A Call to Pray – 8.27.21

I would love to rail about decisions made 20 years ago or 20 days ago, but while political pontifications may get our blood boiling, they don’t help the hurting; they don’t stop the killings; and they don’t comfort the frightened. We have direct access to the One Who does! This particular issue seems like a really hard one and Jesus Himself said, “really hard ones need prayer and fasting!” (Yes, that’s a very loose paraphrase). I’m calling on all of Word of Grace to Pray (and Fast) as God enables for the plight of Afghanistan.

I always hesitate to call a very specific fast, because we aren’t supposed to know when one another is fasting. Ironically the same passage from which I draw that conclusion also teaches that we will be fasting! 🙂

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-18

Keep in mind that while food is the primary Biblical picture of fasting, sometimes it was types of food and certainly if could be from other “pleasures” – in 2021; screens come to mind!

Pastor Scott

Why Do Some Faithful Believers Die Before Reaching Old Age? – August 20, 2021

By Guest Blogger, Bob Wilkin, via Grace Evangelical Society, August 18, 2021

Matt asks a super question: “I know that most if not all Free Grace theologians hold that unfaithful believers may be disciplined by God with an early death.  Obviously, there’s Scriptural evidence for this, such as Ananias and Saphira. However, someone new to Free Grace may ask, can faithful believers die before their time? What about martyrs? Would the early death of a faithful believer be used by God to draw his or her church and family closer to Him? Thank you, and keep up the good work.”
We know that the Lord Jesus died before age 40, well before the 70 to 80 years that Moses spoke of in Ps 90:10. The Apostle James, the brother of the Apostle John, was martyred in AD 44 when he was around 40 (Acts 12:2) by Herod. The apostles Peter and Paul both died in Rome, circa AD 66, when they were likely in their early 60s. Jim Elliot, age 29, and four other young missionaries were killed in South America by the very Indians they hoped to reach. Lois Evans, wife of Dr. Tony Evans, died from cancer at the age of 70 in 2020.

We all know cases of believers who died young and yet were faithfully serving the Lord at the time of their deaths.

Matt’s unstated question is why God allows this. He gives one possible answer: God uses the death of faithful believers to draw their church and their family and friends closer to Him.
Of course, not everyone responds to the death of a friend or loved one by drawing closer to the Lord. Some get angry with God and some even backslide.

I would say that the reason God allows the premature deaths of some faithful believers is because those deaths glorify Him.

It could be that God taking some faithful believers home early is a mercy. Maybe terrible times were ahead for them in the city or country in which they lived. The peaceful death of Jeroboam’s son by an illness was likely a mercy on God’s part (1 Kings 14), giving him a glorious burial and sparing him an ignoble death when all the sons of Jeroboam were killed by Baasha (1 Kings 15:29). Or it could be that the Lord knew that this faithful believer might fall away if given more time on earth. I don’t know if God does that often. But He tried to do something like that with King Hezekiah. When Isaiah told him he was about to die and to set his house in order, Hezekiah begged for more years and God gave him 15 additional years (2 Kings 20). But Hezekiah then wrongly showed representatives from Babylon all of the treasures and strength of Judah. Hezekiah would have avoided that if he had just departed when the Lord told him he was to die. Plus, during those 15 extra years, Hezekiah had a son whom he named Manasseh. That son ended up being a terrible king. He would never have been king if Hezekiah had died when God originally intended.

As Matt pointed out, God sometimes takes the lives of rebellious believers prematurely. Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10) and Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5) come to mind. So do the believers who dishonored the Lord’s Supper in Corinth (1 Cor 11:30). But that does not mean that all believers who die young were rebellious. Many believers who die young were faithful. God has His reasons for taking home faithful believers before they reach old age.

Ministering Spirits – Aug 13, 2021

We’ve all heard stories of a child on death’s door who sees glowing beings no one else can see.  Or missionary stories of angelic rescue (see below), but are angels involved in our everyday lives?  Jesus said that children each have guardian angels (Matthew 18:10), but how involved are they with us, day to day, hour by hour?

Let’s do some cross-referencing!  Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God has already seated us in heavenly places.  Romans 8:15 says we are adopted as sons and cry, “Abba! Father!”  Peter calls us “living stones who are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood.”  With just those three references alone, I think it’s safe to cross-reference us, post-Cross believers, with the “he” in Psalm 91, which reads:  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”  Psalm 91:10-13 discusses our supernatural protection:

10  No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague shall come near your tent.

11  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

12  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

13  You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

Angels ARE real; they ARE all around us. They ARE the reason you swerved before you hit that car or that curb.  They ARE the reason you caught yourself before you fell down those stairs.  They ARE the reason you were distracted before you saw that ad you didn’t need to see.  

I believe that we can thank God for His daily protection!  Of course, that begs the question about the temptations and trials that do get through!  Don’t blame your angels. Sometimes God does that to temper us like steel (James 1:2-4), and sometimes we walk away from the protection God is affording (1 Tim. 6:10).  However, the point I really want to make in this blog is that angels are a component of the spiritual war we joined the moment we switched sides (Col 1:13).  As we fight this battle, every day in our devotions and in our interaction, angels are there combating the very demons that are pushing trials and temptations our way.  Right now the war doesn’t seem to be going very well in the West, just like in Daniel’s day (Daniel 10:12-14); but just like in Daniel’s day, the writing is on the wall!!!

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer…. 

Revelation 20:1-3b

So, stop worrying, grab on to your Shield of Faith with both hands and keep your eyes on the Captain of Hope. He’s GOT THIS!

A Fellow Soldier in Jehovah Sabaoth’s Army,

Pastor Scott

John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present, but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station. 

Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 18.

Balance! Aug 6, 2021

The issue of keeping our priorities straight came up in the 8/1 commissioning service and will come up again when we study the Helmet of Salvation on 8/15.  I ran across a great illustration in a file compiled by Pastor Craig Brian Lane.  Please take the time to also consider the relevant passages below!

Bill Cowher took over as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992. He quickly showed himself to be a man with a future. The Steelers made the playoffs each of his first several seasons as coach and went to Super Bowl XXX in 1996. One thing that made Cowher an effective coach was that he focused on his priorities. In Sports Illustrated Tim Crothers writes:

After almost every game, every practice, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher drives straight home to his wife, Kaye, and their three daughters. He doesn’t do ads for cars or frozen yogurt. He exists inside his two passions, family and football, exclusive of everything else. 

Cowher is so focused that one afternoon he was seated next to a woman at a civic luncheon and politely asked, “What is it you do?”

The woman responded, “I’m the mayor of Pittsburgh.” 

Granted, it’s a good idea to know who your mayor is, but Cowher shows us one essential truth: A person cannot focus on everything. A person with priorities must let some things go by the wayside. The more we focus on the Lord, the less we focus on the unimportant things of this world. 

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”  ~Matthew 10:37-39

“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”  ~2 Corinthians 11:2-3

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”  ~Philippians 3:7-16

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” ~Colossians 3:1-3

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  ~Hebrews 12:1-3