What Did You Know and When Did You Know It?
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:18-22
You have heard these questions a lot lately, haven’t you? The President of the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world, with more intelligence resources available to him than any man on the globe, has answered these questions, “What did you know, and when did you know it?, concerning the numerous scandals of his administration with, “I just found out about it in the newspapers like the rest of you. Certainly, and can I sell you the Brooklyn Bridge?
In truth these questions are relevant to you and to all men, according to this astounding declaration of God in Romans 1. All men will be judged on what they knew, and when they knew it. The astounding statement by God, the Judge of all in the Great and Final Judgment, says without equivocation that all men are without excuse, for what may be known about God is PLAIN to them, because God has made it PLAIN to them. No excuses like, “I did not know you existed!; or, “The evidence of the natural world never told me you created it!; or, “I had no idea how or where to find you! The excuses go on and on. But not one excuse can stand the scrutiny of plain Scripture. They are all bogus based on the overwhelming evidence God has provided in his creation. God says no one is without excuse who does not glorify God as God, nor give him thanks. All obfuscation of this PLAIN evidence that God is, churned up by the foolish thinking of unbelieving man, is nothing but a charade; God exposes charades.
The declaration of God in Romans 1 is truly astounding for it shows the type of thinking of all atheists, agnostics, and every false religionist who denies by mouth and deed any acceptance of the one true God revealed in Scripture. They may claim vociferously that there is no God, or that the universe is not created by him, or that the true God is not the God revealed in Scripture, but none of these claims can withstand the evidence which God says he makes plain to them; consequently, they must suppress the truth knowingly, but nevertheless, damningly. This purposeful suppression, while claiming innocence, results in futile thinking, darkened hearts, and all the perversity which saturates their life as a result of their distortions and corrupted affections.
I rather think this God-diagnosis in Romans 1 of non-believing man, is not as clear to us as it is to him. We regularly observe the “certainty and even bombastic nature of the world’s unbelief as somewhat intimidating, and we too often grant such skeptics “respect for their unbelief as though their arguments have some merit in the courts of logical truth. God is not swayed as we are tempted to be. There are no coherent excuses which they can construct, which will be an embarrassing revelation for them at the Judgment. “Stop living out your charade, God says to them, “as though you have some intellectually sound argument for such errant thinking. By repeating a lie to yourself over and over, which is a prevalent practice in our society, until the lie becomes your truth, you will never make a lie anything more than it ever was; a lie never changes its character!
Thanksgiving Day is not alone as the time to glorify God and give him thanks. Every day in this regard is Thanksgiving Day for the one who accepts the plain truth of God from his creation and revelation. Still, this is a day when we are afforded a great privilege and rich opportunity to gather around dinner tables with family and loved ones and together glorify a merciful and compassionate Father in Heaven while giving him thanks. To not glorify him or give him thanks is simply to say, “I do not know you! And, “I do not care to know you.
Giving glory and thanks to God is a joyfully conscious acknowledgment that the God who made you and revealed himself to you is your God, intimately and assuredly, and you will neither shun him or hate him, but love him with all your heart , soul, and mind.
What a magnificent theme for this day! The mercies of family, food, clothing and shelter may capture your thanksgiving words, thoughts and prayers today, but none of these wonderful mercies compare to glorifying and thanking God for who he is; and that his greatest gift to you is his Son, who in his ultimate sacrifice gave you life; and that in abundance.
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“Be careful, be vigilant. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
“…for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14
It was a warm day in Viet Nam in January 1970. I was leading a two-squad patrol back to my Company perimeter. We were tired and hot, letting our guard down a bit as we knew we were drawing close to where the rest of our Company was located. We had not run into any enemy that day as we patrolled deep into the jungle, so we did not expect they would even be close to our Company position. Spontaneously the relative silence erupted with the cacophonic explosion of multiple automatic weapons, the zing of bullets flying by my head, kicking up dirt, splintering bark off trees around me, the Platoon Leader, and my radio man. Our patrol had been ambushed; never expecting it in this particular place and time. I and my radio man survived, but others were wounded as the whole Company less than 100 yards away came to our aid.
On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was in the process of finishing my retirement physical. Having been at the Pentagon just a few days before, I was now at Ft. Leonard Wood in the middle of the country. I returned to my lodging to pack and turned the TV on. What I saw seemed to be a movie, not the news. I checked again to make sure this was really the news channel. What was happening on the TV screen was unreal; the startling events totally unexpected. The nation was caught completely off-guard by an ambush of terrifying and horrendous consequences. This day life as we knew it was totally changed for the world, not just America. Thousands who went to work that morning expecting a day like any other never returned home in the evening. The “prowling enemy had struck. Ambush!
Most live their lives with no expectation that a meteor might fall on their head any moment, nor sin and the devil suddenly exact an ambush on you. There is actually little precedence for falling meteors striking you, but a car accident happens in split seconds; loved ones are snatched from your life. Healthy in the morning, cancer diagnosed in the afternoon. Equally pernicious is the Enemy’s ambush on marriage, relationships, job, stability of life; what happens suddenly is not expected. You are unaware that anything like this is so near. Or, you have become insensitive to the danger of your own pursued behavior, like the frog swimming in water growing hotter, until boiling, he cooks; in this fashion your own life comes apart at the seams. Ambush!
For the believer acquainted with God’s Word this should not be a complete surprise. The one who is sensibly alert to God’s warnings and acknowledges this life as a constant spiritual battle, knows the danger of ambush isn’t over until his Commander returns to declare victory. The believer or pseudo-believer whose mind is fogged to such warnings, never thinks there will be consequences to his behavior with alarming results suddenly exploding in his face. Ambush! Ambushes are most successful when never anticipated, and little or no guard is in place to defeat them. As in Viet Nam in 1970 or on 9/11 years after, guards go down for all sorts of reasons, and the enemy finds the time and circumstances ripe for attack. So it is for the believer particularly, who does not remain engaged in the Spirit, nor clings to the orders of his Commander, nor daily adores his Father in Heaven. The battle is not over, Christian; the Enemy is still plotting, still prowling, and his ambushes are not yet extinct.
To be standing when these ambushes are over the Christian needs armor: Ephesians 6; a familiar passage, poetically written, urgent, practical and real for your daily practice. Have you studied the individual parts of the armor as they relate to who you have become; how you live your life? Can you even recall the separate parts of this armor that make up the whole? You cannot put it on unless you understand each piece and how it must purposefully and knowledgeably be taken up by you for your protection. Wearing the armor makes you “alert, the same word as “vigilant in 1 Peter 5:8. No ambush can overcome the alert Christian.
But if this present danger is not real to you, and the Enemy is of no account in your mind, the battle is already lost and his ambush will wreak the havoc intended by this evil one who hates your very soul. The far better alternative is to cast every anxiety continually on Jesus who cares for you and who gives you this powerful promise with the means to do it, “Resist the enemy and he will flee from you! Ambush defeated!
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The Valley of Deep Darkness
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Sitting in the room as the Board of the PAYH met for their semi-annual meeting were Board members who had walked through valleys of deep darkness: two spouses lost to disease, one member fighting cancer, another’s house recently burned down, child and grandchild died, grandchild born with severe life threatening disability, and other valleys of deep darkness not mentioned here through which they had walked or were walking. This represents only a small microcosm of the church or even the whole population of the earth; consider the whole, a great number, of those who have or are walking through valleys of deep darkness, as the “valley of the shadow of death literally means, yesterday or today or yet future. Wouldn’t you have to agree that this 23rd Psalm is relevant to your everyday life; powerfully and intimately speaking into your own life’s milieu? Psalm 23 is not the most well-known Psalm for no particular reason; it presents the over-riding reason for continuing on when a path is at its darkest; it is overwhelmingly relevant to life’s experience!
There are three representative valleys of which the shadow of death or the valley of deep darkness speaks. The first is the valley of sin; nothing darker than that! It is the valley of confronting your own sin and coming to grips with the reality and depth of it. It is in the depths of this valley when you come to the graphic recognition of your own sin when you meet the Good Shepherd face to face, “for You are with me! The battle with sin, as the wilderness experience of the Shepherd, is a dark, dark valley; it is also the place where He is with you to respond with overwhelming grace to genuine repentance.
The second is the valley of affliction in which we are well reminded of the witness of Scripture, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) Jesus has walked the valley of deep darkness enabling you as his companion to “fear no evil when the walls of the valley of darkness feel like they are going to crush you. No valley of affliction is too great to overcome the hope and mercy of His promise: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me and “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. If in the valley of your affliction you do not reach out for the “Rock of Ages and find him in the midst of your “slough of despond you are to be most pitied of all men, for the promise is there for the humble and the wise, the “almost, but not yet, drowned.
The third is the current valley one of the PAYH’s dearest friends is walking right now. The doctors have said of his well spread cancer, “There is nothing more we can do! In spite of friends and loved ones gathered around in many cases, this is a valley we walk alone, but only of human companionship, yet never truly alone for the sheep of this Shepherd. The body may fall asleep for the present, but the spirit is consciously and immediately in the presence of the One who said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Instantaneously! The very reason why the sorrow is all yours is the temporary separation from one well-loved, but still one who by his/her faith is immediately in His presence.
The valleys of deep darkness in your life are all too real, and never void of fear, but the promise of the Shepherd of Psalm 23 is far greater and cannot be overcome by the darkness. “I will fear no evil is your rock and your set “eyes of faith. Don’t go into your valley without this truth prominently in your heart.
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Thanksgiving In Your Veins
“Do not be deceived God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:7-9
You’re more probably thinking of Thanksgiving in your belly than in your veins. It surely is a time to eat, and eat abundantly. Your favorite Thanksgiving dishes will begin to dance in your memory just about now as you think of the meal(s) coming in a few weeks. Christmas is the world’s most popular holiday, but Thanksgiving is America’s unique, thoroughly celebrated family feast. Its history and original purpose from the beginning days of our nation hold for us essential truths God desires to run in your veins, being propelled from the heart.
You know the history of the first Thanksgiving, a feast of pilgrims in a new world together with the native peoples of the land where they had come and from whom they had learned what seeds to sow. That first Thanksgiving came at the end of harvest and just before winter, when survival was paramount. The harvest must be abundant enough to carry the people through to spring. In those early winters many did not always survive the cold, non-producing months of winter. The pilgrims were thankful for a bountiful harvest and so they shared that bounty with the native Indians from whom they had learned what to plant. More than that they expressed their gratefulness to God who they knew through their faith created the earth to sprout and bring forth a harvest of what they had sown. Ultimately God’s hand was at work in producing the harvest.
From the first chapter of Genesis we read: “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation, seed bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. And God saw that it was good. And in addition God had the sea, and air and land produce fish, and birds, and animals; all for the sustainment and enjoyment of the people he made in His own image. This was the nature of the harvest for which the pilgrims were grateful and gave thanks to the Creator God as they feasted with their new neighbors in that first Thanksgiving.
But there are laws of Creation which are at work before a harvest ever comes to fruition. Galatians 6 recount them for us, letting us know clearly that God is not mocked; the laws of His Creation are at work both in the physical as well as the spiritual world. Both are equally in force and both must be attended too with all seriousness, if survival and success is your goal. The pilgrims planted corn, and other fruit bearing seeds to produce a harvest. Corn seeds produced corn, not cotton. Wheat seeds produced wheat, not brussel sprouts. What is sown is what is harvested. Always!
Spiritually, what is sown to the flesh produces destruction; what is sown to the Spirit produces eternal life. The results in agriculture and the results in character development are not immediate. The text says, “In the proper time and “If you do not give up. In our flesh we want immediate results; we demand immediate results. Character does not mature overnight. Much sowing and nurturing is essential to produce honorable character. Too many grow weary waiting for the harvest of the fruit of the Spirit and give up in impatience and lack of perseverance. The law of spiritual harvest requires the proper time every bit as much as the proper time for a seed to produce its fruit. If you sow a seed of kindness today it must be watered and tended and nurtured tomorrow and for the proper time to produce a character of kindness. When we sow lies, and water them by telling lies day after day they mature into an untrustworthy character and inevitably your destruction is the result. What you sow and nurture is exactly what you are going to get. Laws, God’s laws, are just that, laws; we do not bend them or erase them with sporadic behavior like tears of regret momentarily, or sorrow which leads eventually to going back to the same old behavior. Be assured, God is not mocked by such perfidy. You WILL reap what you sow; if you sow to the Spirit, in the proper time, if you do not give up, and if you do not grow weary in well doing, you will reap a harvest in abundance, a permanent harvest. Mercifully, God’s grace is a constant refresher to the weary, but committed soul, who will not let Him go.
The reason we forget this in our daily practice and habit is that the truths of Thanksgiving and God’s Word are not running continually in your veins, propelled by your heart. Get the heart right with God, and the stuff coursing in your veins will be the stuff of the Spirit. That stuff, the right stuff, makes the whole body right. Gratefulness then oozes from your pores. It becomes who you are. Character honed over time becomes unchangeable and what is more it brings a permanent smile to God’s face as He looks on you; the weight of glory!
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