Archive for February, 2014

Joyful Thoughts

old manOn the surface it appears that some of God’s instructions or commands seem very hard to comprehend or even make logical sense.  James 1:2-3 can be one of these profound and puzzling verses.  Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  Most of us do not believe that the trial or suffering that one endures is itself a joyful occasion. Anyone who has suffered through such ordeals has not come through happy with the trial itself.  If this were so, we would all gladly look forward to the event(s) with eager anticipation.  On the contrary, God’s encouragement to us in these and other related verses is a mental and spiritual exercise.  Alexander MacLaren, in a sermon entitled “Faith Tested and Crowned,” distinguished between being tempted and being tested or tried. He said, “The former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says, ‘Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’ Trial or proving says, ‘Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.’ The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a pealing trumpet-call to high achievements.”

 The joy comes by the fact that we overcame the hardship. We were strong. We kept our dignity. We grew by leaps and bounds. Consider what Jesus said in Mt. 5:11-12“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. The mere fact that you’re being persecuted means you’re doing what’s right, your character is shining. Jesus tells us what the joy is: a great reward in heaven for having such a character, a character that is not afraid to proclaim Jesus.

 When we go back and look carefully at the first four words of James 1:2, some very interesting things come out. The word “consider” in the Greek is “hegeomai.” It means to lead, to go before, to be a leader, to rule or command. The word “all” is from the Greek word “pas”, which means everything or everyone. Do you see the implication of these words?  Basically, the secret to enduring trials is to let everything that brings us joy have rule and command over our thoughts. The encouragement to us is that when we’re undergoing trials and tribulations, don’t think or dwell on the misery, think and dwell on the joy of past and future moments.  Concentrate on the joy of knowing that suffering is the result of a Godly character, established and refined by our Savior.  Especially, we should be meditating on the joy of Heaven and the great reward that awaits.

Darryl Fuller

Look! Water!

There’s a whole lot of water on Earth! Something in the order of 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons (326 million trillion gallons) roughly 1,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters) can be found on our planet.878 This water is in a constant cycle — it evaporates from the ocean, travels through the air, rains down on the land and then flows back to the ocean. ­The oceans are huge. About 70 percent of the planet is covered in ocean, and the average depth of the ocean is several thousand feet (about 1,000 meters). Ninety-eight percent of the water on the planet is in the oceans. About 2 percent of the planet’s water is fresh, but 1.6 percent of the planet’s water is locked up in the polar ice caps and glaciers. Another 0.36 percent is found underground in aquifers and wells. Only about 0.036 percent of the planet’s total water supply is found in lakes and rivers. That’s still thousands of trillions of gallons, but it’s a very small amount compared to all the water available. The rest of the water on the planet is either floating in the air as clouds and water vapor, or is locked up in plants and animals (your body is 65 percent water, so if you weigh 100 pounds, 65 pounds of you is water!). There’s also all the soda pop, milk and orange juice you see at the store. There’s probably several billion gallons of water sitting on a shelf at any one time!

God’s word is of course a great testimony of this, by showing from the very beginning, its creation and role in the lives of His people. The word water is mentioned 466 times in scripture, the word “blood” is only mentioned 425 times (ASV). This doesn’t even account for all the mentions of lakes and rivers, seas and oceans, branches and wades, wells and cisterns, jars and goatskins all which carry or hold water. About the only place you won’t find water is in the desert or dry places as the bible sometimes mentions. One only needs to look at a satellite image of the Middle East to see that water is very scarce and precious in this area.

Look at the text in Acts 8:35-38  Then Philip began to speak, and, starting from this Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus.   As they were going along the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s some water. What keeps me from being baptized?”    So he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

I think it’s paramount to observe here the eunuch’s excitement for the water that he sees. It’s no small thing that God informs us in Acts 8:26 (Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.), that this is in a dry area – NO WATER.  The eunuch is genuinely excited that God has revealed to him through Phillip three key things. First, through the blood of Jesus Christ, he may have God’s saving Grace. Second, that in order to receive this grace, he needs to be baptized into Christ through water, but where in the desert will we find water. Thus the third thing God provides is water, water where you would least expect it, in the desert! These are the basic essentials to our salvation. It’s so very simple, yet the world (religious and non-religious) make it so difficult. Most of our religious friends and neighbors stumble not at the free gift (grace), or the price paid (Jesus blood), but  that one must be baptized in order to be saved. Their argument is that God would not require an act that requires one to find the means to accomplish this act, thus the sinners prayer and a believing heart is all that is needed. This doesn’t hold if we would just look around and see that God put water everywhere! He even provides it in a dry and dusty land, when one wishes to drink of everlasting life.

Darryl Fuller

Desiring Excellence

excellent

Watching the news the other night I was struck by the unprofessional and sophomoric manner in which the news person presented news. It appears to me, that the AT&T ad with the adult interviewer asking the children intriguing questions is more brain-stimulating than the 6 o’clock news. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even read the newspaper anymore for lack of qualitative and thought-provoking analysis of even local events.  I called a customer service representative in regard to a router I bought at Lowe’s yesterday. I needed pertinent information that for some reason was not provided in the instruction manual (which I always read – front to back). After talking to 5 different people who had no clue, the 6th person was able to answer my questions, but not before the 1st person (who was still on the line) demanded that the person with the answers provide him with a manual so he could figure out what I already knew! The answer was not in that book!  It was the most unprofessional and rude behavior I have ever experienced from a customer service rep.

Where has the desire and commitment for excellence gone? Some businesses still expect their workforce to exemplify virtue, such as Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby or Publix. When you enter into these businesses you’re often greeted with a friendly hello or kind smile. These businesses are always clean, neat and organized. The staff is always knowledgeable and helpful. The reason? Owners and managers who demand excellence and professional behavior.  In the postmodern world where our youth have been taught that there are no moral absolutes, question authority and you’ll get a medal if you just participate; we are now beginning to reap the rotten harvest of “dumbing down”.

The same is true in spiritual matters. We have chosen the path of least resistance. No longer must we expect our fellow man to grow and obtain the knowledge of Christ; we are forced to be sensitive to their feelings and in no way offend.  However, God’s word is clear! 2Pe 1:2-8  May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  (3)  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (4)  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  (5)  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge,  (6)  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  (7)  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  (8)  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The goal for us is to be effective and fruitful for the benefit of our fellow man. That could be demonstrated in many ways such as teaching or preaching or sitting with someone and listening.  It could be cooking for them or driving them to wherever they need to go or employing them. The most important demonstration is of course sharing with them the gospel, which is the information they need in order to save their souls. The bottom line is that we are to be effective and fruitful. We cannot and will not be effective and fruitful if we don’t determine to excel in the above mentioned list.

The first thing to understand in God’s desire for our excellence, is His free gift, which makes it possible for us to become more virtuous. In verse 2 of 2 Peter 1, He says, grace is multiplied to us when we seek to know more about God and Christ.  I can truthfully say to you all, that when I sit down at my desk and say a prayer and immerse myself in the study of God’s word, He bestows on me a better understanding of His divine knowledge. It’s not a miracle or divine intervention. It’s not just for me or clergy and preachers or evangelists. It’s not a calling or special revelation. It’s freely given to any man, woman or child. It knows no racial or cultural boundaries. It is not obtained through secretive steps or special initiations. You don’t have to know Greek or Hebrew or have a college degree. All you have to have is a desire to know Him and the willingness to add to your life the knowledge of Him, and He will freely and happily grant it to you (Luke10:22; John 17:3; 2 Cor.4:6; 1 John 5:20-21). This is true of all things. I’ve had a desire to learn how to play the guitar.  It has not been easy.  It takes many hours and a lot of practice. After two years I am beginning to finally get a feel for strings, and now without looking can go through a progression of chords. I’ve even reached a stage in the learning process where I find myself creating sounds and experimenting with different arpeggios. Now, I haven’t even begun to be anywhere near playing the guitar excellently, but with each time I practice and study the instrument and musical scores, is a time I grow in the excellence of playing it.  God’s knowledge, His divine nature and special revelation (the Bible), is no different.  Each moment that we devote to growing in His knowledge, is a moment in which we excel!  That’s what God wants us to do, excel! And He’s given us all that we need in order to excel.

Excellence in the context of 2 Peter 2:2-5, is from the Greek word – arête. Vine’s definition states: properly denotes whatever procures pre-eminent estimation for a person or thing; hence, “intrinsic eminence, moral goodness, virtue.”  God designed and made us in His image (Gen.1:26-27).  He then tells us in 2 Peter 2:3 that His divine nature is excellence. What God desires from us is to be like Him, excellent!  That is the way we we’re made.  God did not intend for us to be corrupt. God’s perfect plan called for us to have free will.  He gave us the ability to make free moral choices, without strings, even if our choices could destroy our souls. The sacrifice of His son is the saving grace. It is the free gift, that we did not merit, that makes us excellent.  God’s desire for us is that we desire to be like Him. We strive to put on those qualities that bring us closer to His qualities. We yearn to learn more about Him and in turn He helps us grow to be more like Him.  When we set out to increase our faith with excellence, he adds knowledge.  The learning process involves self-discipline.  We cannot and will not grow in His knowledge if first we do not learn self control. Paul stated it this way in Rom 6:1-2  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  (2)  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Paul also argued in the Corinthian letter that yes, there were things that are lawful for me, but they’re not really good for me (1Cor.6:12; 10:23; Gal.5:13). Excellence is self control.

 When one adds self control to their life then they are unmovable.  A steadfast individual is always accountable, dependable, uncompromising in God’s truth. They are rocks that cannot be moved by every scheme and fanciful new notion that comes along (Eph.4:14; James 1:6). A steadfast person is one you can count on, someone who has excelled in fortitude, patience and stamina, through the thickest of fires.

It’s been said that “all we need is love”, but notice God did not start out with love.  God knows that for us to truly love one another we must desire to be like Him. He is Love! Let’s don’t pretend to think we can love our fellow human being without excelling to know God first.  If we have no idea who God is and what He asks of us, we have no idea what love is.  If we cannot learn to control ourselves or our own personal desires, we will never be able to truly love our fellowman and help him overcome his selfishness.  If we’re always changing with the wind and never convicted to the absolute truth of God’s word, how can we love our fellowman. Without steadfastness, we are blind, leading the blind into destruction. Mat 15:14  Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

                An effectual and fruitful child of God is one who desires to be excellent.  Let us EXCEL!

Darryl Fuller