. We are not simply to mark when it happens. We are to DO something about it. We are to avoid them.

Referring to the verse in Corinthians, Phil Johnson preached about spiritual warfare, saying, “A lot of times spiritual warfare calls us to engage with people who look like, and pass themselves off as, ministers of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:15).

Again, I wonder how this will play out in real life. This command to “avoid such people” is a difficult thing. I mean, if you notice a deacon in your church, or a teacher or leader who is displaying one of the characteristics above, as a pattern of behavior that impacts the peacefulness of the church or the witness of the Gospel (not as a one-time error- please don’t jump to conclusions), how do we avoid them?

Do I alert the media? Change my pew? Get off the committee? Quit Sunday School? It is a difficult thing. I suppose of someone was caught stealing the tithes or molesting the children it would be clear that avoidance would be the least of the actions taken. But if they were slandering? Being ungrateful? Unappeasable? Taking Paul’s recommended action seems to me to be trickier to enact. But we must. It is prophesied to happen and the recourse is a command, not a suggestion.

I don’t have the answer yet, but I am sure that with further study and prayer the Holy Spirit will illuminate my mind. He is great to help bring the bible to life and its precepts to action. But I’m not looking forward to the day when the behavior such as Paul listed above comes into the church. But I wanted us to be aware of its prophetic imminence and to start praying how to keep loving even when people who faked us out for many years turn out to be brutal, slanderous, selfish etc toward us. Be ready. And part of being ready means being strong in our faith because when it happens to you, it will make you want to lie down and quit. We have to strengthen our armor now.

The great opportunity we have is that when the ungodly ones are revealed in our lives and our worship, our witness can be even brighter for Jesus, pointing to Him as the way and the truth and the life. Darkness is prophesied to steal into the pew, the pulpit, the classroom, but we are forewarned. We will be ready, we will be peaceful, loving, and bright with His glory, having prayed for strength and love to ride the waves of the coming church brutality and selfishness.

Our home is in heaven, and soon, we will never have to guard ourselves again. We will never have to gird ourselves with weapons. We can just…be. Cling to this thought, wonderful people:

“Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)