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How I Came to the Truth that Is “Impartial Grace”

I am one among many advocating “impartial grace.” As an advocate for “impartial grace” I first give glory to our Father, His Son and for the Spirit. I am particularly grateful for the theologians and scholars of previous eras. He gave them a means to light my way to understand and advocate “impartial grace.” I am grateful for the opponents of the doctrine, too. They point out where I should look in Scripture to find the truth. It’s good to review their teaching and study what they say. It’s equally important to measure their teaching against Scripture.

Uncovering the doctrine of eternal conscious torment as error, in my view, takes no less than the Holy Spirit to “loose the chains that bind.” His Spirit first caused me to question the doctrine’s validity. Over the course of years His hand has led me to reject eternal conscious torment as doctrine. He leads me through His Word to now advocate “impartial grace.”

He gave me resources to explore and to examine both doctrines. For the foreseeable future the words of the advocates of both are saved in cyberspace. It is easy to contrast and compare the doctrines. The volumes of words used to describe each is unknowable, however, there is enough testimony to form a conclusion to the veracity of either. The arguments for and against each doctrine are readily available to any person curious enough to seek the truth. I leave it gratefully to the Holy Spirit to change the minds of men.

The purpose of this post is to describe a method the Lord led me to while studying “impartial grace.” I stumbled into the method, but am convinced I was pushed. He led me to understand the simple, plain truth that “God is Love.”

Dr. Thomas Sawyer published a book in 1879 entitled, “Eternal Punishment: In the Very Words of Its Advocates.” I “found” the article transcribed at Gary Amirault’s Tentmaker.org website under “Scholars’ Corner.” The title of Dr. Sawyer’s book intrigued me. The subject of his book is enlightening. What did the theologians of his era and prior teach regarding eternal conscious torment?

My conversion from eternal conscious torment to “impartial grace” had already transpired when I happened upon Dr. Sawyer’s book. As I read I wanted to record my thoughts on very nearly every point he was making. My first effort was to print the article and add notes in the margins. Soon I had no margins. My second effort was to copy and paste the text of the book into an electronic document. The formatting did not transfer well. I spent several days reading and formatting the text into a readable format. (see reformatted: Eternal Punishment: In the Very Words of Its Adocates)

Theologians of the past said remarkable things regarding God’s goodness and wrath. It caused me to ask, “What are the theologians of this era teaching regarding eternal conscious torment?” The Internet records what they teach. I have studied them. I began adding their words to my notes. Before I was aware the Lord had given me the basis for a book.

Greater than the gift of the book is the gift of His Light; His revelation, if only to me, but I am convinced His Truth is already revealed to all.

The Lord has led me to another study and I am using the method He showed me. Dr. Otis Skinner was a preacher of some renown in Boston in the early to mid-1800’s. He was an advocate of “impartial grace” in a city where eternal conscious torment was preached vehemntly. The advocates of eternal conscious torment were attacking “impartial grace” and Dr. Skinner determined it necessary to write sermons in defense of it.

Using Dr. Skinner’s published sermons as a model I am surveying his defense of “impartial grace” in the same way I surveyed Dr. Sawyer’s book. I add notes and commentary as I go though the sermons. The Lord led me to write essays on Dr. Skinner’s scholarship. I have completed essays on two sermons and posted them here and here. This is a study in progress. The Lord willing I’ll be able to post many more.

ETERNAL CONSCIOUS TORMENT CANNOT BE RECONCILED WITH GOD’S PURPOSE

…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, in him….(Ephesians 1:9-10)

Dr. Skinner makes an astute and true observation. Theologians of all stripes must agree as Dr. Skinner writes, “It is universally acknowledged that no intelligent being can act without a purpose. This is true as it relates to men in all their different pursuits.”

Dr. Skinner states the obvious. Everything an intelligent man does he does to fulfill a purpose.

(Read the complete article.)

ETERNAL CONSCIOUS TORMENT CANNOT BE RECONCILED WITH DIVINE GOODNESS.

Dr. Skinner advocates the doctrine of “impartial grace.” The modern term is universal reconciliation. He became alarmed by “the untiring efforts made in this city, during the past winter, against the doctrine of ‘impartial grace.’” The advocates of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment were attacking the doctrine universal reconciliation and its advocates. Dr. Skinner calls the assault “unchristian measures employed to cast reproach upon its advocates.”

Over 175 years have passed since Dr. Skinner’s book was published. The assault on the doctrine of universal reconciliation has not diminished. The advocates of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment hold enmity toward those who disagree with their doctrine.

Dr. Skinner passionately held the doctrine of universal reconciliation. He felt compelled to defend it against the onslaught of reproach being poured out on “his brethren.” He intends to defend the doctrine, consequently “the world may be saved from those false” doctrines of which eternal conscious torment is one. It is his desire to teach the doctrine of universal reconciliation, “bringing many to rejoice in the goodness of God.”

(Read the complete article)

Can A Christian Be A Universalist?

This essay is a rebuttal to an article written by Matt Slick. Mr. Slick is “the President and Founder” of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Mr. Slick and I met long ago at a conference near Dallas. It was a brief meeting. I was at the conference because I believed in what he was working to accomplish. My mentor introduced me to the discussion forums at Mr. Slick’s website (CARM.org). I truly believed it was a calling to defend precepts of Christianity as I understood them.

Mr. Slick is passionate and strident regarding his set of basic Christian doctrines. He is unafraid to defend what he believes. His profile at the CARM website suggests a man busy evangelizing the truth as he understands it.1 He is a prolific writer and he supports other Christian writers at CARM. Subjects cover a wide range of Christian doctrines and precepts. Mr. Slick has established himself as expert in Christian Apologetics. I am convinced Mr. Slick is a believing, faithful man striving to glorify our Father.

(Read the entire article…)

Book Published

Welcome to the revamped “Impartial Grace” website (formerly Orchard Ministry). The book I’ve been working on is finished and published. “God’s Gift to Humanity: Hell or Reconciliation?” is now available. Please read the sample chapters provided here.

Writing and publishing the book was a difficult journey, but always filled with Spirit led purpose. Errors in the finished product have been found and I beg your understanding. The book is self-published, self-proofed and self-edited. To be fair my “self” is prone to error. Critics, who each have their own “self” to police, might focus on cumulative errors as evidence of poor scholarship. It’s a good thing to be self-aware and confess my lack of traditional theological training.

I do not have a marketing plan, but I am confident God does. This website and my small social networking footprint are the only tools God has provided. His grace is sufficient for me. He caused me to write the book, to proof, to edit, and to publish it. I have good reason to think He will put the book into the hands of those He wants to read it.

I explain my personal conversion to the doctrine of universal reconciliation in Chapter 1; “A Theological Fork in the Road.” Chapters 15 and 16 are scriptural commentaries regarding “Universal Reconciliation” found in the Old and New Testaments, respectively. Chapter 17; “Heresy?,” is my effort to answer the question, “Is unversal reconciliation false doctrine and heretical?” Many, if not most, advocates of eternal conscious torment declare it is. Chapters 1 and 17 are posted in their entirety. Chapters 15 and 16 are excerpted.

It is unfortunate the doctrine of universal reconciliation is the subject of derision. I once scorned it and called it heresy. My only excuse is that I chose to believe what my teachers taught. I am to blame for following blindly and for that I repent.

May God’s Word be evident to all who read this book. Comments are welcome. I ask only that we set aside our respective “self” and allow Him and Him only to judge. Let us recall His admonition “Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1). Let us remember the admonition to teach the truth in loving kindness and gentleness. Let us remember it is the Holy Spirit that leads all to understanding (1 Timothy 2:24-26, loose paraphrase). Let us not forget Christ’s instruction “Don’t judge.” Whatever judgment we declare will also be declared against us. “The measure we use to judge others is the measure used to judge us” (Matthew 7:2, paraphrased). Let us embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is moved to do so by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Maranatha. Amen.

Thoughts On Drowning

We Are Drowning

There are few who read this blog. I am confident, though, that the right person will read it when the time is right. “Every good and perfect thing is a gift from God.”

I really appreciate the Lord’s work in my life. For years I was a crude man; a poor example of what a Christian looks like. In fact, my life would be the picture of a life without Christ. For years I could not get all the pain sorted away from the joy. Even today sorrow will sometimes take center stage in the play called “My Life.”

The Lord gives me reason to walk every morning or at least as many mornings as I am able or the weather permits. He has provided technologies…you know those inventions of men…that provide me with things to listen to as I walk. The walks are really long meditative experiences and words of preachers fill my head. Their words are the words of the Word.

This morning I was listening to Peter Hiett preach to his church, Lookout Mountain Community Church. The sermon is entitled “Lost Sheep and Church Discipline.” That congregation had suffered the loss of one of Christ’s sheep to suicide. That body of believers were in shock at the loss and Mr. Hiett preached to address their collective sorrow. Mr. Hiett could not have possibly known that a sermon he prepared and preached in October 2004 would impact a man such as me. Over a decade later and separated by over a thousand miles that sermon would cause a need to preach it again, again and over again.

Mr. Hiett provided an illustration in his sermon that morning. He told of how he was at a gathering in the backyard of friends. They had a pool. Mr. Hiett’s daughter was three years old as I recall the story. She was admonished to stay away from the pool.

His daughter apparently has a mind of her own and a propensity to push boundaries. Mr. Hiett looked out of the corner of his eyes and noticed something at the bottom of the pool. That something was someone. It was his daughter. She was flailing her arms trying to find a way to escape the pool.

Mr. Hiett tells us that he dove into the pool and rescued his daughter. As they came to the surface she gasped a breath of life and he did too. She was saved by her father and they were saved by their Father.

That story should be illustration enough, but there is more. In 1995 my daughter was three. We lived at an apartment and there was a pool in our backyard. The pool was encased by a fence. The fence made the pool even more enticing than the pool itself. My little girl hungered to be at the water’s edge.

She could not open the gate and neither could she scale the fence. Like Mr. Hiett’s daughter mine had a mind of her own. She did not press boundaries often, but on occasion she would show her independence and do a thing she was instructed not to do.

On a special day my daughter begged and cajoled me to take her to the pool. It is hot and humid where I live. In August it is particularly difficult to be outside for long periods of time. I didn’t want to go to the pool. I didn’t want to swim. All I wanted was to read my newspaper, but I could not take any more badgering from my little girl. I relented and we went to the pool.

I took my newspaper with me and my little girl held my hand. The gate opened and together we stood at the edge of the pool. I told her she could play at the shallow end and that I would sit near her. Needless to say I sat in a pool chair that was not near the place where my daughter wanted to play.

My little girl found a way to quietly and with great stealth move away from me and toward the deeper parts of that pool. I would look up from my newspaper occasionally and watch over her. I ushered her back to the area of the pool where I sat. I told her that our time at the pool would end if she chose to sneak over to the deep parts again.

That admonishment didn’t matter to her. She was laying on her stomach and chasing waves she was making with her hand. The waves would lead her to reach out and she would scoot closer and closer and eventually over the edge.

God intervened. He caused me to look over the top of my paper just as my little girl fell into the deep end of the pool. I jumped up from the chair and it what seems like a long, long time I raced to where she fell in. I reached my hand into the water and grabbed her ankle as she sank deeper into the pool.

The Lord helped me grab her ankle. He gave me extraordinary strength to pull her from the clutches of the pool.

She was upside down hanging from my grasp. I righted her and pulled her close. Her face was that of an astonished child. Her eyes were huge. She coughed a little water from her throat and sputtered, “I fell into the water.”

The fear in me was overwhelming. The love in me was greater still. I could only hold her and cry. I could only look to heaven and give thanks. Forgive me for not being attentive Lord.

Mr. Hiett continues his illustration. There is a man in the congregation whose name is Ron. Ron was at another spring time party. A young girl came to him and tugged on his pant leg. He looked down at her and asked what she wanted.

“Hey mister. Will you hold me?” she said.

Ron told the little girl that he would later. Moments passed and that little girl was back tugging on his pant leg.

“Hey mister. Will you hold me?” she asked him.

He told the little girl he would in a little while. He watched her as she walked away.

Moments later there was a commotion at the pool. That little girl had fallen in. There was no one to jump in after her. She died at the bottom of that pool that day.

Ron was upset and could not sleep that night. He got out of his bed and determined to find out who that little girl was. Who were her parents? Where were they? Maybe he could say something to console them.

Ron walked the neighborhood and he learned where that little girl lived. He learned her story.

The little girl’s mother was single. She had recently come to know a man. That man would be with her, but only if there were no children attached.

The little girl’s mother walked from neighbor to neighbor. She walked to other family members. The little girl’s Mom asked if any of those would take her daughter and raise her. None would.

Ron learned that the little girl was only a few days ago in another backyard where there was a pool. The little girl fell in. She was rescued and she was hugged by her rescuer. She was cared for by that family. She was loved.

The stories are true. The outcomes are true. Two little girls saved and one lost after having been saved.

Is there a moral to this story? The pools are sin and each of us will drown if we fall in. We will die unless our Father steps in to rescue us. We are all little children.

Thoughts On… “Golden Toilets”

It is my habit to walk every morning. I walk in my neighborhood which is rural. From my front door through the little town of Orchard, Texas I’ll walk about three miles. The walk takes an hour or a little more. My pace is sometimes quick, but more often leisurely. I don’t really like to walk, but I do like the benefits walking gives me. I’ve lost over forty pounds because I walk daily. The walk is good. The benefits are good. But, the real reason I walk is because I listen to preachers preach.

While I walk I listen to my former pastor, David Hodges, preach the Word. His lessons in First and Second Samuel, both Chronicles, First Peter and miscellaneous sermons teach me. I listen to John MacArthur. He has thousands of sermons that can be downloaded from the Grace To You website. I’ve listened to hundreds of his sermons. A quick search reveals greater than 100 sermons in which The Revelation of Christ Jesus is featured. I’ve listened to more than half of those.

On my walk I’ve listened to sermons delivered by Ray Steadman, who is now deceased. Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel at Costa Mesa, California and Tom Luitwieler, Pastor at Calvary Chapel at Reno/Sparks, Nevada. I’ve listened to sermons delivered by J. Vernon Magee and Jack MacArthur. I cannot recount the numbers of single sermons by numerous teachers I’ve listened to on my walks.

I do not walk alone in the mornings. My Lord walks with me. He causes me to hear His Word from many men. He leads me to experience wondrous joy and He allows me to experience woeful sorrow on these walks. For certain He reminds me in these walks and by these sermons that He is Lord of all and He will be “all in all.”

Recently I’ve been experiencing a change in major points in my theological underpinnings. The Lord has led me to hear the sermons of a steward of His Word. His name is Peter Hiett. Mr. Hiett’s testimony is both joyous and heartbreaking. Mr. Hiett is not finished giving his testimony. He is still preaching, but even he will tell that he is not preaching as the man he was, but now as the man he is.

I am not Mr. Hiett’s biographer and he certainly has not licensed me to speak for him or about him. I do find his testimony to be relevant to my own. God changed me first, then He led me to hear sermons delivered by Mr. Hiett and others to help seal the change for His Name’s sake. I will not pretend to know God’s course for me aside from a straight and narrow path. He could call me home today, tomorrow or even decades from now. One thing of which I am spiritually certain, I am changed today.

I heard a sermon given by Mr. Hiett during this morning’s walk. This was one of those leisurely paced walks. It’s a good thing, too. This was a sermon message Mr. Hiett presented to his flock in 2002. He could not possibly know this sermon would be for my benefit over a decade later.

Mr. Hiett provided an illustration. I’ll paraphrase it for the sake of brevity here.

Mr. Hiett, early in his career, served as a Youth Pastor. He found an old toilet and determined the old toilet could be put to good use. He did not say that he cleaned the old commode, but we should assume he did. That old toilet was painted gold and put on a platform. An old plumber’s plunger was discovered and it, too, was painted gold. The “golden throne and scepter” were brought to the youth and it became a symbolic reward for them. Do something well, do something scriptural, learn a lesson or just be a good kid and that child would be rewarded with time on the throne.

The “Golden Toilet” was used for a time until a child went home to his mother, Rita, and asked, “Why do those kids worship a toilet?” Rita was perturbed and sent the Youth Pastor a letter spelling out all the reasons he should not allow such celebrations in their church.

Needless to say Mr. Hiett was hurt by Rita’s accusations and he reluctantly agreed to put the “Golden Toilet” in storage. The “Golden Toilet” was put in a closet, at the back of that closet, in the darkest regions of that closet. It was covered by a tarp and left to be forgotten.

Mr. Hiett believed the matter to be over until he received another letter from another mother, Paula. Paula and Rita were in the same Women’s Bible Study. Paula reported that she was in the closet, the back of that closet, in the darkest regions of that closet and discovered under a tarp that old “Golden Toilet.” Paula complained that “Golden Toilets” should never be allowed in their church.

Mr. Hiett instructed one of his young assistants to go into that closet, the back of that closet, in the darkest regions of that closet and take the “Golden Toilet” from under the tarp. The assistant was instructed to destroy the “Golden Toilet” and place it in the dumpster with the other trash. The assistant did as he was instructed.

Mr. Hiett on the other hand remained miffed and upset that his “Golden Toilet” was the cause of such division. Rita and Paula did not have the same understanding of the “Golden Toilet” Pastor Hiett had. He grew angry and thought to leave the church for the sake of his “Golden Toilet.”

Mr. Hiett suffered a crisis of faith. He raced out of the church heading nowhere in particular. He was running from nothing in particular but from everything in general. His flock was challenging his “Golden Toilet” and he was reluctant to give it up. He became resentful because others did not see the “Golden Toilet” as valuable as he perceived it to be.

I may have missed a broader meaning to Mr. Hiett’s “Golden Toilet” testimony or I may have narrowed it too much. I see the “Golden Toilet” as my theology. What do I hold to be so valuable that I will grow resentments toward others because they do not agree or do not see my “Golden Toilet?”

There was much more to Mr. Hiett’s sermon, but it was the “Golden Toilet” illustration that impacted me most. I suppose I have my own “Golden Toilet.” I am confident the preachers I’ve mentioned above have theirs, too.

My theology has changed and for the better. Mercy will not be shown to those who are not merciful (James 2:13). It is not possible to be merciful when resentments are harbored. It is not possible to be merciful when hatred is stronger than love. It is not possible to be merciful when you are looking down your nose at another.

Mercy is the answer. After all it was His mercy bestowed on us all when Christ was obedient to the point of death on the Cross. It was His mercy given to us all when He looked out to heaven and said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” It was His mercy shown to us when a blade was pushed into His side and His blood covered the sins of the world.

Mr. Hiett finished his illustration by telling of his dash into darkness at breakneck speed. He went to the other side of Diablo Mountain and pondered his future. Mr. Hiett met Jesus there.

I’ve rushed headlong into the darkness too many times to count. I’ve met Jesus there. Many times I didn’t know it, but looking back Jesus always met me there.

My theologies have changed. The “Golden Toilet” has been destroyed and placed in a dumpster. From this day forward I pray the Lord will lead me to build no more “Golden Toilets.” I pray He will help me recognize the “Golden Toilets” of others and to give them latitude by way of mercy to display their “Golden Toilet” in ways that bring glory to God.

You can hear Mr. Hiett’s sermon. It was given on July 7, 2002. There is a great irony in this sermon. Mr. Hiett did not know when he gave this sermon that a “Golden Toilet” would eventually lead to a change in his theology and where he preached it. Read Mr. Hiett’s testimony here.

We can make our theology an idol. We can grow so proud of our opinions and of our Biblical interpretations that we lose sight of greater Truth for the sake of our “Golden Toilet.” Pray with me that our beliefs do not keep us from knowing the Truth. Pray that our minds remain open to hear Him even when we think we hold the last word on this or that. No one person knows it all and it seems to me fool hearty to defend vigorously what might not be scriptural or true.

Thoughts On… Denying Christ

Mat 10:32, 33

32 `Every one, therefore, who shall confess in me before men, I also will confess in him before my Father who is in the heavens; 33 and whoever shall deny me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in the heavens.

This statement from Christ Jesus has some remarkably serious consequences. Taking the verse by itself it reads as if any person while under duress could deny Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and consequently be lost because Jesus would speak against him before the Father.

This subject comes to light today because of the witness testimonies surrounding a mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Witnesses report a young man entered a community college classroom and lined the students there against a wall. He reportedly asked each if they were Christians. If the student’s answer was in the affirmative, then the murderer shot that student in the head. If the student’s answer was that he was not a Christian, then that student was wounded by a gunshot.

Imagine the courage of the first student who confessed he was indeed a Christian. Now imagine the second, third through ninth student who confessed their belief in Christ Jesus. Nine were killed that day. The only thing the nine had in common is that they are Christian.

What about the students who were wounded? Were any of them Christian, but too fearful of the assailant’s intent to murder those who would confess Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. We don’t know and more importantly I don’t think we need to know.

Let’s make that assumption that there was at least one of the wounded who confessed a faith in Him, but on this fateful day chose to deny Christ Jesus in order that his life might be spared.

Do we take the scripture above literally and know concretely that Jesus will deny that student before the Lord Who is in the heavens? Did that denying student’s eternal salvation get scrubbed away because he was humanly afraid? Will that hypothetical student now be punished by our Eternal Father because that student denied Christ that day?

In Matthew 10:1-15 we read that Jesus prepares His Disciples to go out. He is sending His Disciples on an evangelical mission to proclaim the Gospel as He taught them. He gives them instructions to preach the Gospel. He gives them the power to heal and the power to preach. Jesus tells them to take nothing with them that will sustain them; not even spare sandals. Jesus tells them to seek out people who are worthy and who are loving. The Disciples are instructed to stay with those good people.

Jesus then says something remarkable about the houses they come to. “Bless the family in that house with peace if that household receives you and is hospitable. If it is not then let your peace be restored to you.” Jesus was not denying the household peace and blessing, but He was telling His Disciples that staying there would be contentious. Restoration of God’s people to the Father is the overarching precept of Christ’s Gospel. Discontent and contentiousness are not.

Jesus then says to His Disciples that the unwilling household has another problem that they will have to face. God’s judgment will be put on those who reject the Word. He defines the pain of the Father’s judgment to be greater than the suffering experienced by the inhabitants of Sodom when it was destroyed by God.

In verses 16 through 29 Jesus warns His Disciples that there will be many in the towns to which they are going who will strive to harm them. He tells them to be wise and discerning. Jesus tells them that the people will complain about them and turn them over to the authorities. The Disciples should expect to be scourged at the order of the Sanhedrin. Because of this the Disciples will be brought before governors and rulers. They are to use this opportunity to advance the Gospel.

Jesus cautions the Disciples that they will be hated for the Name of Jesus. Brothers will testify against brothers. Families will be broken up because of the message they are bringing to the people. He tells them not to worry about what to say. The Holy Spirit will give the words.

He then tells them that when the persecution starts in earnest leave that city. The Gospel will not make it to every town because of the need to flee, but Christ Jesus will eventually get the Word to them all.

Jesus encourages them to go out for they are His. They are to be like their teacher. They are to be like their Lord. Jesus cautions them that if a household is the servant of the devil then that household will be like the devil. Do not fear these kinds of people. Teach the Truth. Jesus says the Light will overwhelm and destroy the darkness. Teach the Light. Shout the Truth from the rooftops.

Be encouraged to teach the Truth. Do not fear the man who can kill you. Do fear the Power than can kill your body and your soul. We see from these scriptures that God has great care for even the birds of the air. How much more does He care for us. He knows us so intimately that He literally knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knows our innermost thoughts. He knows every deed done and every deed we will do.

Now to the question at hand; Will Jesus deny the hypothetical Christian student who denied Him on that day of massacre? The simple answer is He will.  The better answer is that He will not.

It is my belief the student’s denial of Christ on that day will be the subject of Christ’s denial of Him to the Father on that day…for that incident alone.  That hypothetical student will not be denied his place in Christ’s Kingdom.

Keep this in mind as you answer these questions. Have you ever slandered a brother or sister in Christ? Have you deliberately sought to cause any person harm by your thoughts or words? Have you looked at a woman (not your wife) and wanted to have sexual relations with her? Have you wished your husband was like that other woman’s husband? Have you condemned a person because of their sexual proclivity? Have you called another person a heretic or blasphemer because that person holds an opinion of God contrary to your own? Have you wished someone dead? Do you call those who do not believe in Christ “fools?”

God knows your heart. We can deny Him in any of a myriad of ways. When we do it will be only just that He denies us to the Father who is in heaven.

Let’s be honest with ourselves at least. I’ll be honest with you. In my lifetime I have denied Him. I have denied Him in ways and in times that cause me great sorrow: Godly sorrow. Even after knowing Him and wanting to be like Him I have still done things that for all intents and purposes deny Him.

Let’s also say we have confessed our faith in Christ. Being honest with you I have reached to heaven as a reprobate and begged for forgiveness. I have been defeated to the point of wanting death. I’ve cried alligator tears confessing to Him my sins not once, but on multiple occasions. Not only for a sin committed once, but for a sin I’ve committed multiple times. I’ve gone to Him with a repenting contrite heart. I’ve been so serious in my intent to live for Him and Him only. Still being honest I’ve broken my promises. My contrite heart healed or scarred over the pain. I have gone to the Lord hating myself and He always restores me. I’ve denied Him and He will deny me before the Father, but the sin of my denial has been forgiven.

Let’s examine the story of two or three Biblical men. Perhaps in them we can find an answer to the question will Jesus deny the person who denies Him before our Father Who is in heaven?

Paul is an Apostle chosen out of season. He says of himself that he was a wretched man. He confesses that he hated Christians. He confesses he hated those who would follow the radical Rabbi named Jesus. It is safe to say Paul denied Jesus to the point he murdered, imprisoned and persecuted those who believed Him.  How do we know these things about Paul.  He confesses them in his testimony to us.

Paul’s denial was forgiven in repentance. Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus taught Paul and Paul’s heart changed.

Peter is an Apostle chosen by Christ Jesus to be the foundation of the Church. On the day Jesus was betrayed Peter denied Him three times! Jesus told of it before Peter’s denial. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him.

Luke 22:31-34
31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: 32 but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

We read later that Peter was there when Jesus was confronted by the temple guard in Gethsemane. Peter slashed out at one of them and cut off an ear. Jesus commanded Peter to put away his weapon. He healed the guard’s ear. Judas approached and kissed Jesus identifying Him as the One the guards were seeking to arrest.

Peter and the other Disciples ran leaving Christ alone in the hands of those who wished Him ill. Did Peter and the others deny Him there in Gethsemane?

Luke 22:54-62
54 And they seized him, and led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed afar off. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the court, and had sat down together, Peter sat in the midst of them. 56 And a certain maid seeing him as he sat in the light of the fire, and looking stedfastly upon him, said, This man also was with him. 57 But he denied, saying, Woman, I know him not. 58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou also art one of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not. 59 And after the space of about one hour another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this man also was with him; for he is a Galilaean. 60 But Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.

61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said unto him, Before the cock crow this day thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And he went out, and wept bitterly.

We can be sure Peter denied Christ Jesus three times. We can also be sure Peter was stricken in his heart and in his spirit when Jesus “turned and looked upon” him.

There are many scriptures that proverbially “hit me in the gut,” but this one is particularly moving. My breath is taken away. The scene in my mind’s eye is immeasurably sad. Jesus looks upon Peter and Peter realizes just how worthless he is and just how magnificent His Lord is. Too many times I’ve been in the same circumstance as Peter. I denied Him and immediately realize He is looking upon me. My heart aches in my worthlessness. My heart rejoices in that He lifts me up in His glory!

Finally think of Judas Iscariot. Here is a man called to be a Disciple by Christ Jesus. Judas learns the same lessons from Him as the others have learned. Peter, James and John competed to be the greatest among the Disciples. James’s and John’s mother campaigned that her sons would sit on Christ’s left and right. Peter was quick to act and to react. We’ve seen some of that earlier.

For roughly three years Judas walks as a Disciple with Christ. Then on one fateful day Satan enters into him.

Luke 22:1-6
1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might put him to death; for they feared the people.

3 And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.

4 And he went away, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might deliver him unto them. 5 And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. 6 And he consented, and sought opportunity to deliver him unto them in the absence of the multitude.

We have no reason to believe Judas was impacted by Satan at any other time. It is at the time of this Passover that Satan enters into Judas. I ask this; How is it Satan can enter any man unless God would allow it or deem it? Consider how God allowed Satan to impact Job. Is it too much to say when Satan or his minion horde of demons attack any of us that it is God Who allows it? Even to help discipline His children?

Judas was paid to betray Christ Jesus and that is what he did in Gethsemane on that Passover night, but before that betrayal Christ Jesus shares a meal with His Disciples which includes Judas.

Matthew 26:24-28
24 The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” 27 And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

It is clear Christ Jesus points out Judas as the man who will betray Him. There is to be great “woe” on the heart of Judas for his betrayal. Shall we put words in the mouth of our Lord and say that the great “woe” is eternal damnation? I have suffered great “woe” for my sins. As mentioned earlier I have denied Christ by my sins.

Note, too, that Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with His Disciples. Do we have reason to believe Judas Iscariot was not present or that he did not take the bread and wine from Christ’s hand? Is it possible in our zeal to avenge Christ’s betrayal in our own hearts that we have condemned Judas?

Christ Jesus leaves the place where He shared the Passover meal with His Disciples. He goes to the Garden in Gethsemane to pray. It is here where the temple guard find Him and it is here where Judas betrays Him with a kiss.

Matthew 26:48-50
48 (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him!”)

49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and took hold of Jesus and arrested him.

“Friend, do what you are here to do!” “FRIEND!” Yes, “Friend.” There is no doubt Christ Jesus knew Judas would betray Him with a kiss. And He still calls Judas, “Friend.”

What I see here is God’s overwhelming mercy being poured over Judas. Will you see it too? We know of scriptures that teach us that God knew us before He created the world. We have scriptures teaching us that God knows our hearts thoroughly and absolutely. We know that God destines all things for His glory. Even this betrayal was determined by God for His glory. His mercy is written all over this scene.

Jesus is betrayed so that He will be falsely accused, prosecuted and condemned. His is betrayed so that He will be sentenced to the Cross. He is betrayed so that He will be savagely beaten, mocked and murdered. He is betrayed so that He will be placed in a grave. He is betrayed so that He will be resurrected from that grave. He is betrayed so that His blood will be shed for the sins of the world. He is betrayed so that His mercy will be upon all.

Mat 27:3 – 5
3 Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” 5 So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself.

Can we say Judas exercised his free will to betray Jesus? Will we say he was chosen by God for this task, that his whole life boils down to one kiss of betrayal?

Judas repented of his sin. He repented to others and he repented before the Lord. Nothing escapes His attention. “Woe” of such magnitude fell upon Judas that he could not bear to live under the shadow of what he had done. Did he exercise his free will to hang himself? Did God choose him to hang himself?

No matter. God’s mercy is infinite even on those who betray Him.

Paul called himself “chief” among sinners, yet God saved him. He denied Christ. Peter denied Christ three times that night Christ was arrested. Judas denied Christ and betrayed Him with a kiss. Can any of us say we are better or worse than these three?

If Paul is chief among sinners I am not far behind. Peter denied knowing Jesus only three times. I have denied Him by my sinful behavior far more than that. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. How many times have I ignored God’s Word and paid mere lip-service to Him? Too many times to count.

Agree with my assessment or disagree. One thing we can all be certain of is His mercy. His mercy is in His shed blood. His life was given for the sins of the whole world. May we all remember Him Who gave His life for us all.

Thoughts On: A Human Being Vs. A Christian Doing

Proverbs 12:11
He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

Visions for a spirit filled future are blessings from the LORD. He chooses each of us for specific tasks in this life. He gives training, strength and courage to fulfill the ministries He ordains.

A spirit filled vision may be as basic as service to people. Feeding the hungry, bringing water to the thirsty, or giving counsel to the lost.

The inspired vision to serve is a gift. However, the gift is useless if we do not take the necessary steps to move from worldly pursuit to heavenly wisdom. Seeing a hungry man, but not feeding him is to be a human being. Seeing a thirsty man and not giving him water is to be a human being. Sharing sorrows with loved ones, but failing to pray for them with them is to be a human being.

Heavenly wisdom moves His child from being only a human being to being a Christian doing.

The Father plants in us a desire to serve His creation; even those who hate us. He does not give us the desire to leave it fallow in our hearts. He has an expectation that we will nurture His gift. He has an expectation that we will act on His gift.

A farmer’s crops do not grow because the farmer wishes they will. The Father gives the land, the seed and the rain. The farmer uses all of these to bring from the land crops ripe for harvest.

Matthew 21:28-32
28“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

In this parable Jesus gave praise to the son who was the Doer. He goes on to say that people of low reputation understood the Gospel and they believed. The elite did not see and rejected the Truth.

I pray you have big plans. It is my hope you have grand expectations. More importantly I pray you will make the LORD the preeminent Adviser in your plans.

Is the LORD your High Counselor?

James 4:13-17
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Be blessed today in this knowledge; the Father knows your heart. He knows your weakness. He gives you the power to overcome. Make your plans with His leading. Follow His growth chart. Act on His gift and strive to please Him.

(Adapted from “Walk With God: One Year Devotional.” Tyndale House; 2004)

Thoughts On… Happiness Or Joy

Happiness is an emotion we experience every so often. It’s a powerful emotion. It’s the kind of emotion we find ourselves pursuing.

Happiness is like a powerful drug. Once we have tasted it we want to taste more of it. Our bodies; our minds want to experience more of it. We deliberately seek happiness.

Happiness is envisioned in opening gifts at Christmas morning. Happiness is the anticipation of receiving something. For most of us we find happiness in watching our children and grandchildren express their happiness at their good fortune on Christmas morning.

Happiness is the emotion we feel when walking hand-in-hand with out beloved mate or your baby no matter how old your baby may be. Your baby is happy and secure in the knowledge you are close-by. Your protection is near.

Happiness is being surprised by your friends on your birthday. They remembered your birthday. They thought enough of you to remember your birthday.   Happiness is laughing at a good joke.

We all want happiness. We pursue it in our jobs and try to bank happiness. Happiness is an ideal that we chase and reach for.

Happiness is dependent on circumstances and circumstances change. My friends, happiness passes away. The toys that brought happiness rust. The loved ones we count on disappoint us. Those we put so much stock in for our happiness die; our parents, loved ones, friends.

Happiness deteriorates. One day; inevitably that thing that brought happiness is gone.

JOY, ON THE OTHER HAND, RUNS FAR DEEPER THAN HAPPINESS.

Joy’s root is in Christ where happiness is rooted in a happening. Christ is permanent and the joy in Him is forever. Happiness is fleeting.

Joy is the confident assurance that Christ Jesus is at the center of life and of living. Joy is the knowledge that God, The Father, has taken away our sins through the everlasting love of Christ Jesus. Joy is the knowledge and understanding that God is at work in our hearts.

Rom 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Joy is knowing that God will be there for us no matter what!

Philippians has been called “Paul’s Joy Letter.” It is an epistle full of love and expressions of grace to a church in Macedonia that has supported Paul and encouraged him. It’s an epistle full of love and expressions of grace through the Holy Spirit written directly to you and to me. It’s a letter written to encourage us. It is a letter reminding us of God’s affection for us.

There is real joy in Christian living and this letter points that joy out to us.

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Paul has suffered more for his Christian walk than many men could bear. He was flogged and beaten multiple times. He was run out of town on a number of occasions. He was penniless and he was hungry. He was ill without cure.

 Philippians 4:11, 12

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul’s joy rests in the strength he prayed for. He was enabled by God “…to rejoice in the Lord always.”

Paul’s purpose was to walk as Christ in Him led him to walk. Everything in Paul’s life was joy in his relationship with Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:8-11

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Even in times of need our hearts as Christians are filled with joy.  When our lives are full as Christians we share our joy.  This year reach out to the Lord.  Ask Him for the strength and power to hold and know the righteousness of Christ is in you.  Share His love.  And, as always thank Him for His grace.  Amen