A Recalcitrant Sinner

Thursday, Sept. 29                      

Mt. 18:20.  “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  I have heard this verse quoted many times with the idea that anytime two or three Christians gather together Christ is present.  That’s absolutely true, but we need to be careful of context.  The context of this statement is two or three witnesses trying to get a sinning Christian to confess his sin and get back into fellowship with God and the church.  I say the statement is true despite the context because other Scripture verifies it.  In fact, wherever I am, Christ is there, simply because He is living in me.  But let’s take a closer look at the context.  First of all, it’s a hypothetical case.  Jesus is teaching how to deal with a fellow believer who has sinned and refuses to deal with it.  Assuming the first step—the offended one bringing the issue before the offender—was unsuccessful, it moves on to the second step, calling two or three witnesses to help resolve the problem.  And this is where Jesus’ statement of Mt. 18:20 comes in.  Jesus’ words here were to encourage the witnesses to continue to pursue the matter, knowing that Jesus was there to direct them.  The witnesses could well be dealing with the possibility of failure.  The offender could remain adamant.  So the witnesses have a third step to take if the second step fails.  That, too, would be encouraging to those seeking to restore a brother.  We can only assume that the disciples followed this pattern.  That Matthew included it in his epistle to us is encouraging.  And we need to follow it, too.

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Miserable Success

Tuesday, Sept. 27                              

There is significant risk in going to a secular college.  It was bad enough in my days—decades ago—but it is much worse now.  Christians can handle some of it fairly well, the sanctity of life, defences against euthenasia, illicit sex, even evolution.  But there’s one thing that pervades secular education that is more subtle—and deadly.  It’s the concept that anyone can succeed who chooses to work hard.  There’s truth in that, but it’s always couched in terms that is not part of Christianity. It focuses on the meaning of success.  To the world, success is obtaining a life style that brings ease and comfort, enjoyment, and feeling good about oneself.  Unfortunately, anything that gets in the way can be dispensed with.   Morality is whatever you want it to be; there are no absolute standards.  This life is what counts.  Young people, even Christians, can be influenced by this line of reasoning and it can end up in disaster and failure.  George Macdonald spoke to this when he said “In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably—or succeed more miserably.”  The key words are “without God.”  Yes, one can succeed by the world’s standards, and end up in hell in the next life.  I’m reminded of Ps. 106:15.  “And he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”  God gives you a choice, but the choice you make will have consequences.  Every one will reap what he sows.   May our young people—as well as we who are older—clearly understand the meaning of “success.”   

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In Good Hands

Monday, Sept. 26                               

Here’s an update on my friend whose wife is suffering through the ordeal of ovarian cancer.  He just found out that the chemo was doing nothing to shrink the cancerous growth, so the doctors can do nothing except try to keep her comfortable.  She is not able to talk now, but the last words she said was “I want to go home.”  When questioned as to whether she meant their earthly home or her heavenly home, she said “heaven.”  My friend had these thoughts in his letter, a quotation from the book “You’ll Get Through This” by Max Lucado.

“God is not sometimes Sovereign.  He is not occasionally victorious.  He does not           occupy the throne one day and vacate it the next.  This season in which you find yourself may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God.  He can and will use it for a purpose.” 

Max Lucado is right.  My friend is being encouraged by it.  And so am I.

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Gazing

Sunday, Sept. 25                              

“I need to glance at my problem and gaze on my Savior.”  This is not just a cute saying.  It came from a dear friend whose wife is suffering from ovarian cancer.  The cancer is advanced and invading other organs, and she is going through some horrible things, and it may soon take her life.  What a testimony.  Here’s a man who has had a long life with a devoted wife, having given their lives to overseas missions.  While he is being shaken by what we would call a calamity, he has things in perspective.  It’s not that the problem is minimized here, but that the view of the Savior is maximized.  What Jesus did to redeem us and enabling us to serve Him is infinitely greater than any hardship that we face in this life.  This couple has gone through many other trials, but this one could be the most difficult.  In the same letter he wrote “I am content with what I don’t know because of Who I know.”  He’s got things in the right perspective—and God will see him through this one, just as He has the other ones.  And some day he will gaze on his savior up close and forever.

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Feeling Good

Saturday, Sept. 24                             

The world’s view is that we should feel good about ourselves.  The Christian view is that we should feel good about what God has accomplished in us.  These two truths are worlds apart.  One is centered on self; the other is centered on God.  One says that I need to look out for “number one”; the other says that we are responsible for one another.  One says “I’m just as good as the next guy; the other says “I’m a sinner and I need help.”  One says that the essence of life is to enjoy it; the other says that this life is to prepare us for the next life.  One says that God is love and would never condemn us to hell; the other says that we are to be judged by a holy God.  One says that the world is a “bowl of cherries;” the other says the world is “the pits.”  One says “I don’t need Jesus;” the other says “I’m doomed to hell without Jesus.”  One says that truth is whatever one wants it to be; the other says there is absolute truth, and I’d be wise to find out what it is and live by it.  One says that the Bible is a book of myths and morals; the other says that it is God’s revealed truth that leads to redemption.  One says that there are many ways to get to heaven; the other says that Christ is the only way.  One says that I can believe anything I like, it’s a private matter; the other says that man’s mind is corrupt and will lead to eternal death.  OK, God has given us a free will.  Most of my readers have made the right choice.  If anyone reading this has not yet made that choice, God is ready for you.  He gave His only begotten son so you can have that option.  If you want to feel good, you now know how to get there.

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Reporting for Duty

Friday, Sept. 23                                  

Sometimes when I’m trying to sleep, my body is in neutral while my mind is in overdrive.  My mind is supposed to be directing my body, but my body doesn’t cooperate.  It has been busy all day and it’s time to recharge the batteries.  Maybe my mind was more in neutral during the day and is not ready for recharging!?  As I was lying awake at 4:00 A.M, thinking about this, it occurred to me that this is analogous to my relationship with God.  He is the head of the Church.   He is my Lord and I am his servant.  He is my commander and I am a soldier.  I imagined myself standing before God and saying “Private Dave Lotz reporting for duty, sir.”  I confess that that is not my normal daily routine.  I can’t speak for you, but I know my natural inclination is to be in neutral when God wants me to get to work.  Using the military analogy, my tendency is not to look for orders, but to lay out my own agenda for the day.  If I did this in the military, I would be reprimanded, thrown in the brig, or get a dishonorable discharge.  Some soldiers go AWOL, which also leads to serious trouble.  Why doesn’t God immediately let me know who’s in charge, or dish out penalties?  Instead, He is loving, gracious, patient, encouraging, and merciful.  Paul’s appeal in Rom. 12:1 is pertinent here.  “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”  Every morning it should be:  “Lord you love me so much.  Here am I; send me.”

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Papal Origins

Thursday, Sept. 22                                

Through the first five centuries, truths concerning God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the trinity, and salvation by grace through faith, survived a multitude of obstacles and the gospel message remained intact.  But in those same centuries, other doctrines and practices were emerging, much of it starting in the first century.  Plurality of elders was replaced by powerful bishops, which led to practices such as imposing penance.  And then came men with more power, Archbishops, Patriarchs, and Popes—and eventually Apostolic succession.  Monasticism was prevalent in the first century, as was sainthood.  The elements of the Lord’s table were considered the actual flesh and blood of Christ and receiving these elements bestowed grace on the recipients.  Jesus’ mother was given the title “The Mother of God.”  After the fifth century things got worse  infant baptism, different modes of baptism—sprinkling and pouring, purgatory, indulgences, and Limbo, a special place in heaven for babies that were baptized before the age of accountability.  Only God knows why all this happened the way it did. We can only stand in awe and trust Him.

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