weed

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Mount LaurelMountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia in the family Ericaceae, is an evergreen shrub that forms a dense thicket on the forest floor and produces beautiful pink and white flowers. My home town of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, holds its annual Laurel Festival in June to celebrate the blooming of this official state flower, which attracts thousands of tourists from the big cities every summer. You can imagine my surprise, then, when one day, while marking timber in the mountains, the forester with whom I was working blurted out that Mountain Laurel was a noxious weed! Well, a weed by definition is any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted. Thus, to this forester, who was required to crawl through the thicket of laurel every day, it was a weed. His assessment of the value of Kalmia latifolia was summed up in one word, “weed,” and with that one word, a prized possession was reduced to a worthless shrub.

To many people in the world today Christ is like a noxious weed—undesirable, troublesome, and not wanted. Things weren’t any different 2,000 years ago. Then the apostle Paul was bound in a Roman prison from which he wrote to the church in Philippi, and to Paul’s captors, Jesus Christ was an undesirable, a small speck of a man, and even counted as nothing. But Paul was enjoying and being supplied by the crucified and resurrected Christ who indwelled him to such an extent that he magnified Christ to the whole Pretorian guard. In his letter to the Philippians he wrote, “my bonds have become manifest as being in Christ among the whole Praetorian guard and to all the rest” (v. 1:13). He further explained, “even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death” (v. 1:20b). At the end of his epistle he told the Philippians that all the saints in Rome greeted them, “and especially those of Caesar’s household” (v. 4:22). So much so was his magnification of Christ that some of Caesar’s household even got saved. Thus, those who had considered Christ a mere weed now highly valued Him as a prized possession. May the Christians in this world today express and magnify Christ as the result of their enjoying Christ and being filled with Him to the extent that the people around them, who formerly evaluated Christ very little or not at all, would appreciate Christ and count all other things as refuse (as weeds) in order to gain Christ (the real prize) to the uttermost (Phil. 3:8)!

sanctuary

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Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, was very perplexed and nearly even stumbled by what he saw in the world around him. While he and the other people of God were suffering, it seemed that the unbelievers and the wicked were prospering; they were well nourished, and they went to their graves in peace. So much so was his inner turmoil until he went into the sanctuary of God. Then he received another view, a particular perception, of the situation concerning the ungodly. Not only did Asaph see the eventual judgment upon the wicked, but what is more important is that he saw that, as a seeker of God, he would be restricted by God and even stripped by God to such an extent that God Himself alone would be his only possession and only enjoyment.

In this case it is one place that changes everything. In Old Testament times that place was the sanctuary of God in the temple where there was God’s presence and His oracle. That place, however, was a prefigure of the place where God dwells and speaks today: our regenerated spirit and the church. Concerning the regenerated spirit of the believers, the apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16) and, “The Lord be with your spirit” (2 Tim. 4:22a). Concerning the church, he says, “For we are the temple of the living God, even as God said, ‘I will dwell among them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people’” (2 Cor. 6:16b), and, “In whom [(Christ)] you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit” (Eph. 2:22). The church is the house of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15). When we Christians turn to the Lord in our spirit and gather together with the called-out ones (the church), we are enlightened concerning the troubling things in our life, and we can praise God that He would be everything to us, our unique possession and enjoyment! At that time we will be able to declare with the psalmist, “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And besides You there is nothing I desire on earth. My flesh and my heart fail, But God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever” (Psa. 73:25-26).

mother died

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Mother diedI believe it was in a lecture by Stephen Covey, entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” that I heard the following story, which he was relating to the audience in order to demonstrate a paradigm shift: Stephen (if that’s who it was) was riding a bus to work one morning in New York. The bus was crowded, and opposite him was another man with several small children. The children were very unruly, running around, bumping into and disturbing other passengers, and making loud noises. In his mind Stephen was criticizing the father of the small children: “What is wrong with this man? Why can’t he keep his children under control? Why is he staring out the window as if he doesn’t even care? Doesn’t he know his kids are bothering everyone? I wish he would just get off the bus now!” While Stephen was thinking these things, the father turned and said to him, “I’m very sorry for my children’s behavior. They were up very late last night, not getting much sleep at the hospital. Their mother died just a few hours ago, and we’re on our way home.” Suddenly Stephen’s whole view changed from criticizing, despising, and disgust, to sympathizing, caring, and reaching out to offer assistance. The father’s timid opening with those words “mother died” caused Stephen to have a paradigm shift.

In the same way that this father of small children opened his situation to Stephen, Christians must learn how to fellowship. Fellowship brings in a healthy, sweet, relationship among the members of the Body of Christ. Without fellowship we are likely to remain in our critical thought and distorted view of one another. But when we have genuine fellowship, superiority complex is nullified as well as inferiority complex, we view others the same as ourselves, and the door is open for the giving and receiving of care, for the building up together in love, and for the impact in our testimony and our fruit-bearing (John 15:12-17).

come

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Come after the LordIn the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter four, there is a record of the initial move of the Lord Jesus after His baptism. Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee where He approached two pairs of brothers who were engaged in the business of fishing: Peter and Andrew, and James and John. To each pair of young men the Lord invited, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The response of each pair was exactly the same and equally astonishing to any onlooker. They immediately dropped whatever they were doing and followed the Lord. Without further explanation this is nothing less than a bizarre scene. But, upon deeper analysis something marvelous begins to emerge. It turns out that these four young men had already met Jesus a number of weeks prior to this time. This first meeting is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter one, where John the Baptist introduced Jesus to them as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Although these young men had met Jesus at that earlier date as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and they had perhaps spent the good part of a day with Him, this Jesus had disappeared in their experience, and they went back to their former occupation—in this case, fishing. Actually, the beginning of Matthew chapter four reveals that, after His introduction and baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus was thrust out into the wilderness alone for forty days to be tempted by the devil. Thus, when Jesus approached these brothers on the shore of the Sea, it was His second visit to them, and this time He came not as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but rather, He came as “a great light.” Immediately preceding His second visit, verse 16 says, “The people sitting in darkness have seen a great light; and to those sitting in the region and shadow of death, to them light has risen.”

To those of us who have had an initial visit by the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the burden of our sins was lifted, the divine, eternal life was imparted, and we experienced a most joyous day. But, for many of us, that day gradually faded as we engaged in the human activities of school, work, sports, hobbies, and various other occupations. By the Lord’s mercy, however, He would visit us again and need say only one word, “Come.” That one word from Him is so full of light and heavenly supply that we must immediately drop every other thing and follow Him. Indeed, every other thing suddenly becomes so insignificant in that great light. May the Lord grant to us daily His precious visitations and His enlightening and empowering words so that we may live a life that matches the intention of our Creator! His speaking means everything!

church

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Based on verse 28 of First Corinthians chapter twelve, it seems clear that in this chapter the author is writing about the church: “And God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,….” Much is written in chapter twelve concerning the believers as members of the Body of Christ, the church, and of the various spiritual gifts that the members may possess, such as a word of wisdom, or healing, or works of power, or prophecy, or speaking in tongues, etc. When we read chapter twelve verse 12, however, light bulbs begin to flash in our heads. Because of the context, our brain tells us that verse 12 should read as follows: “For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the church.” We expect that the author is now using the human body as an illustration of the Body of Christ, which is the church. But, instead, we are shocked to read, “…so also is the Christ.” We ponder anew what the church is! As a child we were told that the building on the street corner with stained glass and steeple was the church. In later years we came to know that the church is the regenerated people collectively—the assembly of the called out ones (ekklesia, in Greek). Now, this one word (or actually, the lack of one word that we expected to be there, and it being replaced by a different word) uplifts our entire view concerning the church: It is THE CHRIST!

Before his conversion, the author of this verse (Paul the apostle, who was formerly called Saul) was struck down by the Lord as he was traveling to Damascus to persecute the Christians there (Acts 9). The voice of the One who struck him said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are you, Lord,” responded the bewildered Saul. The answer came back, “I am Jesus whom you persecute!” No doubt, from that day forward this man had the strong realization that the people he was persecuting, those who have turned to the Lord Jesus, called upon His name, and gotten regenerated with the divine life, are truly part of Christ. May we similarly be so bedazzled by this revelation that we could have the proper discernment to know what is the church and what is not the church in the midst of the distorted world in which we live.

vanish

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VanishedIn October, 2005, Iranian President Ahmadinejad allegedly stated that he wished for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” The internet now overflows with both sides of the frighteningly volatile controversy. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations, and President Shimon Peres of Israel responded some months later that “the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map.” Thus, it is clear how Israel interpreted Ahmadinejad’s statement. Some Ahmadinejad sympathizers, who portray Iran as a victim of Israel, declared that their President’s statement was mistranslated intentionally in order to stir up support for a military invasion of Iran by the U.S. and its allies. They claim that what Ahmadinejad actually said was, “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” not that the innocent Israeli people “be wiped off the map” in the sense of a mass genocide; the thought is that Jewish rule would end in Israel, but not the end of Jewish people. To wish for an occupying regime to vanish from the page of time is certainly far less threatening than to earnestly desire that an entire nation be wiped off the map. Such a mistranslation, if that’s what it was, changes everything, right? Of course, they don’t mention that the original translation was made by the Iranian regime itself.

Well, such is the politics of our day. I personally do not trust any politicians, and I’m pretty sure that we don’t know much of what is going on in the global political realm, because of lies and propaganda. But, the Bible has something very interesting to say about the governments that these politicians run. Human governments are depicted as beasts in Daniel chapter 7 and elsewhere. Also, in Daniel chapter 2 there is a vision of a huge human image of five sections: the first section, the head, was gold, followed by silver, then bronze, then iron, and lastly, the feet were iron mingled with clay. Each section of this image corresponds to a particular kingdom, and Nebuchadnezzar saw “a stone…cut out without hands, and it struck the image at its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed all at once, and they became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34b-35). Indeed, when Christ returns He will be that stone that causes all the human governments to vanish like chaff in the wind, and His kingdom, as a great mountain, will fill the whole earth! We may not know exactly what is going on in politics and governments, but if our spirit is keen and we comprehend the signs in the Bible, we will recognize what is happening behind the scenes—the way is being prepared for the second coming of Christ! Under His dominion all the current political problems will be wiped off the map (oh, I mean they will vanish).

became

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FossilOne word in the original language of the Bible can change our whole paradigm. As an example (and I can post more examples at a later date), consider one word in Genesis 1:2—was. And the earth was waste and void; this is how it reads in a number of different translations. Are you one of those Christians who believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the dinosaurs were on board Noah’s ark? Don’t feel bad if you are; perhaps 40% of adults in the United States believe as you do. But what if one word was wrongly translated in Genesis? And the earth became waste and void. In fact this one word must be translated as became according to the original Hebrew language and according to the entire revelation in the rest of the Bible. Just a few verses later (2:7) the same word is translated as became—“and man became a living soul.” Isaiah 45:18 says in particular that God did not create the earth waste and void. Yet, when we make this one little correction, suddenly there is room in the Bible and in our thinking for the earth to be much, much older than 6,000 years! God created (Genesis 1:1); it was perfect so that the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:4-7); it was not waste and void (Isaiah 45:18). But then it became waste and void: probably Lucifer’s rebellion damaged the creation issuing in God’s judgment upon it and it subsequently becoming waste and void. How much time elapsed between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?—no one knows, but perhaps billions of years. G. H. Pember expounded on this possibility well over 100 years ago in his book Earth’s Earliest Ages.  When we make this one little correction, we no longer have to try to defend a position which is contrary to the bulk of scientific evidence which says that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

mutation

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DNA mutationThe microorganism that causes malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, has been called the million-murdering death, because that’s about how many people it kills each year. During World War II, the drug chloroquine was developed, which was very effective at killing malaria. But within 40 years the deadly bacteria had evolved resistance to chloroquine and rendered the drug useless in most cases. It turns out that a change in the amino acid sequence of a single protein encoded by the parasite’s DNA confers the drug resistance, and this change is caused by two primary mutations. Thus, because of mutation, the whole landscape has changed in the fight against malaria.

No doubt, of this story of malaria there are many applications to our Christian experience, and I can contribute more blog posts at a later date. For one, the apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that “Satan himself transfigures himself into an angel of light.” The devil is always changing his tactics in his attempt to destroy the believers in Christ and tear down the Body of Christ. As this age progresses on toward the second coming of Christ, Satan will mutate himself in more insidious forms “so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen” (Matthew 24:24).  May we who are Christians be fresh in our contact with the Lord and ever on guard against the stratagems of the devil!

newborn babe

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As Christians we know that we must pray, that we must rise early every morning to contact the Lord before we get wrapped up with the things of our daily life, that we must read the Bible, that we must not love the world, that we must deny ourself, and etc. Invariably, however, many of us struggle to carry out these imperatives. We can say on New Year’s day that we will make a new resolution to do these things, and we may have a strong start, but after a few weeks, or more likely a few days, we fall behind, get discouraged, and often give up. There is one word that can change everything—newborn babe. ANewborn babe young woman who discovers that she is pregnant or who has just had a baby will amazingly find herself able to do so many things that she was totally unable to do previously. Suddenly she can stop smoking or drinking alcohol so as not to damage her unborn child. Suddenly she is able to deny herself and rise up in the middle of the night to care for her helpless little one, to change a diaper or to prepare a bottle. In fact, she is forced to do it! When we find ourselves falling back in our Christian life, it is likely that we are not participating in the shepherding of others. But if we could turn our attention from ourselves to the care of someone younger or more needy, we will often find that we are forced to contact the Lord in prayer, because we dare not handle this person independent of the Lord. When we are caring for a new believer, we are forced to study the Bible in order to find the answers to the young one’s questions. We must take the time to feed on the Lord and to drink of Him ourselves if we expect to have a supply of spiritual food and drink with which to nourish and refresh others. Our newborn babe in Christ forces us to carry out all the imperatives in the Christian life, yet, at the same time, we surely will have the fullness of joy that the Lord speaks of in John 15, a chapter on fruit-bearing!

Christians on Campus

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Over twenty years ago, Christians on Campus Bible Study changed the course of my life. I had just moved to Austin, TX, to begin a graduate program at UT. I had been a believer in Christ for many years, and had been freshly baptized in the Gulf of Mexico on my way to Texas. So I was looking for an opportunity to join myself to some other Christians who were having a Bible study.

Within 24 hours after landing at the university, I saw a table on the campus with a sign that said, “Bible Study – Sign Up Here.” This was the UT club called Christians on Campus. I began to meet with some of the brothers for a weekly Bible study which was covering the book of First Corinthians. After 2 or 3 weeks we were in chapter 2, and when verse 14 was read, I was so struck by the word “soulish.” The verse reads like this: “But a soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually.” I suddenly realized, “That’s me! I don’t know the things of the Spirit of God!” I had been trying to read the Bible on my own for years, and though I knew it was important, I could not understand why it was the Word of God. I could not understand what it was trying to convey. It seemed like a bunch of parables and stories and history of the Jews. But why is this the Word of God? And that word “soulish,” what is that? I had never seen that word in my entire life. So I asked the brothers what that word “soulish” meant. This led to a lengthy opening of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and I was helped to see that man has a spirit, a soul, and a body (which has become flesh because of the fall)–1 Thessalonians 5:23. And when we have a living that is governed by the lusts in our flesh, then we are “fleshy” (1 Corinthians 3:1). When we have a living that is governed by our soul, our psychological being with the reasonings in our mind or the feelings in our emotions, then we are soulish (v. 2:14). But when we, as born again Christians, have a living that is governed by Christ in our spirit, then we are spiritual (v. 2:15). By simply asking about that one word “soulish,” I saw, for the first time in my life that I had a spirit, a human spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11), that I could exercise at any time to contact the Lord who is Spirit (John 4:24). That discovery was the greatest discovery of my Christian life, changing the course of my life, and it all began by me asking about that very unfamiliar word–soulish! Many thanks to Christians on Campus at The University of Texas at Austin!