April 27, 2013

I Have Reached This Conclusion – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:22 pm by sranderson0103

“Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NET)

The Book of Ecclesiastes gives us insights into the spiritual growth of a man of great wisdom. It is not straightforward history but rather, in poetic style, exposes Solomon’s inner thoughts as he progresses to the zenith of his spirituality. At the beginning of his reign over Israel, he revealed a humble servant heart when, instead of asking for great riches, he asked God for “an understanding heart to judge thy people, to discern between good and evil” (I Kings 3:9). God heard his fervent prayer and gave him both. He became renowned for his riches and his wisdom.

“When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.” (I Kings 3:28)

“Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men, …and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” (I Kings 4:29-34)

Unfortunately, as is well documented in Scripture, he became ambitious and formed alliances, marrying foreign women who led him into compromise and disobedience, setting the stage for national apostasy and idolatry upon his death. However, the book of Ecclesiastes chronicles a series of experiments which he conducted in search for the highest human good, but each forced him to conclude that “all is vanity”.

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2)

From the perspective of one who had ready access to all the world had to offer, his wise observation of “life under the sun” revealed to him no discernible pattern or purpose in the affairs of men. However, he concludes, life is the gift of God and should be enjoyed (3:13). Furthermore, he recognized the eventual judgment of God and concluded it best to live in obedience to God’s commands (3:16-17).

Our text summarizes the long search for meaning, the entire book of Ecclesiastes. Here is the secret of human fulfillment. It involves two complementary commands.

“fear God”

“keep his commandments”

Wise Solomon knew it. Christ and the New Testament writers reinforced it.

“ If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

 (1John 14:15)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” (I John 5:2)

What is “life under the sun” all about? The harsh realities and seeming paradoxes are at times bewildering and incomprehensible to us. Solomon diligently searched all this world had to offer with amazing wisdom and this is his bottom line. Literally, “this is the of man” (the word duty is not in the original). This is it. This is whole what it is all about. The rest is fluff.

Adapted from an article by John Morris

 

 

Advertisements

April 20, 2013

The Stream of God – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:24 pm by sranderson0103

“You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;

             You greatly enrich it;

             The stream of God is full of water;

             You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.

You water its furrows abundantly,

             You settle its ridges,

You soften it with showers,

You bless its growth. (Psalm 65:9-10).

The inexhaustible “stream of God,” watering the whole earth, is nothing less than the refreshing rains coming down from the heavens, “visiting” the earth on its amazing journey to the oceans, whence it flows back up to the skies again. This river incorporates all the rivers of earth, yet it is like no other river, for once it reaches the ocean, it rises into the heavens, there to flow back over the thirsty ground and finally descend once more on its endless journey.

What a wonderful provision is this river of God! Without it, all life on earth would soon die. I am blessed to be able to stand on my back porch and be reminded that in Arkansas, we have plenty. Lately, we have been getting plenty more. Here, we tend to take it for granted. We have droughts, which do incredible damage, but we see this as exceptional.

We have a difficult time comprehending the role that water plays in volatile Middle Eastern politics. Millions have died in wars fought where water was a major issue. Archeology demonstrates that they have had plenty in the distant past, but they rebelled against God and God turned their water off, just as His prophets decreed. 

Regarding Babylon (modern Iraq), Jeremiah declared…

“Because of the indignation of the LORD she will not be inhabited, But she will be completely desolate; Everyone who passes by Babylon will be horrified…(50:13).

Regarding Egypt, Ezekiel declared…

 “So I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated lands,” (29:12).

Regarding Edom (modern Jordan), Joel declared…

“… And Edom will become a desolate wilderness, Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, In whose land they have shed innocent blood,” (3:19).

Regarding Israel, Ezekiel declared…

“So throughout all their [Israel’s] habitations I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land more desolate and waste than the wilderness toward Diblah; thus they will know that I am the LORD.” (6:14).

“Thus I will make the land desolate, because they [Jerusalem] have acted unfaithfully,’ declares the Lord GOD” (15:8).

The people of these countries know about the devastating effect of a lack of water and, probably, more than ourselves, appreciate is value. Far more valuable than gold, it continually “enriches” the earth on its regular visitations… “To satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the seeds of grass to sprout? (Job 38:27.)

The Psalmist reminds us that it is by means of this gracious gift that “You prepare the earth.”  How does God do this? “You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers…” (Psalm 65:10). By this means God “prepares grain” to feed man and beast. The word “grain” (mistranslated translated “corn” in the KJV) in this and other passages refers generically to any of the cereal grains that provide the basic foodstuffs for people and animals all over the world. This is the process implied in the picture of God’s action in the very beginning.

“Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so.” (Genesis 1:29-30)

These provisions come from God’s wonderful life-giving river.

“He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth,” (Psalm 104:13-14)

These passages remind us that Jesus is not only our Creator, but is also our daily sustainer.

“…all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17).

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris

 

April 13, 2013

Follow The Lamb – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:37 pm by sranderson0103

In the beginning of Revelation chapter fourteen we read:

“behold, the Lamb

was standing on Mount Zion,

and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand.”

The Lamb, the victorious Christ, had taken His stand with the courageous army of God on earth marching in formation to battle. Describing the notable characteristics of these valiant heroes John says:

“…These are the ones who follow the Lamb

wherever He goes. … (Revelation 14:4)

We are familiar with the concept, though normally seen in reverse. The dedicated animal usually, loyally follows their master. Perhaps we can all quote following familiar American nursery rhyme.

Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.

Reversing this picture seems strange, but when we understand that this Lamb is different, it not only makes sense, it illustrates and effectively teaches conduct that is expected by God. This Lamb is far more superior to His followers than any human is to his animal.

Recall that John the Baptist pointed two of his disciples to this Lamb.

“and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said,

‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’” (John 1:36)

 

In effect, John the Baptist was telling them that it was time to stop following him and, instead, follow Jesus.

“The two disciples heard him speak,

and they followed Jesus.” (John 1:37).

Why were they instructed to follow this Lamb? There were, no doubt, numerous reasons but we read that on the previous day, when John had first seen Jesus coming, he had said, apparently to all his disciples…

“…Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away

the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

This is the first use of the word “lamb” in the New Testament, and it is significant that it refers here to the Lord Jesus as the one great sacrifice for our sins. He is called “the Lamb” thirty more times in the New Testament, the final time no longer viewing Him on the altar but in heaven.

“There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:3-4).

Yet, even as our eternal King on the heavenly throne with the Father, He is still the Lamb, and we can never ever forget that He once died for us that we might live with Him.

Long before this, Isaac once asked his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God will provide himself a lamb” (Genesis 22:7-8). God did just that 2000 years later, when Christ, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 KJV), “came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).

Then when God was ready to set His people free in ancient Egypt, He told them to place the shed blood of a spotless lamb on the doorpost of each home and said, “…When I see the blood, I will pass over you…” (Exodus 12:13). In fulfillment of all these ancient sacrifices and types, the once-for-all Lamb of God came, and “…Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” (I Corinthians 5:7).

When the church is finally victorious over Satan’s most powerful opposition, we read “‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” In chapter 21 it is revealed that the church is “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

It is interesting, in view of these profound, divine comparisons to consider the simple insight offered in the last verse of the nursery rhyme.

‘Why does the lamb love Mary so?’
the eager children cry.

‘Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.’
the teacher did reply.

Now, like John’s disciples, it surely compels us, in the very depths of our souls, to “behold” and “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”

Adapted from thoughts by Henry Morris

 

 

April 6, 2013

God Is Blameless – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:20 pm by sranderson0103

“As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” (II Samuel 22:31)

This verse is a little more than half way through David’s great “song of deliverance.” The introductory comments of the Psalm (included in the most ancient manuscripts) say, “And David spoke the words of this song to the LORD in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” David’s heart was overflowing with grateful thanksgiving and praise. The Psalm that erupted from David’s heart was evidently considered by God to be of sufficient importance to have it included twice (II Samuel 22 and Psalm 18) in His written word.

Though David wrote the Psalm in response to his immediate personal circumstances, the result was a message from God. In the second verse of the following chapter David reminds us, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.” (II Samuel 23:2). Recall that Jesus quoted the words of David (from Psalm 82) and called it “law” in John 10:34 and in the next verse, “the word of God.” Then, in that same verse added His confident affirmation regarding David’s words, “the Scripture cannot be broken.” A poetic song…yes. Rooted in and springing from the events of David’s experience…yes. But the end result was “God-breathed,” (II Timothy 3:16 NIV).

One of the most common excuses given by men for rejecting the God of the Bible is their opinion that His ways are unfair. Even Christians are prone to complain about the way God deals with them. But, the fact that we may not understand God’s ways, hardly gives us the right to pass judgment on them. He often reminds us in His word that His way is perfect and His word has been tried and proved, again and again. “For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4). “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. …” (Psalm 19:7).

The saints of Asia Minor, late in the first century, were experiencing unimaginable tyranny and misery. The book of Revelation was written to fill them with the confidence that God’s perfect, wise plan was working, in spite of their present, temporary, travail. It did not seem that way, but it was. The horrible circumstances that engulfed them, the injustice that seemed to overwhelm them, would end and justice and righteousness would prevail. They would be eternally victorious.

When the apostle Paul was writing of the proper attitude of suffering saints (Romans 8) he remembered David’s lament “But for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered,” (Psalm 44:22). Then Paul added, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).

We need to settle it in our hearts that, whether we understand them or not, God’s ways are always perfect. What He does is right, and whatever He says must be true by definition. His ways are always in the context of eternity, but we leap to judgment in terms of present inconvenience.

His perfect way is seen most fully in Christ, and His truth is heard most clearly in Christ, for “I am the way,” He said, and I am “the truth,” (John 14:6). Yet Christ’s way was through the cross, and His truth was opposed by the father of lies, (John 8:44). God’s way for us may also lead us into suffering and great opposition, but His way is always perfect, and His word is tried and true. If we trust Him through it all, He will be our shield as He was for David. “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5).

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris