Monthly Archives: June 2014

In the presence of God

Psalm 134

1. Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.
2. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
3. The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.

This is just a short Psalm, that may seem a bit strange to us living in America in the 21st century.  But look at it closely.

We know that David organized the Levites to do the work of the Temple.  The Temple in Jerusalem was where God’s presence was.  It was where God met with His people, accepted their sacrifices and worship, and was with them.

These Levites had a lot of mundane work to do.  They would sweep the floors, take out the garbage, count the money, take stock of the inventory for the next day, and busy themselves in the business of the temple.

Some of the Levites were the night watchmen.  It was their job to guard the temple.  Anyone who has ever worked the night-shift knows how long the hours seem as they go by – especially if your only job is to stay awake and watch.

David is reminding them that their jobs are not what they seem.  They are highly favored ones, greatly privileged to stand in the presence of God, to serve Him in His Holy Temple!  Their work could very easily become mundane, repetitive and seemingly useless.  If they are like a lot of us, they would wonder if it even made any difference.

But they were working in the presence of God; their work could never be useless and mundane, for they served the glorious and almighty Maker of heaven and earth who dwelt with His people.  They served the same Triune God that led them with the glorious pillar of fire and pillar of cloud, who drowned Pharaoh in the Red Sea, while Israel walked on dry ground.  To be God’s people truly means something magnificent.  When God is in our midst, who is there to fear?

When Jesus came into the world, the Temple became obsolete.  When He died and put away our sins forever the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn from top to bottom.  The presence of God would now no longer be in a Temple made with hands, but He would pour out His Holy Spirit on the church and dwell with them forever, living in their hearts by faith.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came upon the church in the upper room in Jerusalem.  That which the Temple foreshadowed was now a reality.  God is truly in our midst.  He is our God and we are His people.

So what does this have to do with this Psalm?  We may not be ancient Levites.  We may not be night watchmen in the Temple in Jerusalem.  But we are all something far, far greater:  We are a holy nation, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).  We are the Church of the Living God! Everything that we do is in the presence of almighty God, who loves us and sent us His only begotten Son, who died for us, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven so that He might give to us the Holy Spirit.  We truly work, eat, sleep, play, live and love in the presence of our Eternal and Almighty Father!  What a thought!

Which means that our work also can never be mundane.  Which means that we will never be alone.  Which means that he guards, defends,  and preserves us forever, even in this vale of tears, until finally complete victory is ours.

Whether we are changing diapers, cleaning toilets, counting things, stacking things, filing briefs, doing dishes, mopping floors, fixing pipes or building cabinets – we do it in the presence of God, as His servants, under His eye, under His protection, under His fatherly hand. We are bringing order and exercising dominion in a fallen world.  It isn’t fixing pipes; it is declaring war on Satan himself!  The author of confusion and chaos and ruin trembles every time a mother changes the diaper of her little one in service to her Lord.  Remember that Jehosheba “only” loved, protected and raised a baby while the wicked queen Athaliah was destroying all of the seed of David (2 Kings 11).  But through this service, God brought our Redeemer into the world.  It looked like diapers, baby food and nap time for Jehosheba; but it was the salvation of the world in God’s economy.

The problem is that often times we want to serve ourselves and our pleasures, but we will never find our purpose there, for we were created for something greater than serving our bellies.

We want all of the answers and we want them now.  But God says, “Wait.  Trust. Obey.”

Or we try to protect ourselves.  We distrust God’s hand. We still think that God only helps those that help themselves forgetting that our God helps the helpless, the fatherless, the orphans, the sick, wounded, outcast, weak, blind, lame and halt.

He gathers up the outcasts of Israel and the outcasts of the Gentiles and brings them into His kingdom, to praise and glorify Him forever in His presence.

And every task that we do, we are to do it with our might, because it isn’t useless.  It isn’t mundane. It isn’t ordinary.

It is to the Lord, and we have no idea what He will do with it – but we know that it will be magnificent!  We don’t need God to hurry; we do need to learn patience and trust.

We often sow our seeds with tears, but the harvest is plentiful and unimaginable.  Not one thing that we have committed to His hand will be wasted or lost, for His ways are not our ways.

Walk by faith, then; not by sight.  Obey Him; work in His presence; bless the Lord, lifting up holy hands, for God now accepts your works.

May the Lord bless thee out of Zion.

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King David and Bill Gothard

Lately there has been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere.  Through the efforts of some in the church, abusers, child molesters, predators and other wolves have finally begun to be exposed for what they are.  I thank God daily that my prayers are being answered and the wolves among us are finally being exposed for who they are.

However, there is also a dark note to all of this.  With all of the exposure, the old way of viewing things still rears its head.  I have lost track of how many times we have been chided and admonished to “remember mercy”, as if it operates differently than justice.  An abuser cries the right tears, says the right things, and blame is then placed on the victim and the church for not forgiving.  “David sinned”, is the repeating cry.

Bare sentiment gives no comfort. Lack of sentiment is even worse.  How hard must a heart be to hear the stories of victimization, terror and abuse of God’s little ones without weeping with those that weep?

But true comfort must come from the Holy Scriptures alone.  Is it true that we are to forgive everyone for every sin because God forgave David?  Is it true that David’s sin and David’s repentance are guides to follow to allow an abusive man access to our children?  Or could it be that David’s sin is still being used as an excuse for the enemies of God to blaspheme?

I would encourage everyone who is reading this to open their Bibles to 2 Samuel 11 and 12.  Please read these accounts before continuing.  I will wait…

Finished?  OK.  Notice several things.  I will in no way say or imply that David’s sin was minor.  Both the adultery and the murder of Uriah showed the ugliness and entitlement of David’s heart.  “I am king.  I deserve what I want to have.  I could just take it.  Being king is stressful.  Besides, Bathsheba shouldn’t have been bathing on the roof in the first place.  Really, it is her fault.”

It was ugly to the very core.  Premeditated adultery, planned and executed outright murder, cover-up, deceit and entitlement.  Please keep this in mind.

If your response is that since David sinned and was forgiven, then we need to go easier on adulterers. abusers, murderers and molesters, then you have missed the whole point, and do not at all understand the grace of God.

If you read Chapter 12, you will begin to understand justice and mercy meeting together without doing violence to either one.

Nathan confronted David with a parable (12:1-4).  The actions of the rich man of the parable were reprehensible.  And David sentenced the man to death and ordered restitution.  Then Nathan exposed David as the one that was under the death penalty, which he commanded by his own lips.

Then, verses 8-12, Nathan continues stripping away every excuse from David, exposing the wickedness of his heart, and pronouncing the dreadful justice of God.

He did not say, “You made some bad choices, but God still loves you”.

He did not say, “I think that God still desires to use you for His work in His kingdom”

He did not say, “You have acted in an inappropriate manner, and we are suspending you until you get therapy”.

He said, “You are the man.”  After listing all of God’s goodness to David, he said, “Why have you despised the commandment of God, to do evil in His sight?”

All of those who compare wicked church leaders to David seem to miss this point.

We have the hindsight of history.  We know that David repented and that God was merciful to him, and that he was the elect of God.  But this is important: at the point that Nathan confronted David, neither Nathan NOR David knew any such thing.  What David knew was God’s impending judgment, that he was rightly under the death penalty – both civilly and eternally.  David only knew that his own wicked heart – without excuse, without double talk, without blameshifting – put him directly under the judgment of God, and that he was hanging over the chasm of hell by his fingertips, without hope, without excuse, without appeal.  It was finished, and David was finished as king and as a man.

And then, apart from any entitlement, apart from any demands, God’s incredible grace, wonderful mercy, comes through.  “The Lord has put away your sins.  Thou shalt not die.”

Wow.  There were millions of others who committed murder and adultery and justly died.  Paul refers to them in Ephesians 5:5-6.  David knew that as well.  At the point of Nathan’s confrontation, David had NO REASON whatsoever to believe that he was even a Christian.  He was a filthy sinner, defiled and alienated from God.

This is what made the grace of God even more astounding.  David wasn’t entitled to it and he knew it.

He didn’t simply quote verses on forgiveness, nor did he cite his fathers as examples of God’s grace and demand the same as his due.

He fell before the awful judgment throne of God, recognized that he was justly a dead man.  And then he received mercy.

He also understood that his whole life from that moment on was not his, and God could do with him whatever God pleased.

So David never railed against God when God removed his kingdom.

David accepted Shimei’s cursing, as perhaps coming from God.

David understood that he was crucified with Christ, so that he might live in him.

Compare that with the current statement from the Board of Directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles.

“Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner.”

The board realizes the “seriousness of his lack of discretion.”

“He failed to follow Christ’s example to be blameless and above reproach.”  This one really gets me.  Look behind the fancy words.  The really problem, according to IBLP, is that people were talking and blaming Mr. Gothard.  He didn’t do anything.  but his inappropriateness caused others to talk.  Blame the victim.  If they just kept quiet, none of this would have happened.

They also badly interpreted and spun 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  They wrote, “As a Christian leader, he is to avoid the appearance of evil.”  In other words, Mr. Gothard didn’t do anything evil, but he is liable for appearing to do something evil.  This, however, is not at all the meaning of 1 Thessalonians.  (I might remind them that as church leaders, they are also responsible to rightly divide the word of God, but they haven’t done that for years).  Paul is using the analogy of a stage play.  The “appearance” that he is referring to is like the mask that evil puts on when he makes an appearance on the stage of our life.  Paul is saying, “No matter what mask evil wears, shun it completely.”

He does not at all mean that anything that anyone could possibly interpret as wrong should be avoided.  Christians are always falsely accused, and always will be.

However, to apply this correctly, we would have to say this.  Mr. Gothard has repeatedly and continuously preyed upon women and children.  He has set himself up as a leader apart from the church, with no accountability (as is evident from this horrible publicity spin from the board of directors), and has used that position to gratify his own lusts for preeminence, control and power.  These are not shortcomings, they are marks of a wolf.  There is no biblical reason whatsoever to conclude that he has repented of any of these actions – it is simply more of the same, and he still does not acknowledge that he is what God says he is.  That. as it did with David, always comes first.  There can be no offer of grace without first a stripping away of every pretense and excuse, which also is the work of God.  As long as Mr. Gothard is still spinning, he is not repentant, but what the Bible calls, “Stiff-necked and hard of heart, always resisting the Spirit.”

It is true, as I continually say, that God can call anyone to repentance and faith.  Every believer is a testimony of life from the dead.  I also am not saying these things out of hatred of Mr. Gothard. I don’t know the man, although I have first-hand experience of the damage that his false teaching has caused over the years.

I am saying this actually out of a sincere desire to see Mr. Gothard and his board truly get right with God.  There is not one instance of true faith in the bible that came without first a full understanding and horrible dread of the awful judgment of God.

Only when you realize that you are a sinner in the hands of an angry God can you truly understand the beauty and comfort of the Gospel.  But when you understand that, as David did, there is no more room left for presumption and demands.

As it has been said, “If you wish to follow David in his sins, follow him also in his repentance.”


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Things that should be obvious to every Christian

Jesus expects and commands us to distinguish between wolves and sheep (Matt.7:15-16)

A wolf is known by his appetites.  A wolf wants to use the sheep to fill his own lusts, and does not care about whether this hurts the sheep or not.

A man who rapes children is a wolf, not a misguided sheep.

A man who molests children is a wolf, not a misguided sheep.

A man who beats his wife, cheats on his wife, demands complete and absolute obedience from his wife, and believes that he is the voice of God in his home, is using his wife to fill his own lusts for self-importance, power, and self-worship to the hurt of his wife.  He is a wolf, not a sheep.

A man who has his children in absolute terror, who holds or gives his favor to his family based upon his whims and his lusts for power and control is using his God-given authority to destroy and devour the sheep.  He is a wolf, not a sheep.

And here is a biggie.  Matthew 18:15-18 are the instructions of our Lord concerning brothers who have sinned against each other. They are not intended as instructions on how to deal with wolves.  Wolves must be cast out and left in the hands of God.  Wolves have no problem pretending to be sheep – even to the point of tears and all of the right words.  But Jesus said that you will know them by the fruits, not by their tears and empty words.

Before you apply Matthew 18, you must ask yourself if you are dealing with a wolf or with a sheep.  Jesus commanded us to tell the difference.  You will know them by their fruits (see above). 

It is true that everyone struggles with sin.  Brothers and sisters in the faith hurt one another, for they still fight against the Old Man. But there is a difference between struggling with anger and raping a child.

There is a difference between struggling with gossip and molesting a child.

There is a difference between angry words spoken in haste and deliberate and careful abuse of a wife.

There is a difference between struggles against lust and planning and executing the plan to carry on an adulterous affair against your wife.  A wolf uses his mistress, his wife and his children to satisfy his own lusts, and he does not care who he hurts in the process.  He is a wolf, not a sheep.

I do not say this to minimize anger, gossip or even lust.  I say this to clarify the behavior of a wolf and the behavior of a sheep who is going astray.

Sheep going astray may fall into grievous sin.  A wolf is something else entirely.

This should be obvious, but it apparently is not.  So here is a guide.  Sheep sometimes go astray.  That’s what sheep do.  Apply Matthew 18, Gal. 6:1, and other passages that teach how to deal with brothers who are entangled in sin.

A wolf, on the other hand, views people only as objects to be used and discarded to fill the lusts of the wolf.  Wolves devour and destroy.

Jesus commanded us to tell the difference, if we have the courage.

(Can a wolf be born again and given a new nature – of course.  God can do as he pleases.  But we will never bring that about by pretending that the wolf is a sheep.  God will not be mocked.)

Hope this helps.  If you refuse to tell the difference between a wolf and a sheep, please never hold church office, for you are putting the sheep in danger, and God will hold you accountable.



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