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A Tribute to Truth

I Kings 3: 7 – 9

Jesus said, “… you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (John 8:32)

Who among us does not long for such freedom? Who among us does not need such truth to enable us to make right choices and right judgements?

One morning the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor of England awakened a blue-eyed girl to say to her, “Your uncle, the King, died last night and you are the Queen of the far-flung British Empire on which the sun never sets.” Then, the Archbishop read to her Solomon’s prayer in I Kings 3: 7-9:

“Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

As with the young Queen there are so many hours of decision in our lives we need understanding hearts to discern between good and evil. Often our difficult choices relate to deciding between what is good and that which is best. Our lives are a summary of our decisions. We need help in making our decisions.

Jesus offered this caution regarding decisions related to others: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  (Matthew 7:1, 2)

Most of us are umpires at heart. We want to call balls and strikes on someone else. For some judging is a sporadic problem. For others it is a chronic life-long problem. Such persons keep a vigil for weaknesses in others. Jesus said, “with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Be very careful what you say about others and how you treat them because “What goes around comes around.”

Jesus Christ said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  (Matthew 6:24)

Is Jesus Christ the Sovereign Lord of your life? Does He rule in your life?

In an old book authored by Dr. Ralph Sockman entitled “The Highest Happiness” he points out that the only contender for the “seat of sovereignty is self.” That is, you are the only contender for the office of God in your life other than the true and living God. Jesus phrased it this way, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” There is room for only one on the throne of your life. 

In writing the Christians at Rome Paul appealed, “Please not yourself.” This is an appeal to do those things pleasing to the Lord and not merely ego gratifying. When a commitment to Jesus isn’t simply as Savior, but also Lord, then there is the highest happiness.

We need to be able to pray with Jesus, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Regarding the moment at hand pause and pray such an self-effacing prayer.

A Heartfelt Purpose 1/11/98

Daniel 1:1-8
Page 1297 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ is depicted as our ideal for inspiration. We are challenged to always be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus had a rough and challenging road in life. Perhaps that is why you have found you can relate to Him and more importantly why He can relate to you.

A family with young children was walking a mountain path together. It was a bit challenging to the children. One of them exclaimed, “This is not a path at all. It is all rocky and bumpy. The older child enjoying the challenge replied, “Sure, the bumps are what you climb on.”

Having observed many lives and read many biographies I have never known of a person who achieved who didn’t have a bumpy path in all of life. Success resulted from learning to climb on the bumps.

We learn and grow by doing so. In a “Peanuts” cartoon, my favorite theologian, Charlie Brown is complaining about his team always losing. Trying to console him Lucy says, “Remember, Charlie Brown, you learn more from your defeats than you do from your victories.”

Charlie replies, “That makes me the smartest man in the world.” You may feel you are Charlie’s chief competition for “world’s smartest.” Remember, bumps are what you climb on. While doing so always keep your eyes on Jesus Who climbed His bumps.

Jesus Christ, Who masterfully climbed on the bumps in his path said, “Come out from among them and be separated…”

God has always looked for His separated band that He might use and bless. In the Old Testament is a classic example of some youth who qualified without qualification.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had conquered Jerusalem and carried a number of the choicest youth back to Babylon. Note these characteristics:

AGE: “young” (Vs. 4a) It was king David who said, “I have been young, and am now old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalm 37: 25).

APPEARANCE: “in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking”

ACUMEN:
1. “gifted in all wisdom”
2. “possessing knowledge”
3. “quick to understand”

AMENITIES: “who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace”

Daniel had taken a vow regarding his diet and total abstinence from drugs. The drug in question was alcohol. The king’s instruction was a command that would have violated Daniel’s convictions.

Here was an appeal to popularity, prestige, prominence, and power. In this story we can see —

I. TEMPTATIONS PHILOSOPHICAL PULL
A. Youth. What a fantastic time of life! Ambition is high and experience is low, BUT often that ambition drives one to excessive experiences.

This has left many youths as frustrated as a bird looking for a worm in AstroTurf.

As mixed up as a termite in a yo-yo.

As anxious as a sheep that is allergic to wool.

So nervous they could thread a sewing machine that is running.

It is a challenging time when hormones kick in. Internal stress and external strife often result. It is critically important that young people understand what is happening within them. Be patient with yourself and by all means don’t let your body chemistry separate you from your parents. Let reason take charge of your feelings.

B. Captivity. The greatest slavery the world has ever known is the slavery of a modern American teenager to the opinion of other teens. Rarely does Satan use physical violence to persecute us in America today. He does it psychologically by assaulting our ego, and our feelings. Satan doesn’t say, “I will pull off your nose if you share your faith with a best friend.” Or, “I will rip out your liver if you take a stand in this setting.”

He does impress us with: “You won’t have a friend left if you don’t go along with the gang.” Or, “Folks will think you are weird if you don’t do what they are doing.”

C. Flattery. “Hey, baby I love you!” “I need you.”

D. Isolation. Away from home. Teenage mobility today.

E. Futility. Nothing for which to live, homeland destroyed.

F. Loneliness. Ann Frank: “Youth is the loneliest time of life.”

Sometimes it seems no one wants to have anything to do with us. The dating period of life is a testing one. Excuses are often created for not wanting to accept an invitation to date. Such as:

“I’d love to go out with you, but I’m attending the opening of my garage door.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I need to spend more time with my blender.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but it’s my night to pet the goldfish.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I need to work on my cottage cheese sculpture.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I promised to help my friend fold road maps.”

Maya Angelou, in her book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, describes her life as a lonely black child being shuffled back and forth among several families, and concludes: “Of all the needs a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied if there is going to be hope of wholeness is the overshaking need for an unshakable God.”

Don’t let loneliness drive you to compromise.

These same things lead many people to opt for drugs in an attempt to synthetically seek to meet their needs.

As a result, between 1960 and 1980:
The delinquency rate has doubled.
The birthrate for unwed mothers is up 130 percent.
Suicide is up 130 percent.
Murder is up 232 percent.

A recent report in USA TODAY showed:

“Almost half of the teen drug abusers got involved before age 12. Cocaine, the drug of the middle-class kids, has risen in use from 7% in ’84, to 63% today.
61% of abusers use alcohol first; 30% used pot.
65% used drugs a year before their parents suspected it.
70% were introduced to drugs by a friend.
34% used drugs for the first time at home.”

WHY are youth doing this? The same appeal is being made to them as made to Daniel: captivity, flattery, isolation, futility, and loneliness.

II. TRUTHS PRACTICAL POWER
A. Daniel Purposed Not to Defile Himself. The word “defile” meant “to pollute.”

This had to be a difficult and challenging series of bumps for Daniel. You too may be climbing a seemingly unsurmountable series of bumps. Always remember: “Never doubt in the darkness, what God has told you in the light.” Daniel didn’t.

At times we must by faith cling to the truth of these couplets:
“Yesterday God helped me, Today He’ll do the same.
How long will this continue? Forever — praise His name.”

Chris Craft was asked: “When is the best time to make a decision?”

Underscore in verse 8 the big little word “himself.” Personal resolve is part of the solution. There are some decisions you don’t have to make but once. The decision not to “defile” himself.

Make a decision now not to pollute yourself:
1. With drugs.
2. Morally. Pregnant teens: “I don’t know why I did it.”

B. Daniel Prayed – Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

C. Daniel Proceeded to Trust The Consequences to God. He knew what we must never forget. God won’t keep us from trouble, but He will keep us while in trouble. There are circumstances in life that may hurt us but they can’t harm us.

God will never require anything of us that He will not enable. Otherwise He would just be mocking our weaknesses. That He doesn’t do.

III. TRIUMPHS PURPOSEFUL PRODUCT
A. He Gained A Healthy Body

B. He Laid a Good Foundation for Adulthood. Be kind to your tomorrow self.

C. He Was Admired By Man and Blessed by God.

How to Conquer a Giant

 I Samuel 21: 15 – 17

Are you facing a challenge that may seem insurmountable, greater than you can handle? At times most have such. These are our giants to deal with as David did Goliath. Most know of that confrontation, but there were other giants. Let’s draw a parallel between our giant and those of that era.

David fought gallantly, however he like all of us had a limit, and the Scripture says David grew weary. Yet, there were other giants to deal with. Ishbi-Benob was one. Abishai, a servant of David, came to David’s aid and took on and killed Ishbi-Benob. In dealing with your giant there are four things you and Abishai have in common.

– You have to see the giant. Abishai had no problem seeing his giant. He even knew the weight of his spear head. He gathered details. For you to deal with your giant you have to size it up. These giants were intimidating. Perhaps yours is also.  Big is a comparative term. Your giant may seem big compared to you, but small compared with Jesus. Notice in our text (vs. 21) the giant “defied” God’s people.  Don’t be defied, analyze your problem. You can deal with it.

– You must have a killer instinct like Abishai. That is, you must have an appetite for dealing with your problem. Show that motivated by Jesus you have the heart to deal with your problem. Resolve you can do it with the help of the Lord. Don’t be disheartened, be enheartened that with His help you can deal with your giant.

– You have to have a plan of attack as Abishai did. Determine the steps to take in dealing with your giant. Have a plan of attack. Devise it through prayer, searching Scripture, and gathering all the facts. Let it be an informed decision.

Define the problem. In understanding a problem effectively, we have to be clear about what the issue is. Be certain you know the full problem. Gather information. What are the circumstances and what are alternatives in dealing with them? If possible seek the best godly council. Generate possible solutions. Evaluate the ideas and then choose one. 

The Lord is very understanding. You might well pray: “Dear God in light of what I know the circumstances and understand of your will this is my decision. Forgive me if I am wrong, it is out of ignorance, not obstinance.” 

– You have to act, Abishai did. He could have seen his giant, had a killer instinct, and devised a plan of attack without enjoying success.  Only when he struck did he conquer. At each point seek the Lord’s guidance and help. Find what you understand to be the solution and pray, “Thy will be done.”

How to Develop a Strong Faith

John 3:16

Jesus wants to enable you to stretch yourself spiritually and expand the circumference of your faith. 

On His Earth walk He greatly admired faith. After a woman had exercised admirable faith, He said to her “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50). Peace!

Genuine faith begins when a person finally decides he or she isn’t God and happily acknowledges submission to the living God.

Such faith is assuring, insuring, and enduring.

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.

Faith helps us walk fearlessly, run confidently, and live victoriously.

Faith is the basis of life. Some people think it is a sign of weakness. It is rather an indication of strength. Thomas Edison said he never conducted an experiment that did not begin with faith.  

Have you ever gone on a date, taken a mate, driven in the rain, flown on a plane, bought or sold an item on credit? You have faith.

Have you ever eaten in a fast-food outlet where you don’t even know the cook, see its preparation, or know its source? You have faith.

Have you ever gone to a doctor you didn’t know, been given a prescription you couldn’t read, taken it to a pharmacist you couldn’t see, and taken the medicine provided?  You have faith.

Everybody has faith. It is just a matter of who or what you are willing to put your confidence in, and the principles by which you dedicate yourself. 

Faith has many sophisticated definitions. However, in reality faith is merely confidence in God’s character. Write it down, that’s a good one.

If a person responds positively and trusts Jesus for salvation, it is an act of  faith 

If a person responds negatively and rejects Jesus as Savior. It is an act of faith. based on belief in something or someone in whom they trust more than they do Jesus.

Faith gives us the courage to face the present with confidence, and the future with optimism.

Faith leading to salvation and abundant life is in reality saying as did Martin Luther this I believe, here I stand. Read, memorize and study Scripture, thereby feeding your faith. Be like a miner who has just struck a major pay-load of rich ore. By studying Scripture you can get to know the Lord as though He is your neighbor who is your best friend. Familiarity breeds faith. 

There are in reality only two decisions regarding trusting Jesus in faith for salvation: yes or no. Later is a no because of the unknown “X” factor, death. If you were to die right now where would you spend eternity? In faith put your trust in Jesus for salvation. Thereafter in all things put faith in Him to guide you. 

Then what Jesus said to the woman who put her faith in Him will apply to you: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50). Peace? Yes, peace.

Core Values That Count 2/8/98

Romans 1:14-17
Page 1645 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST touches and transforms lives. He did so for the most unlikely candidate. A brilliant though belligerent young attorney who was the apple of the judiciary eye in Jerusalem was assigned the role of special prosecutor to investigate rumors of the resurrection of Christ. His evidence turned on him and convinced him of the reality of the resurrection. He who gathered more facts about the resurrection was a skeptic. His material evidence and the collaborated testimony of eye witnesses changed his life. Thereafter, the life of Paul, filling it with joy so that it overflowed. That elation over salvation thrilled him so that he wanted to happily share it with others. The natural result of the in filling is the outpouring. What happened in the life of Paul was revolutionary. Ambitiously he wanted this spiritual revolution to sweep the known world. He had a sense of obligation to be an agent of achieving this end.

He had – – –

I. A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY “I AM DEBTOR” (VS. 14)
As a result of his redemption, he was completely owned by Christ. This gave him a sense of being completely obligated to Christ. Since Christ died for his sins and rose for his salvation Paul desired to do what Christ wanted and not what he wanted.

We are morally obligated to others as a result of being trustees or stewards of the Gospel.

When we receive something nice from friend, we feel a bit of indebtedness until we can do something nice for them. That wasn’t how Paul felt. He was not indebted to the people because he had not received something from them but something for them.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, he became a debtor to Israel not because he received something from them but for them.

This indebtedness is to all persons. Greek culture permeated the known world. Therefore they were included. The term “barbarians” was a term used by the Greeks for anyone that did not speak their language. Other languages sounded to them like “bar bar” so they combined those words with “os” to make the word “barbaros,” meaning anyone not speaking Greek.

The words, “wise and unwise,” refer to cultured and uncultured. Thus, everyone is included. This is amplified in Colossians 1:28, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

About 500 B.C. “The Greek Miracle” emerged. In the lovely city of Athens the Greek culture was born. Their striking architecture was revolutionary. They raised knowledge of math to a new height. They became the first civilization to write history as such. They developed a new system of thought called logic.

Our American culture is indebted to Greek thought. They impacted the entire world.

The Greeks were the first to make their gods in their own image. God’s devised by other civilizations were ghoulish. Most were hybrids of lions/men or bulls/women, etc. Greek gods were like human beings. They said beauty is truth and truth is beauty. Their gods looked like Olympic champions or perfect females. Romans 1:23 describes this process: “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

Man was made the center of the universe. Humanism was given a major boost. Our society is currently following their trend.

Societies that do this should expect the result. Romans 1:24 reveals the result: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…”

The term “God gave them up” means God took off all restraints. It was a term used for removing the mooring lines from a boat and setting it adrift. God gave them up to depravity. Verse 18 notes the “wrath of God is revealed” against such persons.

An overlooked aspect of the wrath of God is that God often punishes sin “in kind.”

In the Old Testament era the people of God rebelled during the wilderness wanderings when God was feeding them with “manna” a perfect food substance. What they wanted was not the perfect food God wanted them to have. They complained and demanded meat. God gave them what they wanted. Numbers 11:18ff tells of the result. God said “…you shall eat flesh…until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome.”

God often judges us by giving us more and more of what we want until we become sick of it. In the process we often call it progress.

As a child I loved pickles. Note, I said, past tense, “I loved” pickles. One Sunday afternoon while my parents were hosting relatives on the front porch of our house I got my opportunity. Mom had just made a vat of my favorite home made pickles. I had some with lunch and mother said, “Son, don’t eat any more.”

While they were busy on the front porch I seized the moment to enjoy more pickles. I was just wafting down my third one when I felt the hot laser beam of mom’s eyes on my back. Moms, even on the porch, knew what was going on in the kitchen.

“Enjoying the pickles I told you not to eat?” “Yes, mam!” “Well have another.” What has come over mom? She is rewarding me for misbehaving. What a wonderful way to get another pickle. Down went another large one. Yummy!

With a warm smile mom offered another. Well, that was OK but not quite as good. Slowly I finished it only to be offered another. By now pickles were becoming a punishment.

Believe me, pickles taste a lot better going down than they do coming up.

God gave them up. Romans 1: 21-23 chronicles the behavior resulting in being given up.

IMPUDENT – “They did not glorify God…”

INGRATES – “Neither were they thankful…”

IMPOSING – “They become futile in their thoughts…”

IRRATIONAL – “professing themselves to be wise…”

IDOLATERS – “They changed the glory of the incorruptible.”

God gave them up to “vile passions” (Vs. 26). That is, passions of dishonor.

Our president is alleged to have participated in conduct that would come under this classification. I want to repeat “alleged to have.” My point is not to hint that he is or is not guilty. Mark that.

The point is that in public opinion polls 72% of the people say it doesn’t matter if he did it.

Though I am not passing judgement on the president I am critically judging the attitude that says it doesn’t matter. It does matter to God. Other societies that have become hardened in this attitude have experienced the “wrath of God.”

It is said God gave such persons “over to a debased mind.” That means a person is incapable of making a correct moral judgement.

Verse 22 says, “Professing themselves to be wise they become fools.”

We have the most learned society in history. We have more brilliant people today than ever. We are brilliant about many things. Ask about space exploration, lasers, the Internet, modern medicine and we are capable of giving brilliant answers. Ask about a moral issue and we fail the test. Listen to the average TV talk show and you will hear the wisdom of fools.

As verse 18 says we have “suppressed the truth with unrighteousness.” The truth has now become so popular in certain instances that it is thought to be wrong.

A second characteristic emerges in verse 32. It shows people seek agreement on sin. “You approve of my sin and I will applaud yours.” The ploy is not only to cover sin but to get society to applaud it.

II. A STATE OF READINESS “I AM READY” (VS. 15)
We, like Paul, can never repay our Lord for what He has done for us; but we, like him, should be willing to pay a little interest on the debt by faithfulness. The expression “ready” actually means “eager.”

“So” expresses the same intensity as the same word in John 3:16, “For God so loved…”

Paul was fervently eager to preach the Gospel.

He was mocked for preaching the Gospel in Athens.

He was mobbed for preaching it in Jerusalem.

It looks like he would have learned, but now he was ready to be martyred for preaching it in Rome.

Abraham Lincoln said he liked to see a man preach like he was fighting a swarm a bees.

Some preachers preach like they have just swallowed an egg and they are afraid that if they move, it will break; and if they don’t it will hatch.

What Paul was to preach was “the Gospel,” the good news not man’s views.

It takes time to get ready. Paul had to spend time alone in the Arabian desert with the Lord to get “ready.” No Christian should be reluctant to be trained to share the good news.

III. A SPIRIT OF RESOLUTENESS “I AM NOT ASHAMED” (VSS. 16,17)
It took bold faith not to be ashamed of the Gospel in Imperial Rome.

Paul had previously faced the wicked city of Corinth “in fear, and in much trembling” (I Cor. 2:3). There he saw what the power of the Gospel could achieve. Now with eager boldness he was ready to face Rome, a city that worshiped power, with a greater power, the power of the Gospel.

The Greek word translated “power” is DUNAMIS meaning “God’s power.” DUNAMIS gives us our English words dynamo, dynamic, and dynamite.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6: 9 – 11).

The expression “The just shall live by faith” (vs. 17) was the theme that started the Reformation. It was a revolutionary thought in that era. Man through creedal religion was trying to earn, merit, and deserve God’s favor. Despair and futility resulted.

There is all the difference in the world in man’s self-sought righteousness and God’s righteousness.

READ: Titus 3:5; Eph. 2: 8,9; Romans 4:5.

The good news is revealed “from faith to faith,” EK PISTEOS EIS PISTIN, literally, “out of faith and into faith.” In other words, God does not speak to us directly; but faith comes from out of the heart and life of one believer who shares that faith and into the heart of one who by faith receives it.

The word “revealed” means “to take off the veil.” That is what sharing the goods news is. It is an unveiling.

In the Convent Library at Erfurt is a renown painting. It depicts Martin Luther as a young monk of 24 years of age reading a portion of Scripture in the early morning light. On the page he is reading can be seen the words, “The just shall live by faith.” Centuries before the prophet Habakkuk had penned these words and later the Apostle Paul repeated them. This painting depicts the renewal of humanity.

In the Library of Rudolstadt is a handwritten letter penned by Paul Luther the son of Martin. In it he relates a family insight as follows, “In the year 1544, my late dearest father, in the presence of us all, narrated the whole story of his journey to Rome. He acknowledged with great joy that, in that city, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he had come to the knowledge of the truth of the everlasting Gospel.”

Let me share a summary of that moment of enlightenment in the life of Martin Luther.

Still today in Rome you will find the Cathedral Church of St. John of Lateran. There are three parallel staircases in it. People walk up the stairs on the left and right, but the center one is considered special. On some of the steps of the center case there are coverings of plate glass through which red stains can be seen on the stairs. These steps are still climbed by anguishing would-be worshipers who stoop to kiss the glass covered stains. A late tradition says these were the stairs in Pilate’s Hall in Jerusalem, and these are the blood stains from Christ’s wounds.

As the devout young monk, Luther climbed these steps on his knees seeking thereby to gain the favor of God, the text which he had read in that early morning light came to his mind: “The just shall live by faith.” He jumped to his feet and went on his way rejoicing.

Now back to the Library of Rudolstadt and the handwritten letter by the son of Martin Luther: “Thereupon, he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of his doctrine.”

It is the foundation of Christianity.