Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Principle: Sowing & Reaping (Part II)

Jesus related the following parable to His disciples:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.

In my last post, I noted that Christians are to be sowing the seeds of God’s principles. As we sow, people respond differently to the truths we are sharing. Some people are so closed off against the truth, the principles/seeds bounce off the hard ground of their hearts and disappear.

He continued:

Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

This is one degree better, but still unproductive. The principles might get an initial hearing, and the hearers may even receive them with joy, but, as Jesus later explains, the truths never take root. The hearers may believe for a while, then fall away. 

As the sower continued sowing, he came to another type of soil:

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.

Jesus describes these people as those who do genuinely hear the principles and want to accept them, but they allow life’s worries, riches, and pleasures to crowd them out. They do not mature, He says. I think that lack of maturity applies both to the principles and to the people themselves.

Finally, though, there is success:

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.

Those are the people, Jesus notes, who have what He calls “good and noble” hearts, people “who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

The world is filled with all four types of soils, or hearts. I see each type in class on a daily basis. Some students, no matter how hard you try, are not open at all to what you are saying. Others find it interesting and they perk up when they hear, but it never takes root. Still others understand, but they allow the cares of life to keep them from becoming productive for God.

Yet there are the good, noble, and open hearts who recognize God’s truth when they hear it, they rejoice in what they hear, and they flourish as they take His principles and apply them to their lives. The “crop” they will produce in the future will make all the effort of sowing worthwhile.

Being a sower/teacher is not always immediately rewarding, but the Lord provides encouragement along the way. As I said in the last post, the promise of Galatians 6:7-9 is that we shall reap if we do not grow weary. Continue on—the Lord will show you that the promise is real.

Principle: Sowing & Reaping (Part I)

We sow seeds in the natural, but we do the same spiritually. A dictionary definition of the word “sow” points to the natural side when it says:

To scatter seed in the ground for the purpose of growth.

What is “seed?” Again, according to the dictionary:

That from which anything springs.

But then it moves the definition from the natural to the spiritual, when it adds this one word: PRINCIPLES. Christians, therefore, should be about the business of sowing principles into minds and hearts. If we do so, according to the definition, they will be the source from which good things spring.

The Scripture deals directly with this in Galatians 6:7-9:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

This is a principle of cause and effect. Generally speaking, we will reap what we sow. That doesn’t mean that everything goes the way we would desire, but it does hold out the promise that God has set things up in such a way that we can be assured He will reward those who sow His truths.

The last part of the Scriptual passage is particularly appealing, promising that if we maintain our faith in sowing His principles, and do not give up, we will definitely reap according to His will. That promise brings hope in our current cultural and political situation. It means that no matter how difficult times may become, no matter how hypocritical men in power may be, no matter how the darkness may seem to overwhelm—God and His promises remain. We can always count on that.

Deliver Us from Evil

N. Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il

We awake this morning to the news that North Korea has shot off two new missiles. This follows the nuclear test it conducted just a few days ago. This is a rogue state, “led” by a egotist fueled by communist ideology.

Then we have Iran. We always have Iran.

Iranian Leader-Fanatic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian Leader-Fanatic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Not only has this Islamic nation’s leader denied the Holocaust ever took place, he has repeatedly stated his desire to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. The Iranian government has declared that it can destroy Israel in a matter of days. Now Iran has sent its warships into the Gulf of Aden, in international waters, where it has always threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40% of the world’s oil is shipped.

Add to these bits of news American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s comment that the Taliban has regained momentum in Afghanistan, and you have a recipe for jitters worldwide.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Obama last week. The two apparently didn’t see eye to eye on how to bring peace to the Mideast. One of them has a more realistic view of what is transpiring over there. I’ll let you guess which one that is.

Why do I focus on these things this morning?

  • First, to remind us that real evil does exist. Christians, of course, shouldn’t have to be reminded.
  •  Second, to make it clear that the kind of bold, principled leadership that is needed to counteract this evil is sorely lacking in the present administration.
  • Third, to encourage us all to remember that our only hope is faith in God. Man’s wisdom cannot lead us out of this mess. We desperately need His aid.
  • Fourth, to realize that He wants to help us far more than we seek His help. We need to call upon Him.

Beyond Good Intentions

I honestly believe that many Christians who disagree with my political views have good hearts. They think they are doing God’s will. I’ve noticed that one of the motives for those who support liberal politicians is their desire to help the poor. They have faith, so to speak, in the government programs that aim to bring people out of poverty. This is a grave mistake.

It’s one thing to have good intentions—God will look at the heart and realize that these people mean well. However, we must go beyond good intentions and scrutinize whether the policies we support actually accomplish the goal. With the best of intentions, we can help destroy a nation.

LBJ’s War on Poverty began in 1964. Since that time, trillions of dollars have been funneled into the government to eliminate poverty. It has not gone away. In this war, I submit that we should wave the white flag of surrender.

What have we reaped instead? Dependency on government, loss of initiative, a selfish entitlement attitude, and the destruction of marriage in the attempt to qualify for the aid. Money that flows into the government usually is absorbed by the bureaucracy itself. The waste is incredible.

When we reap those kinds of consequences, we need to reconsider our approach to the problem. While God does honor good intentions, He also expects us to learn from the results of those intentions. After a while, if we remain blind to the evils that inevitably follow from such policies, He will no longer honor our intentions. He will look deeply into our hearts and do His best by His Spirit to convict us of our stubbornness. We need to remain teachable and continue to learn how to apply His truths.

I repeat: we must get beyond good intentions.

National Day of Prayer

Yesterday was a national day of prayer. One bit of news from yesterday was that President Obama declined to participate in the annual prayer breakfast. While that may be disconcerting because it breaks tradition and sends a signal that he doesn’t consider it that important, I am not as disturbed by it as you might think.

Bill Clinton made a show of always appearing at such events. I also remember how each Sunday he provided a photo op coming out of church carrying his Bible. That was hypocrisy of the highest order. I’m almost relieved that Obama didn’t do the same. Let’s get a true measure of the man. The only “church” he’s ever been part of was Rev. Wright’s liberation theology/black nationalism/despise America church. At least by not appearing at the prayer breakfast, President Obama did not put on a false mask.

I attended the prayer breakfast here in Lakeland. Sometimes these events can be pretty staid and stale, more civic responsibility than reality. I was pleased, though, that this one was genuine. Lauren Dungy, the wife of Tony Dungy, former NFL coach, offered one of the most poignant and directed prayers I have ever heard at a prayer breakfast. It cut to the heart of the nation’s needs. She even petitioned that God would change Obama’s heart on the issue of abortion.

The speaker, pro golfer Brad Bryant, gave a moving personal testimony, and was quite up front with the need for our country to turn back, not just to some vague God-concept, but specifically to Jesus Christ. His heartfelt plea moved most of the audience.

The closing prayer actually included the words [paraphrased, since I don’t remember them exactly], “Lord, bring President Obama to know Your salvation through Jesus Christ.” That would shock many, I’m sure, who believe the president already is a Christian. I was glad that the closing prayer clearly acknowledged that conversion has not taken place in his life.

For those who read this blog regularly, please do keep in mind that even though I criticize Obama, my criticisms are for the purpose of alerting people to the truth about his beliefs and policies. And yes, I sometimes aim at his character as well. I see no need to shrink from that. Yet I do desire that he change: repentance and forgiveness are offered to everyone. I have no hatred for the man, even when I cry out against his actions. What a wonderful testimony of God’s grace if he were to turn from his ways and begin to follow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Meanwhile, don’t be fooled by outward shows of piety. Faith without works is dead. Any faith that doesn’t reverse policy on abortion, same-sex marriage, and other moral issues, is not the real faith. See the world, and Obama, with clear eyes, recognizing the reality while continually praying for God to change hearts.

Principle: Christian Character (Part III)

The Bible is replete with examples of godly character. I’m particularly drawn to those examples that show a person maintaining godly character while serving in public office. For instance, when the prophet Samuel steps down as judge over Israel, he challenges the people by stating,

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes. If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”

How many politicians today would dare raise such issues? How many would have clean consciences? In Samuel’s case, the people responded,

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. (I Sam. 12:3-5)

What a testimony!

The prophet Daniel, serving in the godless kingdom of Babylon, continued to be faithful to God and to carry out his governmental duties honestly. His promotion led to jealousy on the part of other government officials.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. (Dan. 6:3-4)

The misdeeds of our elected officials sometimes cause us to become cynical about government. But there are those who carry out their responsibilities with the kind of character that reflects Christ. We need to support such people. Pray for them. Vote for them. Our government is only a reflection of who we are.

Principle: Christian Character (Part II)

The central Christian character trait that must be present in our lives is love. Of course it needs to be defined. Love is not a feeling. I prefer the definition given by Charles Finney:

It has been shown that the sum and spirit of the whole law is properly expressed in one word—love. It has also been shown that this love is benevolence or good willing; that it consists in choosing the highest good of God and of universal being, for its own intrinsic value, in a spirit of entire consecration to this as the ultimate end of existence.

I italicized one portion on purpose. The essence of love, according to Finney, and, I believe, according to the Scriptures, is a choice to do the right thing. We may have feelings when operating in love, but those feelings are not love. The choice to do what God calls us to do, even when we don’t feel like it, is what love is all about.

Love then manifests itself in many other traits—righteousness, mercy, humility, faithfulness—the list of character qualities is quite long. Yet they all are grounded in love.

If we love, and if we are committed to continuing in that love [the character trait of faithfulness], the result is holiness. Some people have trouble with that word. They think it means you must dress a certain way, not go to the movies, or many other external prohibitions. I believe, however, that holiness is merely acting in love and doing it consistently. Doesn’t that take all the dread out of the word?

The world isn’t too concerned about doing the right thing.

Yes, but righteousness, based on love, would prevail.