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What about the ones who never hear the Gospel?

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 2:12-15 (NKJV)

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

This question gets asked a lot: "What about those who have never heard the Gospel, wouldn't it be unfair for God to condemn them?" This is a hard question and many things about the question bother me.

One thing that bothers me about this question is that its premise assumes that God judges man on the basis of whether he accepts or rejects Christ. No matter how solid the logic is, if it is based on faulty assumptions it will lead to a faulty conclusion. This verse may shed some light on this issue. Every man has a conscience and who can say they have always obeyed their conscience? Men are judged on the basis of what they know to be right. Rejecting Christ does not make a man guilty; he is already guilty even before he has a chance to accept Christ.

Another thing that bothers me is that it suggests that God might be unfair. Unfairness is not the picture the Bible paints of God, rather the Bible tells us of a loving, perfectly just, merciful God, slow to anger and longsuffering toward us. Someone made the point that we don't want fair, what we really need is mercy. That is indeed what God offers as a free gift through Jesus Christ.

No excuses allowed

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 1:20 (NKJV)

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse

A creator of everything must, by definition, exist outside of his creation. But can you know anything about the creator by examining his creation? Perhaps that can be answered by asking if you know anything about the artist by examining a painting? Certainly you could be impressed with his skill and sense of beauty. By studying a number of paintings, you might even be able to get a little glimpse into his personality. Two things we can know for sure are 1) if there is a painting there must be a painter and 2) the artist is greater than his art.

If God exists then why doesn't he reveal himself to us? He has revealed himself in many ways: through his creation, through fulfilled prophecy, through the bible, and through his dealings with Israel. Most importantly, he has revealed himself by stepping out of eternity and becoming a man identifying with us and becoming our kinsman redeemer. God has revealed himself to us which is why this verse says that we are without excuse.

Job 12:7-9 (NKJV)

But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this?

The quest for righteousness

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 1:17 (NIV)

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Many popular techniques for personal evangelism begin with a question like "What do you think is required for a person to get to heaven?" or something to that effect. Many people will reply that you have to be a good person, or that you must keep the Ten Commandments. This implies that there is something in the person that merits favor from God which will earn them heaven.

To be righteous means acting in accordance with divine or moral law, to be free from guilt or sin. This verse says that the good news is that righteousness is from God. If we could supply our own righteousness then this would not be such good news, it would be redundant.

But Isaiah 64:6 says "all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." Righteousness is not something that man can muster on his own. Go looking for it and you won't find it unless you look into the gospel. There it will be revealed and you will find that it comes from God. How can you have it? It only comes by faith. How do you live it? Again, by faith.

Thus begins the marvelous book of Romans. It is all about how a guilty man can be made righteous before a Holy God by faith.

Dull hearts and closed eyes

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 28:27 (NKJV)

For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.

The first thing Paul does after arriving in Rome is to call a meeting of the leaders of the Jews there. This was always his pattern wherever he went. He would first visit the Jewish synagogue and then branch out to the gentiles in the area. Some believed and some rejected. He quotes from Isaiah to show the process of coming to faith in Christ: "See with their eyes," (observe in a curious way), "hear with their ears," (stay around long enough to listen and consider), "understand with their hearts," (believe the truth of the word), "and turn" (repent of their ways and turn toward Jesus), "So that I should heal them," (be made new by God). This is the process of salvation. It requires reason, understanding, repentance and faith.

Why would anyone reject God through unbelief? I believe it all boils down to pride. It takes a certain amount of humility to realize your incapacity to save yourself and understand your need for a savior.

James 4:6 (NKJV)

Therefore He says:"God resists the proud,but gives grace to the humble."

Man's free will vs. God's sovereignty

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 27:22-24 (NIV)

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'

Acts 27:30-31 (NIV)

In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved."

Here in this dramatic story of the shipwreck that occurred on Paul's voyage to Rome, there is an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand you have Paul, getting a clear message from God through an angel that they would all be saved through the storm, not one person would be lost. On the other hand, you have Paul warning that they would perish unless the men stayed on the ship.

So which is it? If God had decreed that none would be lost, how could it be possible that a man's action would change that decree? Why the necessity to even warn about it? It looks like the free-will of man could spoil the sovereign will (declared and spoken in fact) of almighty God. God's promise was fulfilled but it was accomplished through Paul's warning and the choices of the people. God's sovereign will never negates human responsibility.

Winning friends, influencing enemies

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 27:1 (NIV)

When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.

Acts 27:3 (NIV)

The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.

Paul's voyage to Rome will be a nail-biting tale told in great detail. In reading these verses you get the idea that Paul had made many friends, even with those who were guarding him in prison. Paul had many enemies, but many were changed by the truth he was speaking and had become dear friends. Paul's ministry was not being hindered by persecution; in fact it was because of the persecution that he was able to reach many others who would not have been reached otherwise. It seems odd but the church has always flourished in persecution and has languished without it.

Almost persuaded

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 26:24-25 (NKJV)

Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!"

But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.

Acts 26:28 (NKJV)

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian."

Festus, the Roman governor has replaced Felix and it has been two years since Paul was put in prison awaiting his appeal to Caesar. Paul now defends himself before Festus and before King Agrippa who has become interested in this case. Paul described his experience of being stopped by a vision of Jesus himself on the road to Damascus. Paul is obviously has a brilliant mind and is learned in all the knowledge of the day but this vision story was too much for Festus who exclaims that Paul has gone crazy. The world might think a committed born-again Christian has gone over the deep end too, but like Paul we can take heart and remind the world that our faith is not a blind faith but rather it is based upon truth and reason.

Agrippa's nervous response to all this, "You almost persuade me," is revealing but sad. Almost is not enough; it is either all or nothing. Agrippa had only listened to Paul's words for a short period of time but it was enough to make a decision and Agrippa missed his chance. Picture attempting to jump across a deep chasm. Coming close will not do, you must make it all the way. Of course that makes it sound too much like an effort on our part. The truth of the matter is that the jump is easy; you just have to let go of what you are holding on to when you make that step of faith, trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone.

God answers prayer

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NKJV)

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" So God granted him what he requested.

The first nine chapters of First Chronicles is chapter after chapter, verse after verse of nothing but genealogies. It would be tempting to skip right over these nine chapters to get back to the "story." Right here in the exact middle of these nine chapters however, is a delightful vignette about a man named Jabez who prayed a simple prayer. The content of the prayer was evidently right in line with the will of God because the story ends with "So God granted him what he requested."

Jabez wanted blessing, more territory, God's hand upon him, and deliverance from evil. We find out that his mother gave him a name which evidently means "pain." You can imagine the taunting he might have received from his playmates in school. Jabez was so affected by this, that it became the motivation for his prayer, "that he might not cause pain!" Jabez heart was pure, he was honorable, God answered his prayer.

Proverbs 15:8b (NKJV)

The prayer of the upright is His delight.

Waiting for a convenient time

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 24:14-15 (NKJV)

But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

Paul had to defend himself in front of Governor Felix against the trumped up charges made by the Jews. He speaks of the Way, worshiping God, the Law, the Prophets, and the resurrection. That's quite a list of spiritual topics that Paul is able to touch upon in the secular setting of a courtroom. Note the emphasis on the resurrection, particularly that it is for "both of the just and the unjust." It is a shock to realize that we must all spend eternity somewhere. I've heard my pastor say, "You can't crawl up in the grave and pull the dirt over your face and hide from God." This must have had an impact on Felix because notice what happens later...

Acts 24:24-25 (NKJV)

And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."

Can you imagine having a private hearing from the greatest preacher of the grace of God that the world has ever known? As shaken as Felix was, he could not let go of his ways and decided to put the decision off to a more "convenient" time. That time never came for Felix.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (NKJV)

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Be of good cheer!

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 23:11 (NKJV)

But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

Have you ever been comforted by the Lord? I have, perhaps not in a vision like Paul, but I have felt the comfort of the Lord in the truth of the promises in His Word. His comfort comes by His presence. If I abide in Him, He abides in me.

Paul went to Jerusalem against the advice of his best friends, but he knew the persecution he would endure there. I have a feeling he did not know the extent of it however. Here we have Paul, the subject of vitriolic hatred and the target of a conspiracy to kill him, perhaps troubled with doubt whether he had done the right thing in coming to Jerusalem. Then at this dark moment, he receives a visit from the Lord Himself who gives Paul wonderful affirmation and encouragement.

Paul had wanted to go to Rome, maybe not this way. This would be his last journey and it begins here. It would be long and arduous, fraught with peril but what confidence Paul must have taken with him because he knew that God was directing his steps. We'll see more of this incredible journey and God's providence over the next several days.

2 Timothy 4:17 (NKJV)

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

Respect for authority, even when they're wrong

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 23:2-5 (NIV)

At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!"

Those who were standing near Paul said, "You dare to insult God's high priest?"

Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'"

Paul had got himself into a real pickle of a situation when he insisted on going back to Jerusalem against the advice of many of his friends (but led by God). Ever the fearless one, Paul upset a lot of people with his speech and ended up on trial before the Sanhedrin. Paul, knowing the law well, lashes back in anger at the one who ordered him to be struck. Evidently, Paul did not recognize who the high priest was. Perhaps this is a bit of corroborative evidence that Paul had a problem with his eyesight. Regardless, Paul is rebuked for insulting the high priest and humbles himself to apologize, quoting from scripture to show why it was inappropriate on his part.

We see this theme having respect for authorities repeated many times in the New Testament. But here we see that this respect is due even when the authorities are acting wrongly. Even a slave is to honor his master when it clear that the institution of slavery cannot be condoned. God has instituted governments and families in this world to provide order. We can speak the truth, but it must be done with respect and in the proper manner.

Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Prosper in whatever you do

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

There is an interesting word picture in this verse of what happens to people who digress into various stages of sin. First of all, in the course of a normal life's activities (walk), they will begin to listen to what the world has to say (counsel of the ungodly). As initial shock and blushing turn into curiosity and amusement, they will begin to hang out (stand) in the wrong places inviting temptation from a crowd (sinners) bent on just "having a little fun." Finally, after having joined in (sit), their hearts will darken and they will begin to justify their behavior by mocking (scorn) those who aren't so "liberated."

This verse says you will be blessed if you don't fall into this trap. Then we are reminded that being righteous is not all about avoiding sin but it is about having delight in the things of God. I like the picture of a fruitful, deep rooted tree next to a stream.

Great memory verse!

Doing right, doing evil

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Kings 18:3 (NKJV)
And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.

2 Kings 21:2 (NKJV)
And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.

2 Kings 21:20 (NKJV)
And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done.

2 Kings 22:2 (NKJV)
And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

These four verses are about four kings in succession. Hezekiah was good, Manasseh his son was bad, Amon the grandson was bad, and then Josiah the great-grandson of Hezekiah was good. The judgment on the reign of these kings was predicated on whether they followed the ways of King David or whether they followed the ways of the pagan nations that surrounded them. King David loved God with all his heart; you can tell that by reading the Psalms and by his desire to keep the commands of the Lord. These bad kings followed after other Gods. They were religious; they worshiped false gods--gods that put no restraints on their wickedness.

We all serve a master, good or bad; we are all slaves, either to righteousness or to sin. Being a slave to sin means you are not free to do what is right. Being a slave to righteousness means you are not free to do what is wrong. Turn that around and being a slave to sin means you have the freedom to sin all you want but being a slave to righteousness means you have the freedom to do what is right!

Romans 6:17-18 (NKJV)

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

One angel, one evening, one massacre

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Kings 19:34-35 (NKJV)

"For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David's sake."

And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses--all dead.

God had heard enough of this obstinate King of Assyria who had been boasting how he was going to conquer Jerusalem. Hezekiah, who was a good king of Judah, had prayed earnestly that God would deliver them from this threat. Isaiah the prophet confirmed that God would indeed deliver them.

Angels are a the popular topic of a number of books and articles these days you can find on the newsstands and in bookstores these days. You see them depicted as these sweet chubby little cherubs or as a soft effeminate young men. Think about what this angel did after dinner one evening, he wiped out 185,000 troops. I just have to believe that you don't mess around with angels!

Does this happen to you?

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 20:7-12 (NKJV)

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

Actually, I have to confess. I often get sleepy during a sermon. Not because of the content of the message, (I think my pastor is the greatest preacher of this day) but mostly because I have a hard time sleeping at night because of arthritis. I am taking medicine now to help and its getting better. Anyway I can relate to this fellow who fell out of the window.

The reason for the all-night gathering was that Paul was about to depart and would never see these people again. There was a mutual love between Paul and the people of the churches he had started in Asia Minor. So it was a sweet last meeting interrupted by a tragedy followed by a miracle.

One thing to note from this bit of history is that they met on the first day of the week which is Sunday. This is a corroboration that the early church began to meet on the "Lord's Day" early on and did not require the new converts to keep the Sabbath laws. I have not checked this out myself but I have heard it said that of the ten commandments, you can find nine of them repeated as commands verbatim in the New Testament. The only one not mentioned in the New Testament is the command to keep the Sabbath holy. This fourth commandment was a sign to the Israelites of their covenant relationship with God.

Exodus 31:12-13 (NKJV)

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: 'Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.

Jesus I know, but who are you?

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 19:13-16 (NIV)

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

I could not help but laugh as I was reading this. The official Apostles (messengers) of the early church had special gifts including that of being able to cast out demons. So, you have these priests who are watching all this going and they decide to get in on the action of driving out evil spirits. The words they use belie there motivation, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches..." Paul preaches Jesus, and they evidently don't. They are just attempting to use his name for their own purpose. What happens next is funny: they chance upon a real demon spirit who confronts them with "Jesus I know but who are you?"

Beyond the obvious humor in this story there are some interesting insights we can gain into the spiritual world. First, the evil spirits are well aware of who the enemy is, they know of Jesus. Secondly, it is clear that it is not enough to simply know Jesus or believe in him to be saved; certainly the demons aren't saved. (Faith: trusting in Jesus alone for eternal life is the way of salvation) In the book of James, it says "even the devils believe and tremble." Thirdly, there must have been a great deal of demonic activity during the growth of the early church. This stands to reason since there would be a motivation to nip the church in the bud before it gets too large. Fourthly, we don't see much of this "casting out demons" today.

What is the purpose of miraculous gifts such as casting out demons and healings? The Bible always speaks of them as a sign. They authenticate, corroborate, and confirm the message given by the early church leaders. The pattern of the book of Acts which happens over and over was that one of the leaders of the church like Paul or Peter would go into a city, perform a miracle, and then preach the message which many times contained new revelations from God. Had it not been for the miracles their controversial message would not have been believed.

Is there a need for this today? You could argue yes, we need to know whether this person speaks for God or not. Well, think again, if we have the whole revelation of God in our Bibles today, then to know if someone speaks for God, we just need to compare what he says with the Bible. If it matches up, then he is speaking God's word if it does not then we can safely dismiss him. This makes sense to me and it fits with what the Bible says about these things.

God is there, down to the bare bones

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Kings 13:20-21 (NKJV)

Then Elisha died, and they buried him. And the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land in the spring of the year. So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

Elisha and Elijah were two incredible, miracle working prophets of God. A lot of people think the Bible is full of miracles but actually miracles are somewhat rare in the Bible. There are only twelve people who performed miracles in the Bible: Moses, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Stephen and Philip. This one about a dead man walking after touching Elisha's bones is a doozy. It does demonstrate one unmistakable point, that it is not the man but rather God who does the miracles.

The purpose of miracles is to confirm, corroborate, and authenticate the message of God given through his prophets. This one was no less so. It confirmed in a dramatic way that even though God's man Elisha was dead, God is still alive and will still follow through on the truth imparted through Elisha.

Say something good

Posted by: David Carroll

Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

I hope that I am not seen as a fool. I do find pleasure in understanding God's word and I am not as much concerned with my own opinions (I do have some however.) Of course opinions can be interesting but anything we say should be worthy of another person's hearing.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Check it out, see for yourselves

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 17:11 (NKJV)

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

In the business world, when deals are made, it is considered mandatory to perform what is called due diligence. Across the dinner table where deals are often struck, the excitement can be contagious. But when it comes time to sign on the dotted line, you will find a wise businessman exercising caution. The good news of Jesus Christ should be no different. Regardless of how good something sounds, a reasonable person should always exercise care to avoid making a foolish commitment. We don't have a blind faith. The Christian faith is not in ourselves but in a person. That person is trustworthy. When you buy a new piece of clothing, you will first try it on to see if it fits. Jesus himself says that if we want to know whether what he says is true or not, just "try it on," do what he says and you will find out.

John 7:17 (NKJV)

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

A time for rejoicing?

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 16:22-25 (NIV)

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

How could these men sing hymns at a time like this? They were beaten, whipped, locked up, and put in stocks. The verse says that the other prisoners were listening to them. I can imagine the other prisoners beginning with disgust, then moving to amazement and finally desiring the same kind of joy that Paul and Silas had. Praise for God for the Christian does not come because of circumstances. It comes because of their trust in God and because he is worthy of praise at all times. One thing I've noticed about feelings and praise: If you wait until you feel like it, it will only rarely happen. But if you praise God in spite of your feelings, the feelings will then begin to follow.

Philippians 4:4 (NKJV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

A peek behind the veil

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Kings 6:15-17 (NKJV)

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?"

So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, and said, "Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

A large Syrian army had surrounded the city by night to attack where Elisha and his servant were staying. The servant saw this army the next morning and in distress went to wake Elisha to tell him about it. Elisha, the Prophet of God told his servant not to worry about it indicating that God has everything under control. I can imagine the servant saying "Yes I know God will be with us but you don't understand, this is a real army with guns and tanks right outside!" Elisha calmly prays to God to allow the servant to get a glimpse of what the true "reality" was. The armies of Syria were themselves surround by an invisible but vast army of the hosts of heaven on horses and chariots of fire!

If we could only see behind the veil ourselves, what a different attitude we might have about the invisible realm that is all about us. There is more to this world that what meets the eye.

Here, let me show you how to do that...

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 15:10-11 (NKJV)

Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.

Have you ever wanted to teach someone how to do something and ended up being taught by the very person you were trying to teach? I think it is good for us to be humbled from time to time to prevent us from thinking too highly of ourselves.

Acts 15 records an important turning point in the thinking of the Jews in the early Church at Jerusalem. The Jews were recipients of the Law of God given through Moses. They considered this a privilege. They wanted to "teach" others about how to keep God's law. It is at this point the realization finally dawns on them. Rather than being the ones who were to show the world the right way to God, in fact they were the object lesson from God who was using the Jews to illustrate how keeping the law was the impossible way! I love how Peter turns this around; it was the gentiles who were showing the Jews how to be saved! The only way anyone is saved is by God's grace through trusting Jesus Christ as Lord.

Matthew 11:29 (NKJV)

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Strong Medicine

Posted by: David Carroll

Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV)

A merry heart does good, like medicine,But a broken spirit dries the bones.

Doctors know that a pleasant and good outlook on life full of hope will do as much to help a person get well as any amount of medicine. And it is true too, that people can become physically sick as a result of mental depression. What can make someone merry? Good news, and the best news is that God has made a provision for the forgiveness of sins and for us to be able have eternal life. Not just when we get to heaven but here and now too.

I am known by God

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 139:1-4 (NKJV)

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

One of man's most feared dread and yet one of his deepest longings is to be known intimately. To be truly known by another person is both dangerous and fulfilling. Before anyone would allow this, there must be a great deal of trust. Marriage is the perfect place for such intimacy. You have heard of two people knowing each other so well that they do not even need to speak before the other person knows what they are thinking. There is however a level that even intimate friends and marriage partners do not know about each other. The thought life is a deep and complex place where we can hide.

The Bible says that the Lord knows us like this. But there is no level that he does not know. Not only does he know all my thoughts but he understands them as well. And yet, He loves me with an everlasting love.

Psalm 139:6 (NKJV)

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.

Tell me what I want to hear

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Kings 22:5-8 (NIV)

But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, "First seek the counsel of the Lord."

So the king of Israel brought together the prophets--about four hundred men--and asked them, "Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?"

"Go," they answered, "for the Lord will give it into the king's hand."

But Jehoshaphat asked, "Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?"

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, "There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad."

This is an interesting story about the two kings of Israel, who were about to form an alliance to fight against a common enemy. Jehoshaphat, the good king of the southern kingdom, had good advice for all of us: first seek the Lord's counsel before making such an important decision. Ahab, the wicked king of the northern kingdom, finds four hundred so-called prophets who will tell him what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat sees through this and asks for the real prophet of the Lord. Now we find out why Ahab did not call him the first time; this real prophet does not say good things about him!

You can find a church where the minister will tickle your ears and tell you things that will make you feel good. People will love him and the church will undoubtedly grow. But it is more important to find a church that speaks the truth from the word of God, even when it convicts and makes many uncomfortable.

Proverbs 12:19 (NIV)

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

New Devotional

Posted by: David Carroll

I love you Lord...

John 3:16 [NKJV]

For God so loved the world

... because you first loved me.

I am the only one left...Not

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Kings 19:14 (NKJV)

And he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." Then the Lord said to him:

1 Kings 19:18 (NKJV)

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.

Elijah was an incredible prophet of God. I love reading about all the things he did. I believe the world will see him again during the tribulation as one of the two witnesses. Here in these verses, Elijah was alone and was being sought by wicked Jezebel to be killed. God comforts Elijah during his distress and asks him what the matter is. Elijah complains that he is the only one left. After giving Elijah some instructions on what to do next, God slips this bit of information in for Elijah's benefit that unbeknownst to Elijah, there are still 7,000 in Israel who are faithful to God. Elijah could not see from his perspective.

It's like that wonderful "Footsteps in the Sand" story. A man looked back on his life as two sets of footprints in the sand, one for him and the other for the Lord who was walking with him. Then he noticed that during the most difficult times of his walk through this life, that there were only one set of prints. He complained that God had abandoned him during this time. God gently corrected him and said that it was during those times that He was carrying him.

Faith is trusting in things we know to be true but that we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Now, I understand

Posted by: David Carroll

Acts 11:15-17 (NIV)

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"

Peter and the other apostles were all Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The Jews were God's chosen people. The tradition and history of the Jews was, for the Jew, their life--their reason for existing. From our perspective, the good news of Jesus Christ means anyone can be saved by coming to Christ. For the Jew, it was not this simple. They thought you had to be a Jew to receive salvation. They were very thick-headed about this. The Lord had to get Peter's attention with the vision of the unclean animals coming down in a sheet from heaven saying "Arise, kill and eat."

The final acceptance of the message that the gentiles were included in God's plan did not come until God demonstrated it with a sign. That sign was the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit. That did the trick because this was the same sign Peter and the others had been given when the Holy Spirit had first been sent on the day of Pentecost. This was a huge hurdle for the Jews to overcome. It took some real attention getting signs from God. This is the purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues. We don't even consider it an issue today which is why this particular gift is no longer necessary.

Proper Worship

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 134 (NKJV)

Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord The Lord who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!

Uh Oh, what's that about lifting up hands in the sanctuary. Where I go to church, we don't do that a lot. Oh, there are a handful who do it and Pastor even does it every once in a while. I guess the discomfort many of us feel is the fear of drawing too much attention to ourselves. No, on second thought, maybe it is that we are not really worshiping. I think that true worship will not feel such inhibitions. After all, our attention is on Him and not on ourselves. What a wonderful way to express our desire, our love and our submission to the Lord. Next time you see someone lifting their hands. Close your eyes and concentrate on your Lord, then lift your hands to Him. Bless the Lord and you will be blessed.

New Devotional

Posted by: David Carroll

I love you Lord...

John 3:16 [NKJV]

For God so loved the world

... because you first loved me.