Friday, July 31, 2009

God's Wrath: Romans 1:18-32 Revisited

The Church is deficient at many points today. But there is probably no point where it is more evidently deficient and even explicitly contrary to the teachings of the New Testament than in its neglect of the wrath of God. To judge from most contemporary forms of Christianity, God's wrath is either an unimportant doctrine, which is an embarrassment, or an entirely wrong notion that any enlightened Christian should abandon.

The biblical writers had no such hangups. Rather than suppressing this foundational part of the gospel like so many do today, they spoke of God's wrath frequently, obviously viewing it as one of God's great "perfections"---alongside His other attributes. In the Old Testament, more than 20 words in nearly 600 important passages are used to refer to God's wrath. Other, very different words relate to human anger. These passages are not isolated or unrelated, as if they have been added to the Old Testament at some later time. They are basic and are integrated with the most important themes and events of Scripture.

In the New Testament, there are two main words for wrath: 'thumos,' from a root that means "to rush along fiercely," "to be in a heat of violence," or "to breathe violently," and 'orge,' which means "to grow ripe for something." The New Testament portrays wrath as something that builds up over a long period of time, like water collecting behind a great dam.

We find this understanding of the wrath of God in Romans, where Paul refers to wrath 10 times:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." (Romans 1:18)

"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." (Romans 2:5)

"But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans 2:8)

"But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)." (Romans 3:5)

"Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression." (Romans 4:15)

"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:9)

"What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." (Romans 9:22)

"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Romans 12:19)

"For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Romans 13:4)

"Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." (Romans 13:5)

In each instance the word he uses is 'orge.' His point is not that God is suddenly flailing out in impatient, irritable, ill-tempered anger against something that has offended Him momentarily, but rather that the firm, fearful hatred of God of all wickedness is building up and will one day result in eternal condemnation of all who are not justified by Christ's righteousness.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hindrances to World Evangelism

by Kim Harrington

"Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen." (Mark 16:14)

"Depending on how you define the term, there are anywhere between 1500 and 3900 unreached "people groups" in the world today, and approximately two and a half billion people who are as yet totally unevangelized. "Unreached" is not the same as "unsaved." Unreached means that, at this time, there is no availability of the Gospel within a reasonable distance, within the framework of their own language and culture. Essentially, it means there is no way of them getting saved today, short of a sovereign visitation of God.

In addition to this, there are many millions of people who are technically within "reached" or "evangelized" areas who have, nevertheless, never heard the name of Jesus Christ. Finally, there are multitudes of people who know something of the Christian religion, who may even belong to some church or another, but have never heard the saving Gospel, who don't know that Jesus died for them, and that they can have assurance of eternal life through faith in Him.

Bottom line: a whole lot of people who have yet to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The situation is far from hopeless, however. There are over five million Bible-believing congregations in the world today. If you divided the unreached people groups among the evangelical churches of the world, even using the inflated estimate of 3900 such peoples, you'd have 1282 fellowships of believers to every unreached people group. It shouldn't be too hard to handle when you think of it like that, right?

But let's get even more reasonable. We know that not most of the Christians found in those congregations are not likely to become missionaries, so what if we tallied up just those who were of prime missionary age, say, 18-35 years old... If just one out of two hundred of these young people went on the mission field, that would still be eight full-time missionaries for every unreached people, tribe, and tongue in the entire world. Personally, I think we could do better than that, but we're trying to be as reasonable and conservative as we can.

Why then are there still so many unreached people in the world? Why has it taken the church of Jesus Christ so long to get around to actually accomplishing the Great Commission--to go into all the world and preach the Gospel? This was exactly the question asked of one of Hudson Taylor's young missionaries to inland China in the last century. Upon being told the story of Jesus, a man asked, "When did this happen?" "Over eighteen hundred years ago," the missionary replied. "Why did it take you so long to get here--what of all my ancestors who have perished in the meantime?"

Good question. And applicable to this very day. In spite of the intensive drives of many denominations and missions organizations in the last ten years to "reach the world by the year 2000" or evangelize the "Ten-forty Window," in spite of worldwide prayer efforts for "strategic cities" and specific people groups, the statistics remain much the same.

Ralph Winter, founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions, recently confirmed something that I, from my own more limited perspective, had suspected for some time. He noted that, "The world Christian movement has largely stalled in relation to the Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist bloc of unreached peoples." Well folks, those three religions comprise the lion's share of the unreached peoples--if we're stalled there, we're stalled! Not much progress is being made. We're talking and teaching and researching the lost peoples of the world, but no extra missionaries are being sent forth. It's a clear case of too much talk and not enough action.

Why is this so? How can the American church, while claiming to be partaking in fresh fire from on high, a modern-day "great awakening," be so impervious to the dire need of the lost multitudes of the world? Where is our conscience? What has distracted us from the primary purpose, the number one issue on the heart of God--world evangelism? Read on, and find out. But be prepared to be convicted and challenged. And please don't read on, only to harden your heart by putting off the plight of the unreached peoples once again. That would be a sin for which you may be held accountable at the judgment seat of Christ.

Theological Hindrances

Solid, Bible-believing Christians would hesitate to name faulty theology as one of the reasons they are not more burdened for world evangelism, but it is a major factor nonetheless. Many evangelicals and charismatics have quietly, thoughtlessly, bought into heretical doctrines by default. Let me explain.

Universalism is the heretical belief that everyone will ultimately be saved, or at least have some sort of chance to get right with God after this life. It has recurred throughout church history because even good Christian people often find eternal torment a little hard to accept. Surely God wouldn't allow so many innocent people to suffer such an extreme punishment as hell if they've never really heard a decent presentation of the Gospel? I once had to face off a class of outraged Bible college students for bringing up the subject of eternal punishment for those who've never heard the Gospel! These were...students preparing for the ministry who had not yet come to grips with the biblical doctrine of hell. Somehow, they seemed to believe that God would give an individual the benefit of the doubt, based on their sincerity, even though he or she was a sinner who didn't believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Annihilation is the belief that unsaved souls will be destroyed completely, will cease to exist entirely, rather than being subjected to eternal punishment. It is also unscriptural, yet many otherwise good Christians would rather believe in it than in hell and damnation. These doctrines aren't talked about, especially by name--our elders might get upset--but some believers secretly harbor them in the back of their minds. They simply cannot reconcile a just and loving God with such a outrageous doctrine as eternal punishment in the flaming inferno of hell. The Lord must have some contingency plan; surely He doesn't intend to send all those innocent people to such a fate? I t's unthinkable.

Furthermore, it makes us feel guilty for not having done more to save them, doesn't it? Surely the Lord is not going to hold us responsible for their souls! That watchman stuff was for Ezekiel, not for Christians in the age of grace. God certainly must understand how shy some of us are, or how little money we have to give to missions, or how ungifted we may be in evangelism... Let's face it, we'd be in serious trouble with the Lord if He was in earnest when He issued the Great Commission, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel."

Unfortunately for us, He gave every indication of being dead serious about it. He expects us to get the job done, regardless of how many have or haven't responded up until now, regardless of what we feel our limitations or conflicts to be. Certainly God is able to enable us to do what He clearly commanded us to do, just as He enabled Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt, in spite of that man's initial objections.

Another common theological hindrance to world evangelism is Hyper-Calvinism. Again, we may not call it by name, but it goes along the lines of what a Baptist elder told William Carey when he first proposed a missions program for that denomination back in the 1790s. "Young man, sit down," the venerable officer said. "If God is pleased to save the heathen, He'll do it without your help or mine." We may acknowledge that God wants our help, but we have slippery ways of excusing ourselves when we fail. "I'm sorry, God, for not being obedient and witnessing to that individual, but I'm sure in Your foreknowledge You knew how I'd respond, and had already made other plans for reaching him..." Even if that were true, do you want to be the disobedient servant who never did his Master's will? We cannot hide behind God's sovereignty as an excuse for failing to do our own duty.

All of these doctrines are simply ways to excuse ourselves for our lack of zeal and obedience. Let's get honest and quit hiding behind them.

Selfish Hindrances

I'm going to throw a couple more fancy ten-dollar words at you again, but don't be put off by them. They are mere descriptions for things that we all may be guilty of to some degree or another.

The first is Hedonism, the preoccupation with pleasure and comfort. It has no doubt kept more people from the mission fields of the world than any other single factor. Most Americans wouldn't dream of giving up their present lifestyle with all its comforts and niceties--if anything they plan to go up in the world and be more comfortable still, not less so! I can't tell you how many times I've been asked, in reference to my own three-year stint in India, "How could you live in such primitive conditions?... did you have electricity, running water... why, I hear they don't even have normal toilets over there!" As a matter of fact, we did have electricity--well, most of the time--but there were many adjustments in lifestyle, nevertheless.

Sacrifice is a concept almost unknown to the present generation. Just twenty years ago we were sending out many more missionaries than we are today. They were more idealistic than practical, and they had a few rude awakenings, but for the most part, they got over it and managed to do a work for Jesus Christ.

The trend today seems to be towards short-term missionaries. It is very appealing because it involves a low level of commitment and a strictly limited sacrifice--the "missionary" always has the comfort of knowing he will be back home in a few weeks. Most don't even go through the challenge of learning the language of the host country with any degree of proficiency.

Materialism has also hindered missionary activity in recent years. We love our money and the things that it can buy us. We need that new gadget, the latest computer, the most up-to-date microwave or cell-phone. Our love for more and more products and things keeps us strapped financially, so that we never have enough money to give substantially to the work of world evangelism. We're too busy spending money on ourselves to have much left over to help support a missionary and his family. We're much like the Southerners who hoarded gold and money during the Civil War while the troops on the front lines were lacking the basic necessities of life. They lost the war, and so will we if we do not change our ways. We will all feel the pain of defeat if the cause of world evangelism fails. We need to assess our priorities and do something about it.

Pastors, why is it that the missionary budget is always the first to feel the crunch if the offerings fall-off a little? Aren't there other, less strategic, ministries that can be put aside for a few months? How can we justify supporting an American evangelist with a television budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, while ignoring the more simple, yet important, needs of missionaries on the front lines? The evangelist may be doing little more with his money than creating a super-star status for himself--the missionary is often on the very cutting edge of the battle for souls. I'm not against evangelists--I am simply arguing that we should put our money where it can do the most good for the kingdom of God, while supporting other worthwhile causes, as well.

Ignorance of the Task

The American Christian is subjected to a continual barrage of conflicting half-truths when it comes to the state of world evangelism today. In an effort to raise funds and demonstrate how effective they are, many organizations habitually overstate the progress they have made. Oftentimes it is simple carelessness, or omission of certain details that are deemed unimportant; sometimes it's overt misrepresentation. The city of Madras in southern India has been saved many times over, if the reports of all the various evangelists who have held successful crusades there can be believed. Nevertheless, Christians remain a small minority in that Hindu city. Others claim to have visited every home in India with the Gospel--more than once--but in fourteen years of ministering in that land I have yet to meet anyone who has been visited by one of these door-to-door evangelists.

From what the average Christian hears on Christian radio and television today, it must certainly be assumed that the whole world is reached already, that the job is being done by much more able people than ourselves. If there are still a few unreached people in India or China, then all those dynamic national evangelists and power-house preachers with their mass crusades will certainly have the job done within a few short years! That's the impression created, but unfortunately, it's not accurate.

If native workers were really getting the job done, the statistics wouldn't be as dismal as they are. Regardless of the well-presented arguments of some ministries, there is still a tremendous need for foreign missionaries in most fields of the world today.

Radio and television evangelism can be effective in sowing seeds of the Gospel, but there are severe limitations... (1) Few people own televisions or radios in developing countries. (2) The message is too often broadcast in English instead of the local languages. (3) Although many unchurched people listen to Christian radio, it is still a minute portion of the population as a whole--it stands to reason that Muslims are not gathering around to listen to a great deal of Christian programming. (4) The Bible says "Go ye therefore," not "send ye airwaves therefore." People do not get discipled and planted in the local church through radio and television ministries. These may be helpful in disseminating the knowledge of Christ in a general way, but someone still has to go in personally and consolidate any gains that are made.

You Can Make a Difference

As we said in the opening paragraphs, the need is tremendous, but we do have the resources to get the job done--in our generation, perhaps in a few short years--if only we'd begin to allocate the resources, both human and financial, to the all-important area of world evangelism. You can make a difference yourself, a big difference as a matter of fact, by getting personally involved in the world missionary.

You could go personally and really be on the front lines of the adventure. What more valuable and exciting way to spend your life than to be a part of winning unreached nations to Jesus Christ? Any sacrifice is worthwhile, considering the contribution you'd be making. An old friend of mine recently held a conference in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. He beamed with the satisfaction of a job well done as he looked out over a vast sea of faces that would never had known a personal relationship with Jesus had he not gone to minister in that war-torn district some twelve years ago. He made a difference and so can you.

You can help the cause of world evangelism by giving sacrificially to missionaries who are getting the job done. Give discriminately, find out about the missionaries you support, for the great majority of the world's Christian workers are involved in support ministries among already reached people, and although there may be a place for such ministries, you'll get more for your dollar by giving to front-line evangelistic work, no matter how humble the particular ministry may be at this time. Remember, it takes some time to get a foot in the door, but once an evangelist starts making headway among a particular unreached people, it can quickly become very fruitful. Get behind the missionaries who are on the cutting edge of evangelism and church-planting, so they don't have to worry about finances. The late Danny Ost, missionary to Mexico City, used to guarantee a soul for every dollar given. Inflation may have changed that figure since his day, but there are still many workers who are really getting the job done. Get behind them and share in the rewards, as well as the responsibility, for their success.

Third, you can pray. The Apostle Paul requested prayer all the time from the churches that he related to, so it must be effective. He wouldn't have just waste his breath, especially as those remarks are recorded in the Holy Scriptures! Prayer really can change things. Prayer was responsible for the fall of the Iron Curtain, and it can open other closed doors, as well. Pray for the workers you know, and pray for those blocs of people that are still so resistant: the Hindus, Muslim, and Buddhists mentioned earlier. Pray that more laborers may enter the field, full-time laborers who have taken the time to learn the language and the culture of the people they intend to minister to, well-supported laborers who don't have to spend half of their time trying to raise money to care for their families and underwrite their ministries.

As you pray, you may very well feel led to take up options number one and two, as well--to give more, and to possibly even go yourself to the mission field. There are certainly a lot worse ways you could spend your life and money.

We can reach this world. We just have to cast aside the hindrances and go for it."

The above article is from

Also see:
Eleven Imperative Reasons for World Evangelism

“Did I firmly believe as millions say they do that the knowledge and practice of religion would mean to me everything, I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity slone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
-an Atheist’s statement

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Romans 2: 17-29

"Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2: 17-29)

Christians sometimes refer to unbelievers as "sinners" (condescendingly) as if Christians were not sinners. This can easily turn into a hypocritical attitude.

Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are extremely zealous in their works, known especially for knocking on doors. But they do it to work toward their salvation. The Christian, in contrast, should witness to others (evangelize) and do good works out of thankfulness and love to Christ Who has already saved them, and out of a burden for souls to be saved from Hell.

I am learning that, although we need to discern, test the spirits and guard against false doctrine (especially today when there are so many televangelists teaching false doctrine and even heresies), obedience (to Christ) is really more important than perfect doctrine. You can have all your 'doctrinal ducks' lined up perfectly in a row, but still be legalistic or prideful or a hypocrite.

"Circumcision of the heart" in verse 29 speaks of regeneration (i.e., being born again).

"And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." (Deuteronomy 30:6)

The true sign of belonging to God is not an outward mark on the physical body (i.e., circumcision), but the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit within (i.e., circumcision of the heart).

In verse 17, Paul addresses the person who considers himself to be religious. In Paul's day this person was the Jew ("Now you, if you call yourself a Jew..."). Today the person who fills this category could be the Fundamentalist, a church-going Protestant, a devout Catholic, or some other.

Just imagine what such a religious person might be thinking. Listening to Paul describe the pagan morality of the day, he would be quick to join Paul in condemning it. He might point out that things are in such a terrible state today. Immorality, lying politicians, crime, gay marriage, abortion, pedophiles, rapists, murderers, etc. If God is a God of justice, He will certainly judge all these wicked people severely. So preach it, Paul! Tell all those drug dealers, those terrorists, and all those terrible people what they need to hear! But leave me out of it, because I'm a religious person. I go to church, I've been baptized and confirmed, I sing in the choir, I take communion, and I support the church financially.

Paul's response would be that such a religious person still needs the gospel. Why? Because God is not interested in outward things alone; things like church membership, how many church committees you're on, whether you're a deacon or a greeter at your church, etc. God is interested in what is inside a person. The Bible says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

In Romans 2:17-20, the religious person of Paul's day makes eight important claims:

-God has given us His law.
-He has entered into a special relationship with us.
-Because we have been given His law, we know His will.
-We approve only the most excellent of moral standards.
-We are guides for the blind.
-We are light for those who are in the dark.
-We are instructors for the foolish.
-We are teachers of spiritual infants.

And each of these claims is actually true. The Jews did have important spiritual advantages and were to be lights in this dark world. "Salvation is from the Jews," said Jesus (John 4:22).

But knowledge of the ways of this true God is not enough! God judges according to truth and not according to appearances; according to what men and women actually do and not according to their mere professions. "Faith without works is dead." You can say you're a Christian, but if the fruit you produce is that of a wicked pagan, then your works show that you are not what you claim to be. Larry Flynt claimed to have had a 'born again' experience many years ago, yet he refused to give up "Hustler" magazine. If he truly had been regenerated and become a true follower of Christ, surely he would have repented of having been the owner and president of one of the major pornography magazines. An apple tree does not produce lemons. If you are a follower of Christ, you will do the works of Christ, not the works of the devil. I personally knew a guy who claimed to have 'walked with the Lord' for about a year at that time. Yet he was a male stripper. His occupational profession made his verbal profession (i.e., claim) of faith seriously suspect.

What Paul tells the Jew is that God is not satisfied with knowledge of the right way only. He is concerned with deeds, exactly what Paul has written to the moral pagan (Romans 2:6-16), and by that standard the Jew is condemned exactly as the pagan is condemned. He judges another, but he is condemned out of his own mouth because he does those very same things himself (compare Romans 2:1 and Romans 2:21-23).

If you go up to say, 100 people on the street, and ask each of them, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?", almost all of them would answer, "Yes." However, if you went over each of the Ten Commandments with them, and if you pressed them to answer honestly, you would see that all of them will have broken the Ten Commandments. For example, the questions might go like this:

"Have you ever lied? Even a white lie?"

"Have you ever stolen anything, no matter the value?"

"Have you ever lusted? Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that even if you just look at a woman to lust after her in your heart, you have committed adultery in your heart."

"Have you ever hated anyone? Jesus said in Matthew 5:22 that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment."

"Have you ever used God's Name as a curse word? That is called blasphemy, and is very serious."

"If, when you stand before God on judgment day, and he judges you according to the Ten Commandments, which are His Law---and we have only gone over a few of them---will you be guilty or innocent? Will you go to Heaven or Hell?"

"Jesus said, in Matthew 5:20, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

"If you think you will still go to Heaven, despite your sins, because you say that God is a forgiving and loving God, then think about this: Imagine that a murderer or rapist stands before a judge, and the judge says, "I'm feeling good today, so I think I'll just excuse you, and let you go free. I know you've raped 30 women and then mutilated them and killed them, but I'm in a forgiving mood, so you are free to go, and all charges against you are now dropped. I'm setting you free to return to society." Would that be a good judge? Would that be a fair and just judge? No, of course not. Likewise, if God just arbitrarily forgives murderers, rapists, blasphemers, child molesters, adulterers, and other wicked sinners, simply because He's loving, then He is certainly not being a good Judge. He would then be a lousy, horrible Judge. He would not be just. He would not be righteous. He would not be exercising justice."

"Now, if a judge was getting ready to send that rapist or murderer to prison for life, posting a bail of a hundred million dollars (which that rapist or murderer could never even hope to pay), and someone stepped in and paid the bail for them, so that a legal transaction was made, and the criminal was set free, shouldn't that criminal be eternally grateful to the person who paid their bail? Of course!"

"In fact, someone did just that. The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died, paying the price, so that you and I would not have to go to Hell. If we admit that we are wicked sinners, deserving of eternal punishment, and if we repent (turn away) from our sins and surrender ourselves completely to Christ Jesus and make Him the Lord of our lives, He will wash away our sins and make them white as snow."

But the Jew had one last argument regarding his being religious. He had been circumcised, and circumcision had brought him into visible outward fellowship with that body of covenant people to whom God had made salvation promises. It was like saying that circumcision (our counterpart is baptism) had made him a member of the church; and because he was a member of the church, his salvation was assured. Paul's reply is not that circumcision has no value. Sacraments have value in pointing to spiritual realities and in strengthening faith. But they do not have value as ways of salvation, since they are only external things and God looks at what is inside a person.

Paul does not reply that one does not have to be a Jew to be saved. Instead, he states that one has to be a true Jew, which is a matter of upright conduct that flows from a new life within. "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code" (verses 28-29). God is concerned not just with our knowing the truth, but with our obeying its precepts, which we do not do. So, to become a true Jew, we need a Savior!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Romans 2: 1-16

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares." (Romans 2:1-16)

Verse 1: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else..."

This is similar to Matthew 7:1-5: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

These verses are condemning hypocritical or self-righteous judgment of others. Jews tended to look down on Gentiles and saw them as pagans.

Today, an equivalent might be a white person saying that black people are all criminals, just because they are black, or saying that Mexicans are all lazy, just because they are Mexican. This same self-righteous hypocrisy is attributed to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13-39.

However, people will often misuse these verses to say, "You can't judge," when someone else says something like "Homosexuality is a sin." This is a wrong interpretation, because, for example, Matthew 7:6 says "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs." We must use judgment to determine who are "dogs" or "pigs."

(BTW, I believe "dogs" and "pigs" refer to those who reject the gospel after it is presented to them. If they don't want to hear the gospel, then you are wasting the words of Life on them if you continue trying to force it upon them.)

Another example of how we must use judgment is 1 Corinthians 5:9, which tells us not to associate with sexually immoral people. We must use judgment in order to determine who is sexually immoral. And 2 Corinthians 7:14 says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, so we must use judgment and discernment to guard against this. Philippians 3:2 says "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh," referring to Paul's opponents who were opposed to the gospel and had distorted the meaning of circumcision. They had to use judgment and discernment to determine who those people were. 1 John 4:1 exhorts us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits, because there have been many false prophets. Again, we have to use judgment and discernment to do so. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 also tells us to test everything.

1 Corinthians 6:3 says, "Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!"

1 Corinthians 5:3 states, "Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present."

1 Corinthians 5:12 asks, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?"

So we must judge between what is right and what is wrong (sin), and between true doctrine and false doctrine. And we must call sin what it is, because God calls it sin. However, we cannot hypocritically look down on others, and say that they are more evil than we are, because we are sinners as well.

Vs. 5. "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6. God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

Everyone will be judged according to their works. The lost will be judged (at the Great White Throne Judgment) and found wanting, because even one "tiny" sin (though in reality, no sin is tiny) will keep a person out of Heaven. God does not judge on a curve, as some people think. Neither does God weigh a person's good deeds against their bad deeds on a scale. Instead, God judges us against the standard of His own holiness.

Verse 6 suggests that there will be different levels of punishment in Hell. A person who lived a relatively moral life (at least, in comparison with other people) will not suffer the same as a mass murderer. Rev. 20:12-13 also talks about the dead being judged according to what they had done.

"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:47-48) This suggests different levels of punishment. "Entrusted with much" may refer to the amount of spiritual truth they were exposed to; also compare Luke 12:47-48 to Romans 2:12-16.

But the saved will also be judged according to works. However, their sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ, and the righteousness of Christ has been attributed to them (Jesus' perfect, sinless life on earth apparently serves as a substitution for our sinful lives on earth; He lived as the Second Adam, living the perfect life which Adam failed to do). So, just as God looked down at the broken tablets containing the Ten Commandments in the Ark of the Covenant, and saw them covered by the Atonement Cover (the Mercy Seat, which was the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant) sprinkled with the blood of the spotless lamb, so God sees the believer as covered by the blood of Jesus the Spotless Lamb. God sees the ransomed elect as holy and righteous. So the Great White Throne Judgment will not be an issue for the saved.

However, the works of the saved will be judged at the Bema Seat, also referred to as the Judgment Seat of Christ. But they will not be judged as to their salvation. Heaven is already promised to them. Rather, their good works will be judged to see how much of a reward (if any) they are to receive. Those things that were not done for the sake of Christ (in other words, those 'good works' that were done for selfish reasons) will be burned up. For whatever remains, they will be rewarded. However, they will later cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, because, without Jesus (and the power of the Holy Spirit), they wouldn't be able to do anything at all, and without Jesus, they wouldn't even make it into Heaven.

"12. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law..."
This helps answer the question, "What about the people who have never heard the gospel?" God judges according to the light available to people. Gentiles will not be condemned for not obeying a law they did not possess. However, they still have a God-given conscience---by the conscience, God has written His law on their hearts, because they still basically know the difference between right and wrong, and our conscience accuses us of those things we know are wrong.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Romans 1:18-32

"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 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:18-32, NIV)

1:27 "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, gonorrhea, HIV, and the enteric parasites collectively known as the Gay Bowel Syndrome are some of those "due penalties." Since many contacts occur between strangers (70% of gays estimated that they had had sex only once with over half of their partners), and gays average somewhere between 106 and 1105 different partners/year, the potential for infection is considerable. In a San Francisco study of 655 gays, only 24% claimed to have been monogamous in the past year. In one study, the annual incidence of hepatitis A in homosexual men was 22 percent, whereas no heterosexual men acquired hepatitis A. In 1976, a rare airborne scarlet fever broke out among gays and just missed sweeping through San Francisco. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that 29% of the hepatitis A cases in Denver, 66% in New York, 50% in San Francisco, 56% in Toronto, 42% in Montreal and 26% in Melbourne in the first six months of 1991 were among gays. A 1982 study "suggested that some transmission from the homosexual group to the general population might have occurred."

25% of white gays admitted to sex with boys 16 or younger as adults. In a 9-state study, 33% of the 181 male, and 22% of the 18 female teachers caught molesting students did so homosexually (though less than 3% of men and 2% of women engage in homosexuality).

70% to 78% of gays reported having had a sexually transmitted disease. The proportion with intestinal parasites (worms, flukes, amoeba) ranged from 25% to 39% to 59%. As of 1992, 83% of U.S. AIDS in whites had occurred in gays. 10% came down with hepatitis B and 7% contracted hepatitis A during the 6-month study.

The typical life span of homosexuals suggests that their activities are more destructive than smoking and as dangerous as drugs. Obituaries numbering 6,516 from 16 U.S. homosexual journals over the past 12 years were compared to a large sample of obituaries from regular newspapers. Less than 2% of homosexuals survived to old age. If AIDS was the cause of death, the median age was 39. For the 829 gays who died of something other than AIDS, the median age of death was 42, and 9% died old. The 163 lesbians had a median age of death of 44, and 20% died old.

Two and eight-tenths percent (2.8%) of gays died violently. They were 116 times more apt to be murdered; 24 times more apt to commit suicide; and had a traffic-accident death rate 18 times the rate of comparably aged white males. Heart attacks, cancer and liver failure were exceptionally common. Twenty percent of lesbians died of murder, suicide, or accident--a rate 487 times higher than that of white females aged 25-44.

Those who treat AIDS patients are at great risk, not only from HIV infection, which as of 1992 involved over 100 health care workers, but also from TB and new strains of other diseases. Those who are housed with AIDS patients are also at risk. Dr. Max Essex, chair of the Harvard AIDS Institute, warned congress in 1992 that "AIDS has already led to other kinds of dangerous epidemics...If AIDS is not eliminated, other new lethal microbes will emerge, and neither safe sex nor drug free practices will prevent them." At least 8, and perhaps as many as 30 patients had been infected with HIV by health care workers as of 1992.

The typical sexual practices of homosexuals are a medical horror story. I will spare you the extremely perverted and disgusting details.

Unfortunately, the danger of these exchanges does not merely affect homosexuals. Travelers carried so many tropical diseases to New York City that it had to institute a tropical disease center, and gays carried HIV from New York City to the rest of the world. Most of the 6,349 Americans who got AIDS from contaminated blood as of 1992, received it from homosexuals, and most of the women in California who got AIDS through heterosexual activity got it from men who engaged in homosexual behavior. The rare form of airborne scarlet fever that stalked San Francisco in 1976 also started among homosexuals.

Those are some of the physical consequences of homosexuality. So when Romans 1:27 says "Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion," Paul is speaking volumes.

Society is legitimately concerned with health risks---they impact our taxes and everyone's chances of illness and injury. Because we care about them, smokers are discouraged from smoking by higher insurance premiums, taxes on cigarettes and bans against smoking in public. These social pressures cause many to quit. They likewise encourage non-smokers to stay non-smokers. Homosexuals are sexually troubled people engaging in sinful and very dangerous activities. If we care about them and those tempted to join them, it is important that we neither encourage nor legitimize such a destructive lifestyle.

Verses 18-20 answer the question that has been asked by many, "What about those who have never heard the gospel? Is it fair for them to go to Hell?" It's basically the argument from design. Proof of God's existence is in nature (a building requires a builder; a painting requires a painter; similarly, the extreme complexity in nature, including things like the equivalent of many factories in a single cell, etc., require an intelligent Designer), so people are without excuse. Although people have knowledge of the existence of God through nature, they act as if the true God does not exist.

Verse 18: "the wrath of God..." Wrath is retributive punishment for an offense or crime. Today, "God's wrath" is a politically incorrect term. Acceptance and tolerance have replaced it. Just as respect for authority is gone, so the fear of God is gone. The message today is that God is a God of love. Though this is true, this is only one side of God, and ignores the rest of His characteristics.

Verse 23 talks about people worshiping images made to look like the things God created, instead of God Himself. This is absurdly foolish. Today in the West, we often tend to give our passion to creations of man: cars, clothes, sports, etc.

Verse 28: "a depraved mind." If it weren't for God's providential election, including the Holy Spirit working in men's hearts to change them, we would ALL be in that same boat.

Romans chapters 1-4 contain the most penetrating and perceptive analysis of human nature in its relationship to God ever written. Paul analyzes the condition of human beings and explains the work of Christ as God's provision for that need.

Romans 1:18-32 shows that people have knowledge of God through nature, and some may even acknowledge Him verbally, but they distort this understanding so that they worship the creation rather than the Creator. But God has not overlooked this willful ignorance. Rather, He has punished it by abandoning people to the natural outworking of their sins. This spiritual outworking of sin drags the race downward and enslaves us in invisible chains. Hence, the mess that people are in.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Romans 1: 7-17

"To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1: 7-17, NIV)

Kung Fu Cat

Regarding Faith: Every time we sin, we are demonstrating, at that moment, a lack of faith/trust/confidence in God. Every time we worry, we are also demonstrating a lack of faith in God.

Verse 7: "CALLED to be saints." This speaks of Election.

Verse 13: "I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so..." The result of God keeping Paul from going to Rome is the book of Romans. (If Paul had gone to Rome, he might never have written this letter.)

Verse 17: "...a righteousness that is by faith from first to last..." For cults or anyone who says that faith alone is not enough to save a person. This is the verse God used to bring Martin Luther to become regenerated.

Some have said that all people need to know is that God loves them; that it's not what we believe that matters, but what we do; that the social teachings of the Bible are what's important; and that doctrine merely divides. But if that were true, Paul would not have written Romans (which is a theological letter, as opposed to 1 and 2 Corinthians or Galatians, that deal with problems in the churches). The problem is not that people need to know that God loves us (many unbelievers have heard that God loves them). And yes, some people do doubt sometimes that God loves them. But the real problem is that we do not love God, just as Luther discovered. We resist God vigorously because we don't want Him to rule over our lives, and we resent any meaningful attempts He makes to do so. One person summarized Romans as "Man's Total Ruin in Sin" and "God's Perfect Remedy in Christ."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Romans 1:1-6

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:1-6, KJV)

This is a photo of my youngest brother when he went parasailing. I added a couple things using Photoshop:

This is another photo of my brother, and once again, I added some elements with Photoshop:

Paul was educated in one of the four leading universities at that time. And Gamaliel, a liberal-minded Pharisee in the Sanhedrin who had trained Paul (Acts 22:3), was one of the greatest, most prominent teachers at that time.

Paul's dad was a Roman citizen. Paul was the 13th Apostle.

A bondslave (verse 1) was one who was totally subservient to his master. The only way a bondslave could be set free from his servanthood was by death.

Verse 2: "through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures": The Old Testament had over 330 prophecies directly relating to the coming of the Messiah.

Verses 3-4: Jesus was both God and Man.

Romans 1:5: "the obedience that comes from faith." Some use the phrase "faith without works is dead" (see James 2:14-26) to claim that salvation is by faith plus works, instead of by faith alone. But Rom. 1:5 says that obedience comes from faith; and that is why faith without works is dead ("dead" = a claimed but false faith; no real faith at all; an intellectually-only faith; those who claim to be Christians but their fruit/works prove otherwise; just saying you believe in God is not enough). Also, Romans 3:28 says that a man is justified by faith APART FROM the Law. True faith will always show itself by its fruits. Paul (Romans) deals with the ROOT of faith; James deals with the FRUIT of faith. Works is the true evidence of faith, not a secondary requirement for salvation.

Approximately 2,000 years ago, in a busy commercial city in Greece called Corinth, a Jewish Christian sat down to write a letter to Christians whom he had never even seen, in the far-off city of Rome. If such a letter had been written by someone else, or in different circumstances, it would likely have soon been forgotten and lost forever. But under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and through God's providence, this ancient letter became the most influential letter in the world.

Augustine was one of those who had been brought to faith through the book of Romans.

In the late 4th century (354-430 A.D.), Augustine, a distinguished rhetorician (an expert in or teacher of rhetoric; eloquent speaker or writer; a person given to verbal extravagance) was under conviction about the truthfulness of Christianity. His mom was a Christian. Augustine was a brilliant and attractive man who had lived an immoral life, just as many of the pagan intellectuals of his day did, and he could not give up his sin. He kept putting off turning from sin and committing to Jesus Christ.

One day, he was in a garden of a friend's estate close to Milan, Italy, and he heard a child singing the words "tole lege, tole lege" ("take and read"). He had never heard a song with words like that before, so he received this as a message from God. ["...and a little child shall lead them." (Isaiah 11:6)]

Obeying this message, he quickly went to the other side of the garden where there was a copy of the Bible. He opened a random page and began to read the first words his eyes fell upon. They were from Romans 13: "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (vs. 13-14) This hit home for Augustine, and was what the Lord used to bring him to Christ. Later, he wrote this: "Instantly, as the sentence ended---by a light, as it were of security infused into my heart---all the gloom of doubt was vanished away." ("Confessions," End of Book 8). Augustine became the dominant theologian and the greatest influence on the Church between the days of the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther. And God used a little child and a portion from Romans to begin this process.

Unlike the immoral Augustine, Martin Luther was a pious and earnest monk, whom most would have called a 'good Christian.' However, Luther had no peace of soul. He wanted to please God and be accepted by God. But the harder he worked, the more elusive the salvation of his soul seemed to be. Instead of growing closer to God, he seemed to be moving away from Him. Instead of coming to love God, which he knew he should do, he found himself hating God for requiring an apparently impossible standard of righteousness for human beings. In desperation, he turned to the book of Romans, and he found the solution: "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:17)

Luther realized, by God opening the meaning of this verse to him, that the righteousness he needed was not his own righteousness, but a righteousness of God (i.e., the righteousness of Christ) freely given to all who would receive it. And this was obtained, not by any works of his own, but by faith only, through taking God at His Word and trusting Him fully. Luther did this, and it was then that he was reborn. He wrote: "I had no love for that holy and just God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret anger against Him: I hated Him, because not content with frightening by the law and the miseries of life us wretched sinners, already ruined by original sin, He still further increased our tortures by the gospel...But when, by the Spirit of God, I understood the words,---when I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from the free mercy of our Lord through faith...then I felt born again like a new man...In very truth, this language of St. Paul was to me the true gate of Paradise." (J.H. Merle D'Aubigne, "The Life and Times of Martin Luther, Chicago: Moody Press, 1958, 55-56.)

Later, Luther called Romans "the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel." He taught that "every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, [and] occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul." (Martin Luther, "Commentary on Romans," Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976, xiii.)

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) called Romans "the profoundest book in existence," and the Swiss commentator F. Godet wrote that, in all probability, "every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book." (Frederick L. Godet, "Commentary on Romans," Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977, 1.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Famous quotes on prayer

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” (Samuel Chadwick)

"More things are wrought by prayer than this word dreams of."
(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

"God does nothing except in response to believing prayer." (John Wesley, famous evangelist who spent two hours daily in prayer)

"The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray." (S.D. Gordon)

"You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed." (A.J. Gordon)

"If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer." (Martin Luther)

"Prayers are heard in heaven in proportion to our faith. Little faith gets very great mercies, but great faith still greater." (Spurgeon)

"The most important thing a born-again Christian can do is to pray." (Chuck Smith)

"Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers." (Sidlow Baxter)

"The little estimate we put on prayer is evidence from the little time we give to it." (E.M. Bounds)

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world, the better the world will be; the mightier the forces against evil.” (E.M. Bounds)

"Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still." (E.M. Bounds)

"The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day." (E.M. Bounds)

"God's cause is committed to men; God commits Himself to men. Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans." (E.M. Bounds)

"No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack." (E.M. Bounds)

“Prayer is where the action is." (John Wesley)

"Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying." (Paul E. Billheimer)

"Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees." (William Cowper)

"0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper - and sleep too - than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest." (Andrew A. Bonar)

"Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees." (Corrie ten Boom)

"The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God's standing challenge, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'" (J. Hudson Taylor)

I received the above photos in an e-mail along with this description:
"Our house was built in the deer's natural habitat in a remote rural area. Well worn deer trails cut through the property's abundant pine and sage. The oldest deer we've met (we call her Mama Rose) walked right up to us when we first arrived, sniffing and looking us over. Rose smelled some almonds in my pocket so I gave her a few. We gave some almonds to her family a few other times but stopped the practice when advised that feeding deer is illegal. Even so, that didn't stop them from regular visits. Rose and her kin obviously think the yard belongs to them as much as anyone else, and they are just taking advantage of the wealth of natural foods growing everywhere. They especially like clover flowers, but it's amazing to see the variety of tasty flowers, leaves, twigs, nuts and berries they'll eat. They stay away from herbs and herbal flowers, but on occasion we've seen young deer eating the sweet medicinal berries of the Juniper tree. Food is of course a major concern, but we also think they visit because they like our company. Often we see deer we don't know nibbling in the yard, but nearly everyday some or many of Rose's extended family come by. All of the deer are likely to lay down on the grass and hang out, whether we know them well or not. Many of them know us personally, and while often running into the yard to greet us with their quiet enthusiasm, they will also swiftly shy away from strangers. Although notoriously skittish, able to leap meters in the air in an instant when startled, a few deer we know, most notably Eva and her kids, will let us touch them as if we were family, letting us scratch them or pick something out of their fur. Eva even enjoys a hearty backrub! We've certainly learned a lot about how to act around them so as not to disturb them. We think they appreciate our efforts in fitting into their neighborhood."

With some quick research, I found the same photos and story, along with additional photos, on the following website: