« October 2003 | Main | December 2003 »

Title deed to the earth

Posted by: David Carroll

Revelation 5:1-7 (NIV)

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.

Adam had been given total dominion over the earth and over all the creatures in it. Call it a title deed. Then he gave it up to Satan. To be just and legal a kinsman of Adam would be the only one who could redeem the title deed. Here in the book of Revelation, the record of the consummation of all things, John weeps that no kinsman could be found who was worthy, until Jesus Christ appears as the perfect sacrificial Lamb who paid the redemption fee. He appears though as slain, in his crucified body.

Someone asked, "What is the only manmade thing that will be in heaven?" Of course, the answer is Jesus' nail pierced hands and feet. On second thought, he willingly laid down his own life for our sake; He made His scars just as He made the sacrifice. We marvel that God came from heaven to become a man like us. As amazing as it is that God became a man, it is ever more amazing that there is a Man sitting on the throne in Heaven. He is our kinsman redeemer!

More than I can imagine

Posted by: David Carroll

Revelation 4:8-11 (NIV)

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

I am afraid we don't understand much about the awesome appearance of the Glory of God. Nor do we really have a great idea of what worship is. Praise is continuous in heaven. Point is, if you are bored with worship down here, then why do you want to go to heaven? The magnificent, infinite creator God, who is Jesus Christ, made everything we enjoy down here. Whatever we do in heaven, don't you think that it will be like...well, heaven?

I can't get my mind off the idea that I have really no concept to imagine leaven. It's like trying to wrap your mind around what an eleven dimensional universe looks like, but that would only be a beginning point. How could we possibly understand what God really looks like? Ezekiel had a very strange vision at the beginning of his book. So here in this chapter of Revelation, John has a strange vision. But it is one just barely envision with our limited senses.

Hunger for the Word

Posted by: David Carroll

Amos 8:11-12 (NIV)

"The days are coming," declares the Sovereign Lord, "when I will send a famine through the land--not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.

Hard to believe but the Bible says it will happen; there will come a time when people will actually look for someone who will preach and explain God's word to than. The implication is that there will not be anyone around and perhaps no Bible either. What possible scenario could explain such a circumstance? It seems to me that for something like this to possible, that there would have to be no Christians available. For me the most likely scenario that is prophesied in the bible is something like a pre-tribulation rapture.

I know there are other beliefs that conflict with this view. I won't be dogmatic about it but I know that my thirst for the word of God is easily slaked with all the readily available resources both for hearing great gospel preaching. Never before, has there ever been as much great material and tools for studying and reading the Word of God. This verse does not describe a situation that exists today but I can see how it could happen, soon, if I am reading the rest of the signs of the times accurately, as thy relate to end-time prophecies.

So, you're a Christian?

Posted by: David Carroll

Amos 5:4,14 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live"

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.

You say you are a Christian, huh? I would probably never ask you like that, but I might think it. Actually, I would rather just know it by observation. Then I might exclaim "You're a Christian, aren't you? I can tell!" The Bible says by implication that seeking God and seeking good are the same thing. To me this is not a life long hobby, but a moment by moment desperate desire, no, need is a better word. If you seek something and find it, then why must there be a continual seeking? Think about the woman you love and are married to, do you not continue to seek her? If you don't then something is wrong.

In this moment, and in every moment thereafter, I have a choice to pursue the good or the bad. It is a battle, but the Bible says when I choose the good, then at that moment I will have Almighty God with me empowering me to carry out that good. I have the easy part, if it can even be called a part, of just trusting in this promise. If I keep, my focus on the promise, the choice is easy.

Romans 4:16a (NIV)

Therefore, the promise comes by faith

Can we agree?

Posted by: David Carroll

Amos 3:3 (NIV)

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

This is a pleasant little verse which nested among a lot of sobering prophecy about how God will punish the sins of Israel. Such a little verse begs to be lifted out of the context but I think it stands as a truth all on its very own.

Why do we have so many denominations? Christianity is divided by the most petty little things. But, if we are going to worship together, witness together, minister together, we need to have something which we can agree on. The modern day phrase started by Rodney King "Can't we all just get along?" strikes at our differences.

Christianity is much criticized for it's infighting and denominationalism, and rightfully so. But there are some things about which if we can't agree on, then we'll just have to be separated. Things like believing the Bible to be the literal inspired word of God which is infallible in its message. Things like believing baptism is not a requirement for salvation. Things like the deity of Christ. Other things like predestination and election, I believe we can differ on yet still worship, minister and witness together.

Well, I'd like to walk with you but we need to be heading the same direction. I'm already tagging along with a whole bunch of folks that I agree with. Come join us.

Past, Present and Future

Posted by: David Carroll

Revelation 1:8, 18-19 (NKJV)

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

"I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."

I love this opening chapter of Revelation. These verses are the opening statements from Jesus Christ who revealed himself to John and gave him the message which was to become this last book of the Bible. I want to shout with praise when I read this. There can be no clearer statement that Jesus Christ is God himself when He says I am the Almighty! The gospel is that Jesus Christ died for our sins (he has the keys of Hell and Death). That he died on a cross but rose again and is alive forever.

Then He gives an outline of the message John is to write down: the things you have seen, past, the things which are, present, and the things which will take place, future.

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to reading this book. It says right up front that there is a blessing waiting for the one who reads and hears (understands) this prophecy.

Revelation 1:3 (NKJV)

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Who were the Nephilim?

Posted by: David Carroll

Jude 6 (NIV)

And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

I am not given to much speculation when it comes to the Bible but I do believe what it says and there are some intriguing, mysterious things it says at times. This is not major doctrine here but I believe that there was a grave reason why God flooded the entire world in Noah's day. Certainly it was the wickedness of that day as is made clear in the passage starting with the following verse.

Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

However in Genesis 6:1-4 is a reference to an obscure group of people referred to as the sons of God and the Nephilim. It is commonly thought that the Nephilim were some sort of strange creatures, perhaps giants, but the word has the idea of the "fallen ones". In the Old Testament, the Hebrew phrase for "sons of God" always is a reference to angels or a direct creation of God (as opposed to us who are "sons of man").

Genesis 6:1-2,4 (NIV)

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The allusion here is that somehow, fallen angels procreated with women, creating an awful half-breed of men. Now the Bible does not say that but I am sort of reading that into it. Like I said starting out, this is not a critical doctrine but fodder for imagination.

Peter refers to a group of angels who are already in a region of hell. I say region because the word for hell here is the Greek word Tartarus, which is supposedly an even lower region of hell. This word shows up in Greek mythology as the lowest and most terrible part of hell reserved for rebel superhumans (the only one I can think of is Hercules but he was not a rebel).

2 Peter 2:4 (NIV)

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

Perhaps these verses including my reading for today in Jude is a reference to the same event. Speculating further, could it be that in destroying all mankind except for Noah and his family, God was preserving a "pure" human lineage for Jesus Christ who would be born of man? What would have happened if he had not? The Devil would certainly have succeeded in foiling God's plan if he had been successful. Come to think of it, that was a key strategy all through the Old Testament from Pharoah killing the Jewish babies to Herod killing the babies around Bethlehem.

It would take a kinsman redeemer to save us. One who was our kin, a fellow human being, and one who was sinless and perfect, God himself. I am utterly astonished at the beauty and stark perfection of a plan that preserves God's justice yet allows him to be merciful too. Praise be to God!

Mercy me

Posted by: David Carroll

Hosea 6:6 (NKJV)

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Both of these phrases compare the inward being with external actions. Mercy is a God-like quality and the knowledge of God only comes through His revealed word. Sacrifice and burnt offerings are really two ways of saying the same thing. For the Old Testament Israelite it really was burnt offerings. For the New Testament Christian it is really everything that we do for God including service and giving. But for both the Israelite and the Christian, God knows the motive in the heart. He is honored in us when we exhibit his traits, like mercy.

If I find myself getting a little proud of my accomplishments, I read the above verse and I am brought low again. Only God can reveal the true motives of the heart.

Dear God, give me a pure heart and a desire to know you more. Help me to love others with a merciful heart.

Is it ever too late?

Posted by: David Carroll

Hosea 5:6 (NIV)

When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.

Technically, it is never too late to come to God in repentance and faith to be saved. But practically speaking, too late is indeed too late. Think about it, everything is going just fine and all of a sudden the plane starts to go down. You've only got less than a minute. What do you do? Cry out to God of course. But how can you possibly muster up saving, trusting, loving faith at that moment?

God is not a parachute.

Proverbs 27:1 (NKJV)

Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (NKJV)

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

Piece of cake

Posted by: David Carroll

1 John 5:3 (NIV)

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome

The life of a Christian is not always smiles and happiness, but it is all joy. The Christian does not carry a heavy burden. If you find it difficult, something is not right. Most likely it is the love for God part which is connected with the not burdensome part.

Matthew 11:30 (NKJV)

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Knowledge shall increase

Posted by: David Carroll

Daniel 12:4 (NKJV)

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."

Daniel 12:8 (NKJV)

Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?"

Many of the great prophets of the Old Testament, of whom I believe Daniel was the greatest, did not understand their own prophecies. They were simply writing down the visions the Holy Spirit of God was putting into their minds. Daniel was told to seal the book until the time of the end. In other words, his prophecy would not be understood until the time of the end. Do we understand it yet? One thing that bothers me about many who pontificate on the end times is that many of the prophecies are dismissed as not having any relevance. There are so many of God's promises based on his covenant relationship with the nation Israel that could only be fulfilled during the Millennium. So to say there will not be one impinges on the character of God and his promise-keeping. I am no expert but I tend to side with the pre-trib viewpoints where a millennial reign of Christ occurs.

Knowledge is increasing but it is not yet converging. Still too much "to and fro" going on. I think I just pray and ask God "My Lord, what is the meaning of these things."

Giving = Loving

Posted by: David Carroll

1 John 3:17 (NKJV)

But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

This is plain; material blessings on the child of God constitute a responsibility to help those in need. This verse does not necessarily limit those whom you help to a brother in Christ. However, if you see someone in need who is not a believer, first give them the opportunity to receive Eternal Life. But seasoning that message with some material help in their hands will help them to "hear" your love.

I don't use this same "needs" based criteria for ministries however. There are lots of ministries who "need" my donations. My responsibility there is not to respond to the need but rather to use Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God principle to "find out where God is working and join Him there." It may be that the reason the ministry is in need is that God wants to shut it down for some reason. You'd be hindering God's plan if you supported such a "needy" ministry. This is just common sense. The scriptural basis would be the parable of the talents. God expects a return on his investment. By poorly investing you spoil the return.

The bottom line however is obvious. Your giving ought to be in line with the degree to which you are materially blessed. And the degree to which the gift is a sacrifice is the degree to which it is an act of love.

What will it be like?

Posted by: David Carroll

1 John 3:2 (NIV)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

I don't know much about heaven; the Bible does not answer a lot of questions that I have. The answers the Bible does give seem to just pique my interests and make me want to know more. Here are some questions I have:

Since there will be no marriage in heaven (pretty much solves the divorce problem of whose wife will she be?), does this mean that our families will not be together? I think there must be a great and far more wonderful reason we will not be concerned about that in heaven, but I am still left wondering while I am here.

Will there be children in heaven? I realize that there will probably not be any procreation going on but what about children that have died? My baby boy is in heaven so this one is particularly of interest to me. In 2 Sam 8, King David said of his dead son, "He will not return to me, but I shall go to him." This gives me great comfort that my baby will be in heaven, I just wonder if he will still be a baby when I get there.

What are we going to do all day there? I truly enjoy worship but is that all there is? I have learned that any appreciation of God and his works is worship, so perhaps we'll have an infinite number of ways to "discover" more about or magnificent God.

The description of the New City of Jerusalem at the end of the book of Revelation is mind boggling. But what about the pearly gates and the streets of gold? Is that really what it is going to be like? Forgive me Lord, but I've seen some pretty gaudy looking pearl and gold stuff before. I like the rolling hills and majestic sunsets sort of look personally. Well, Jesus did say he was preparing a place for me in John 14.

Finally, what is a resurrected body like? Jesus had one and he walked through walls. He ate fish and bread too. I like the food idea but I hope I'll be able to control my weight; heaven's food must be really good. Somehow though, I don't think this is a very full description of what a resurrected body will be like. My clue is the above verse. We have not yet seen Him as he really is. But I love the certain promise: We shall be like Him.

To know Him is to obey Him

Posted by: David Carroll

1 John 2:3-5 (NIV)

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him.

Actually John is far more blunt than my title would suggest. He calls the person who claims to know him a liar if there is no evidence of it. Couldn't the evidence be something besides obedience, like wearing a cross around your neck or even going to church every Sunday? The implication here is that the one who knows Him does all of His commands, not just some of them.

The Bible is very clear that it is not by our keeping commands that we come to know him. That happens by trusting that He is able and willing to save anyone who comes to Him and then placing your faith in that promise.

If we can't know him by keeping his commands, the opposite is true. That is, coming to know Him will produce obedience to His commands. There is no hint that the motivation for obedience here is gratitude for what Christ has done, rather it seems a necessary result of knowing Him. I see that happening in my own life. The more I know Him the more I want to obey Him. It seems that He is the one producing the desire and motivation to be obedient. I love His words and His promises for my future--here on this earth and ultimately in Heaven.

John Piper's book Future Grace was a great help to me in understanding this.

Seen, heard and touched

Posted by: David Carroll

1 John 1:1-3 (NIV)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

John hammers this point across that this is not something they have made up. He and the other apostles heard Jesus. The saw him with their own eyes. They touched him. Now, these might be things that an fan might gushing to say about the time he "actually got to touch" Jesus. John is not bragging like a fan. He is writing with what seems to be a desperate urgency--like someone who has found the cure for cancer and is trying to convince the world.

A cure indeed for a fatal disease we all have called S I N positive. There is only one cure for this disease and it happens to be a blood cure. We may not be able to see, hear and touch Jesus Christ in the flesh like John did but what John writes about is more than a cure, it is a relationship. John talks about fellowship with each other and with the Father and with Jesus Christ. Can you blame John for his eagerness?

I like having an eyewitnesses to what Jesus said and did. The number and quality of these eyewitnesses would overwhelm any judge and jury beyond any reasonable doubt. But come to think of it, I am called to be a witness too. Not that I have seen, heard and touched Christ, but that I have been changed by his words and that I have the testimony of the Holy Spirit living within me.

It's still legal to pray to God

Posted by: David Carroll

Daniel 6:5 (NIV)

Finally these men said, "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God."

King Darius had replaced Nebuchadnezzar but Daniel even found favor with Darius and so Daniel was appointed to be one of three chief administrators in the Kingdom. The satraps did not like this and sought to bring him down, however they became frustrated because they could not find any grounds for accusing Daniel of any wrongdoing. Well, these wicked satraps finally figured out what to do: make a law that directly contradicted a command of God. For thirty days, no one in the kingdom could pray to any other Gods except the King. Why did they figure this would work? Because they knew Daniel would not be compromised with his God. Sure enough, they caught Daniel disobeying this new law in the privacy of his own home and that's what got Daniel thrown into the lion's den.

I wish that every Christian were blameless before God. Law abiding, and respectful of authorities. Even of their employers. At the same time, when the laws of man directly contradict the laws of God, there should be no compromise. People get confused about this, thinking that legalized abortion falls into this category. But this is a permissive law, not a forbidding law. It only forbids the state from prosecuting an unborn baby killer. It does not force you to kill babies.

But there are laws that come perilously close to direct contradictions, such as those that could prevent witnessing to a fellow employee, or those that could forbid speaking about God at a school function. Notice that I said could rather than do. These laws are close but they only come to the edge without going over. For example, it is perfectly legal to pray in school, out loud. But the teacher cannot do it as part of the formal school activity. This is no different than requiring an employee to avoid certain activities. Employers have this freedom and right. Imagine that if we required that every employer allowed their employees to do whatever they pleased, then we would take away the employer's freedom to give the employee theirs. This is the nature of freedom. Freedom is not a license to do anything. You are not free to kill someone (except unborn babies).

Freedom means that you are free to do what is right. Now, go exercise that freedom. Go pray, worship, study the bible, witness to your neighbors like Daniel did, even when he was not free to do so.

Chasing fantasies

Posted by: David Carroll

Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)

He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

I have chased my fair share of fantasies. None of them turned out. I have followed a few dreams. Some of them have worked out better than my wildest imagination. What is it about chasing a fantasy that is different from following a dream? Chasing sounds hurried, unplanned. Fantasy sounds unreal. God speaks in dreams all through the bible. But he does not speak in fantasies.

You can follow a dream and it may take years of thinking and planning, trial and error, small calculated steps. And let's not forget much prayer and seeking of council.

When you chase a fantasy, none of these things apply.

Who wrote the Bible?

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is an amazing book. There are sixty-six different books penned by forty different authors over a fifteen hundred year period of time. The amazing thing is that it the message is consistent throughout. Yes there are some difficult passages but when interpreted in light of the many more clear passages the Bible speaks as a single voice.

This verse speaks of prophecy and that word does not mean what it is commonly thought to mean. It means simply the forthtelling the truth of God which includes the truth about the past and the truth about the future. Of course if it's true, it neither changes nor grows old. One thing that this verse makes clear is that these men were not the authors; they were moved to write what they wrote by the Holy Spirit. Did the Holy Spirit put the exact words into their minds? Well, yes but they would been the words and vernacular they were familiar with which gives each book it's characteristic style.

I trust you Lord, this much!

Posted by: David Carroll

Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

I believe this may be favorite story in the Bible. These three friends of Daniel were absolutely confident in God. They were not sure how God would deliver them or even if He would. But they knew that He was able and if He didn't then that was fine with them too because they trust Him completely too.

Daniel 3:25 (NKJV)

"Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

Wow! Did God ever deliver! I love the way he did it too, certainly there was a miracle and He could have done it sitting from his throne in Heaven but all indications are that it was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ who stepped in to the fire with them. When they came out, they could not even smell any smoke on them!

This is the way I want to face any difficult circumstance. My I always say "He is able and he is willing but if not that's all right because I trust Him."

Ask me, I'm ready

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

It's not often that people come to you and ask you to tell them about the God you worship. Why would they do that anyway? Because something about you is different. They see hope in you and there is something about you that they would like to have. So if you are not often asked, is it because they don't see the hope?

This verse gives the instructions for causing that hope to surface. It starts by adoring Christ in your heart and by being obedient to Him as Lord. All right, now that that is taken care of, what happens when someone asks? That's the next instruction: be prepared to answer. That means daily reading, study, and meditation on God's word...then doing what it says. After you've done that for a while you ought to be feeling pretty good about your diligence and preparation. Well, that's just what you don't want to do because you need to deliver your answer with meekness and fear as the New King James Version says.

Dwell with them with understanding

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

I know, I skipped over the part about wives being submissive to their husbands but I've got a couple of good reasons. Both these verses were in my reading but I am not a wife so even though I liked that part, it wasn't addressed to me, this one was. This verse's command has far greater implications since there is a direct link to unanswered prayer and I really want to get my prayers answered. I think that sin in general pretty much hinders prayer but when the Bible pinpoints one, pay close attention.

Do you understand women? I say I don't but what I really mean is that she does not have the same reaction as I do to things. There's lots of great books on how to understand the opposite sex and you would do well to study them. Quite honestly though, those books aren't really that necessary. Understanding is knowledge and love combined. You learn about a person living with them. And when this knowledge is applied in love, that's understanding.

Giving honor has to do with making your wife precious to you. When she knows that and experiences that on a daily basis you will find great joy in that. Just as Psalm 34:7 says to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, I believe too that a similar thing will happen when you delight yourself in your wife. She will radiate returned love for you.

"Heirs together of the grace of life"--that's beautiful.

Holy Yet?

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

I have always heard that the word holy, when applied to men, means to be set apart or sanctified. Reading this verse I am now perplexed (not unusual for me when dealing with deep truths) because the reason for our holiness is God's holiness. It seems to say that we are to be holy in the same way as He is holy. Obviously that can't be but this is actually a common biblical requirement. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:48 (NKJV)

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

And the book of Hebrews goes so far as to say holiness is a requirement to see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV)

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

One way we are to be holy is to imitate Christ; He is our perfect example. But just as a child can't do a perfect imitation, neither can we. Jesus said "be perfect." Here is another clue, we are to pursue it, meaning we reaching for it but not there yet. Jesus also said: "Without me, you can do nothing." OK, now we are getting somewhere. Jesus has a role in this. Come to think of it, my only role is to be submissive. God said "without faith it is impossible to please Him." So is it then by faith, with the power of Christ in me and me in Him? When God gives a seeming impossible command think faith, trust, surrender and God's enabling power.

1 John 3:2-3 (NKJV)

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Notable Links

Posted by: David Carroll

Have you seen Him?

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I haven't seen Him either. The bible speaks of the Spirit of God as a wind which you cannot see but you can see its effect. Think about this though, Peter had seen him, touched him, lived with him. Jesus washed his feet. Peter had good reason to love Jesus. Jesus was wonderful when he walked on this earth. But look how Peter describes our joy: "inexpressible and glorious." Why? This joy does not come from within us; it is put into us; we are "filled" with it as Peter said. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. [Romans 8:16]

John 20:29b (NKJV)

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

The Secret of Holiness

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

When I lived in Atlanta in the early 90's, I had become somewhat lax in my devotion to the Church and to my walk with the Lord. Although I was assured of my salvation and my beliefs were solid because of six years of sitting under one of the great preaching and teaching pastors of all time. However, it was clear that something was missing in my life and growth as a Christian. I was asked to become a part of a men's small group meeting after work in my office. The leader had been encouraged by his pastor to begin a bible study in a corporate setting. He was not as knowledgeable of the bible as I was so he asked me to help out with the bible study part.

One of our weekly assignments was to memorize a short passage of scripture. I had never been part of a men's small group before nor had I memorized scripture before. It was really difficult that first week; I spent a lot of time trying to get my verse right and I was pleased when I was able to get my verse right in front of the group. After several weeks of this we would begin to rib each other if we could not get it right. The peer pressure acted as a great motivator. I soon discovered that my investment of time would dwindle away as my memory of the first week's verse would fade. That really bothered me so I became determined to review all my verses every week to keep from loosing them. After a year, I was thrilled to realize that I had about fifty passages of scripture that I could recite at will.

The most amazing discovery was the impact on my spiritual life that scripture memory had on me. These memory verses were gems of great value, power tools to use for counseling, witnessing and teaching. The promise of this verse came true as I was able to defeat sin and temptation with the power of God's word ready on my tongue. My life began to change rapidly as my fellowship with the Lord was restored and grew more intimate. I really do attribute the power of God's word hidden my heart to the radical change that occurred in my life.

"I just can't resist the temptation"

Posted by: David Carroll

James 4:7 (NKJV)

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

There are times when a temptation seems unusually strong. I mean by temptation something that you feel a desire to do which you know to be wrong. It is a battle between not wanting to succumb on the one hand and a strong desire to experience an illicit pleasure on the other hand. It tempting object could be food, sex or drugs. It could be things like skipping work, or school or any other obligation you would rather not do. Most of the time there is some sort of built-in restraint having to do with the fear of getting caught. The avoidance of shame is a strong motivation to resist temptation but it only goes so far. The human capacity to rationalize any behavior is astonishing. In our modern technological society there is a insidious temptation--Internet pornography. The fear of being caught almost not there. A savvy Internet user can any trace of his indulgence. That is, any trace except the indelible impression that is made upon the mind. Think about it, once an image is viewed, is it possible to forget it? No, that image will remain there until death. Continued callous viewing of pornography will eventually result in behavioral symptoms.

So what can heal this ugly plague? What is the defense against this temptation? Where is the deterrent? This verse gives the answer. A temptation is like a living being; in fact its source is a living being--the devil himself. You feed it and it grows stronger; starve it and it will weaken. The promise of this verse is to "resist the devil and he will flee." In other words, it will not be a constant battle. The battle will end and you will find victory, relief from the temptation. But where do you get the power to resist in the first place? That's the first part of the verse, "Submit to God." He will give you the power.

So there it is, the only solution to the problem of Internet pornography--a surrendering relationship with God.

Two kinds of wisdom

Posted by: David Carroll

James 3:13-17 (NKJV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

James contrasts wisdom from above against earthly wisdom. I have never thought of wisdom that was not good. Bitter envy and self-seeking are clearly bad but are they wise in any way? The whole world is full of people who have these traits. Come to think of it, I have these traits but they are under control and suppressed. The world celebrates greed and the "me first" mentality because they accomplish their objective, at least temporarily, and I guess that is wise in some sense. But the bible calls such wisdom sensual and demonic. So here is the doctrine that demons are involved in rousing our fleshly appetites. God is not the author of confusion; evil desires are which use conflict, misunderstanding, hatred, and deception as their tools.

But James brackets this evil with wisdom from above demonstrated with good conduct. He speaks of the meekness of wisdom which is the opposite of arrogance. Wisdom from above is pure; if there is any worldly wisdom in the mix, the godly wisdom is canceled out. A peace-loving, gentle person willing to yield is content and a delight to be around. Mercy is not the same as pity; mercy results in action which is the good fruits spoken of here. Such mercy is freely given to the lovable and the unlovable. With godly wisdom, love is not a feeling but an action.

I want to be this way. Lord, make me to be wise and understanding.

False Claim

Posted by: David Carroll

James 2:14 (NIV)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

Notice that the question is not "can faith without works save you?" If that were the question, the answer would be "it is impossible to have faith without works." Faith necessarily produces works. If good deeds do not come as a result of a changed life then what is it that changed? Works do not save. Works are not even the expression of gratitude for being saved. Being saved changes you and that change is evidenced by the power of God working through you.

Back to this verse...the emphasis is on the false claim to faith. So the question is "can a false claim to faith save you?" It is a rhetorical question which goes unanswered because the answer is obvious.

Lacking nothing

Posted by: David Carroll

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I have heard it said many times, "Don't pray for patience, because God will just send you trials to endure." Makes sense if that was where it ended, but there is purpose in this testing of your faith; it makes you perfect and complete, lacking nothing. I want to be happy and I know you do to. This verse promises a condition where we will be lacking nothing. Sound's like a blissful condition to me closely related to happiness. I think I'll try it out (praying for patience) despite all the worldly wisdom against it.

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked

Posted by: David Carroll

Ezekiel 33:10-11 (NKJV)

"Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: 'Thus you say, "If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?" '

Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'

When we take Biblical truth to its logical conclusion, it is inescapable that God, knowing the end from the beginning, must have known that some would accept Him and that some would reject Him, and while knowing this, God went ahead with his plan anyway. This sounds like the start of an argument supporting the Calvinist idea that God has predestined some people to Heaven and some to Hell. If we just left it there, deciding that we had it all figured out, we could become either smug or contemptuous about a God who would decide the fate of all men even before they were born. We dare not take any ability away from a sovereign God either.

However, we must not leave it at that with our own pea-brained analysis. God, speaking through Ezekiel says that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He pleads with people to stop their wickedness, to repent and live. This view of God is affirmed in both the Old Testament and in the New:

1 Timothy 2:4 (NKJV)

[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Scripture presents God as giving us a choice and desires us to choose righteousness. I can't explain how it could all be predetermined and how we could have a choice to determine our destiny too. God's knowledge is perfect and God's plan is perfect and yet he has paid the tremendous cost and gone the vast distance to bring us to this point in time where all we have to do is fall into his arms to be saved, but then He pleads for us to choose. This is the action of an all-wise, all-loving, all-just God dealing with an all-weak, all-wicked, all-needy person. How else could it be? Would your idea of a holy God be the same if He were to say: "I'm gonna make him love me." Love cannot be love until it is a choice. The Bible calls sacrifice the ultimate act of love. Sacrifice is a choice or else it would not be sacrifice. Jesus was not murdered. Speaking of his life and the crucifixion, Jesus said "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself."

Beware the Root of Bitterness

Posted by: David Carroll

Hebrews 12:14-15 (NKJV)

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

There is no better proof of a changed life that the ability to live in peace among everyone. The kind of peace spoken of here is not superficial nicety. We know this because it is linked with holiness. Such peace is a deep love founded on the basis of a redeemed nature. And we know this because it says you will not see the Lord with out it. It is the holiness of a pure life made possible by the new birth we have in Christ:

Hebrews 10:10 (NIV)

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

God works this holiness into us through his discipline which He gives "for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." (Heb 12:10)

The opposite of this peace is bitterness, a danger which is all too near. The bibles says we should beware and not allow a root of bitterness spring up. The soil for this root is discontent, a feeling that we have been wronged. Bitterness is never satisfied; it only ends in despair and destruction and drags others down with it. But when Christ is your Lord and master, what is your rightful basis for feeling wronged or slighted? There is a miracle that occurs in the life of a Christian under attack; it happens when he is able to deflect these feelings onto Jesus.

I remember being personally and unfairly attacked in a business deal about ten years ago. This situation went on for several months and weighed heavily on my mind. I was tempted to become defensive and to lash back. I remember walking one evening while praying and coming to the place where I was able to look to Jesus for all my satisfaction. I remember very well how free I felt knowing that I was working as to the Lord and not to men. He would be my reward. I was able to resolve the situation without any trace of bitterness or sense of revenge. That situation had such an impact on my life that to this day I can clearly see the potential for bitterness long before it has a chance to take root. The resulting peace and holiness that come from such a victory can only be described as joy.

Hebrews 12:3 (NKJV)

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.