Tuesday, October 30, 2018

He Knows the Way

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5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Burleigh Law served as a jungle pilot in central Africa. One day he took off in clear skies, but shortly he noticed thunderclouds in the distance; and these rushed together at startling speed. Burleigh frantically searched for an airstrip, but there was nowhere to land. Openings appeared in the clouds here and there, and he kept turning his plane towards them, following little patches of blue. It was like a needle threading its way through fabric. Burleigh was lost in the clouds, depending entirely on visible navigation. Finally, spotting a little landing strip, he made it safely to the ground.

Suddenly a vehicle raced up to his plane, and a nurse jumped out and ran to the plane, shouting, “I don’t know where you came from, but I know you are an answer to prayer!” This woman was staying with a missionary couple who had been isolated on a remote station for months. The unsettled political situation had left them cut off from outside communication. The roads were impassible and the bridges out. The missionary wife had become sick with fever. That morning they had called together the Christians in the village church to earnestly pray for God’s guidance. That day, the Lord arranged the storm clouds to direct Burleigh Law and his little plane to that spot of earth.[1]

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         Burleigh Law and family (1955)                            The book which tells this dramatic story 

If our great God can guide the birds in their migrations and the planets in their orbits, then He has an appointed way for our lives and can lead us accordingly. Oswald Chambers commented about these verses, “We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything. Wherever He puts us, our one great aim is to pour out a whole-hearted devotion to Him in that particular work.”[2]

In what area do you need God’s guidance today? Ask the Heavenly Father to lead the way. “Lord, may I love and serve You with all my heart today. Guide my path to the people and places you’d have me to go. I surrender my stubborn tendency to do life on my own terms. Teach me that my will leads to dead-end streets and that Your wisdom will keep me on the road to all that is good and fruitful.” -DM

[1] Virginia Law, Appointment Congo (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1966), 20-21.  
[2] Oswald Chambers quoted by, David C. McCasland, “God’s Direction,” Our Daily Bread, 15 October 2015 <https://odb.org/2015/10/15/gods-direction/>  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Change of Mind

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Mao Zedong, the leader of China was wrong on so many levels, and the results were catastrophic. He was a Communist and an atheist, and his mistaken beliefs led to misguided behaviors that are now writ large across history. For example, in the 1950s Mao developed a belief that sparrows were a pest. In fact, he developed a “Four Pests Campaign” to rid China of sparrows, mosquitoes, rats and flies.

He believed that sparrows had to go because they ate grain from the farms. Thus, by killing the sparrows of China, he thought, would result in enough surplus food for 60,000 people. Mao initiated a campaign to kill sparrows—the little birds were shot, their nests were destroyed, their eggs were broken. Chinese Communists succeeded in killing about every sparrow in Chinese air space.

But Mao Zedong was wrong. He was operating on mistaken presuppositions. He did not realize that sparrows are natural predators to locusts. With the sparrows all gone, the locusts multiplied and devastated Chinese agriculture. It is estimated that more than 30 million Chinese died of malnourishment because of the ensuing locust invasion.[1]

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The point is that defective thinking always leads to destructive living. If people are mistaken in their beliefs, they will be misguided in their behavior. Faulty thinking leads to flawed habits, because what you think effects how you behave and how you live. The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Paul admonishes us in Rom. 12:2 to undergo a thorough brain washing, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” and that we are to obtain “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  

Becoming a Christian involves not only giving Jesus your heart, but it also involves giving Him your mind. By studying God’s word, our thinking patterns are revamped and many of the false ideas that we’ve come to believe or absorbed from the world are debunked. A key part of that process is replacing the lies of the Enemy (John 8:44), with the truth of God (2 Cor. 10:4-6).

Just as a caterpillar undergoes the slow metamorphosis that transforms it into a butterfly, your mind is meant to undergo a steady, purposeful change as it is saturated and controlled by the Word of God. There are no shortcuts and no alternative paths. The one and only way your mind can be renewed is by the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.

Tim Challies writes in a challenging way, “Which direction is your mind changing: toward conformity to the world or toward transformation into God’s image? Which has more of an influence over your mind: the sports page or the Word of God? Where do you find yourself more often: sitting on the couch watching television or bowing on your knees in prayer over the Word? Over a lifetime of commitment to God’s Word, you gain new wisdom to replace old foolishness and godly desires to replace satanic longings. The sins that once fueled your imagination and motivated your actions begin to lose their power and are displaced by virtues that motivate good to others and bring glory to God. Your eyes stop their lusting because your mind is now filled with love; your mouth stops its cursing because your mind is now filled with joy; your hands stop their stealing because you are convinced you can be as content with little as with much. Such transformed lives begin with transformed minds, for your body always obeys your brain.”[2] -DM

[1] Judith Shapiro, Mao’s War Against Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 86-89.
[2] Tim Challies, “Renew Your Mind,” 26 May 2017, <https://www.challies.com/articles/renew-your-mind/>  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Adam and Christ

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It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Every promise in the Old Testament arrives in the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus explained that He was the fulfillment of everything that Moses and prophets wrote about (John 5:39, Luke 24:27).

Bible scholars refer to this modeling of Christ in the Old Testament as narrative typology. A type is a person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that acts as a model to foreshadow or prefigure a future person or event that is fully revealed in the New Testament.

The first portrait of Christ in the Old Testament is Adam. Paul draws a parallel between Adam and Christ twice. In Romans 5:14 he refers to “Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come,” and in 1 Cor. 15:45 he makes the comparison between Christ and Adam, “The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

In Paul’s mind, Christ came to undo everything that Adam ruined. At every place where the first Adam failed, Jesus Christ, the last Adam succeeded. Let’s examine some of the striking parallels and differences between Adam and Christ.   

·         Adam entered the world through a special act of creation (Gen. 2:7). Likewise, Jesus entered the world through a special act of creation (Luke 1:35).   

·         Adam was called the “Son of God” (Luke 3:38) and so was Jesus (John 3:16).  

·         Adam entered the world sinless (Gen. 3:17-19), Jesus did too (Heb. 4:15).

·         Adam was given authority over all creation (Gen. 1:29-30) and Jesus claimed this prerogative as well (Matt. 28:18, Col. 1:15-18).

·         God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, then He opened Adam’s side which brought forth his bride, Eve (Gen 2:21-23). In a similar way, Jesus was caused to sleep (die) and His side was pierced (John 19:33-34) which brought forth His bride, the Church (Eph. 5:25).

On the same token, the Bible is very clear that Adam and Christ are strikingly different. There are many ways in which Christ is far superior to Adam.  

·         Adam was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), Christ is God in the flesh (John 1:14).

·         Adam was called a “Son of God” (Luke 3:38), but Christ causes us to be “sons of God” (John 1:12).

·         For a short time, Adam was ruler over the old creation (Gen. 1:29-30), but Christ is the ruler over the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

·         All of Adam’s descendants inherit a sinful nature (Rom. 5:12), but all who are in Christ inherit a spiritual nature (1 Cor. 15:45).  

·         Adam was tempted in a perfect garden and fell into sin (Gen. 3:6), Christ was tempted in a desert wilderness and did not sin (Matt. 4:1-11).
  • The first Adam turned from the Father in the garden of Eden; the last Adam turned to the        Father in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

·         Adam sinned and became aware of his nakedness (Gen. 3:6-7), Jesus became sin and was hanged in nakedness (2 Cor. 5:21; John 19:23-24).

·         Adam brought about the curse of sin, thorns, sweat and death (Gen. 3:17-19), Jesus became a curse (Gal. 3:13), and in His sacrifice He bore thorns (John 19:2, 5), dripped sweat (Luke 22:44) and tasted death (Heb. 2:9).

·         In Adam all die, but all in Christ live (1 Cor. 15:22).

Maybe, Max Lucado summarized the two best when he wrote, “The Bible is the story of two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In the first, Adam took a fall. In the second, Jesus took a stand. In the first, God sought Adam. In the second, Jesus sought God. In Eden, Adam hid from God. In Gethsemane, Jesus emerged from the tomb. In Eden, Satan led Adam to a tree that led to his death. From Gethsemane, Jesus went to a tree that led to our life.”[1] -DM

[1] Max Lucado, A Gentle Thunder (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What Does Repentance Look Like?

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In 1954 Billy Graham held a crusade in London’s famous Harringay Arena. Thousands flocked to see the fiery American evangelist, many of which were skeptics and critics. Before Graham arrived the media and the haughty Episcopal clergy lampooned him as a simpleton. “Silly Billy” is how they derided him. The story goes that on one of the first nights a medical doctor and another man sat side-by-side finding fault with almost everything Billy said.

Yet, as Billy began to preach hot-and-heavy, the power of God’s Word began to take its toll on their hearts. Billy quoted from Jeremiah 23:29, “Is not My word, like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” That hammer broke hard hearts and Holy Spirit conviction came to that place. When the altar call was given, the doctor who had been ridiculing Graham said to the man next to him, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going down there to give my heart to Christ.” And the man next to him replied, “Yes, and I’ll go with you. By the way sir, here’s your billfold. I was a pickpocket.”[i]   

When it was all said and done, more than 2,000,000 people attended the crusade meetings, and nearly 40,000 made a commitment to Christ.[ii]

That story not only illustrates the power of the Gospel to change hearts, but I think it also gives a good example of what repentance looks like—“I was a pickpocket.” Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior. It’s a 180 degree turn from the broad way of destruction to the straight and narrow path that leads to life. It’s more than regret and it’s more than remorse. Repentance is not just confessing sin, it’s also forsaking sin. Moreover, repentance is not just a one-time decision—it’s a posture of the heart that we carry throughout our Christian life.

“Repent and believe the Gospel,” was Jesus' first sermon (Mark 1:14). Sadly, repentance is a forgotten word in our streamlined evangelistic outlines and our preaching. Vance Havner, the old country preacher said, “We are trying to get people in our pews to say, “Here I am,” before they have faced their sin and said, “Woe is me!”[iii]  

Billy Graham wrote, “We have preached the dignity of humanity rather than our depravity. We have declared our goodness rather than our wickedness . . . Gone is the mourner’s bench and the tear-stained cheeks of godly sorrow for sin and gone is the joy in heaven over wanderers returning to the Father’s house.”[iv]

So, what does repentance look like in the Bible? There are several examples we could point to:

·         After his season of suffering, Job bemoaned the fact that he thought he knew more about justice than God did. He covered himself in ashes and repented (Job 42:1-6).

·         David cried out to God for cleansing and forgiveness after his double sin of adultery and murder (Ps. 51).

·         The people of Nehemiah’s day confessed their sins, fasted and reaffirmed their desire obey the Word of God (Neh. 9:1-3).  

·         After Jonah preached to Nineveh, the king of the city announced a time of mourning for their wickedness and prayer that God would turn away from judgment (Jonah 3:4-10).   

·         After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus vowed to repay all the people he had defrauded (Luke 19:1-10).

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Just studying these examples, there are three steps to biblical repentance. First, is conviction.
There can be no turning back unless there is first a conviction that you are going the wrong way. Conviction is a signpost planted in the heart by the Holy Spirit saying, “Danger! Turn Around Now! You Are Going the Wrong Way!"

Second is contrition, or godly sorrow. It is a sincere hatred of past sins and an earnest desire to walk in a new path of righteousness.

Third there is changing. Repentance must be followed by radical steps of obedience to God and change. Repentance doesn’t mean anything if you keep doing what you are sorry for.  

Have you repented? Have you changed? Is your life different from how it used to be? Is there a sin, addiction or habit that you need to forsake right now?  The repentant heart is the one that God can use. Peter repented, and he became a mighty rock in the structure of the Church. David repented, and his joy broke forth in the music of the Psalms. Jonah repented, and a great city heard the Gospel and turned to God. Paul repented, and God used him to take the light of the Gospel to a pagan world preaching, “God commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).” -DM

[i] Adrian Rogers, What Every Christian Ought to Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 24.
[ii] <https://billygrahamlibrary.org/crusade-city-spotlight-london/>
[iii] Dennis J. Hester, The Vance Havner Quote Book (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1986), 187.  
[iv] Billy Graham, “True Repentance, Real Change,” Decision, January 2007 <https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/january-2007/true-repentance-real-change/>