The real reason for Christmas seems to become more elusive every year. Our planet is an increasingly violent and dangerous place to live. Even our usual American vicarious escapes into affluence and pleasure are fading fast. It would have been unthinkable a few years ago to suppose the demise of the United States as a nation, but now that seems to me to be a very definite possibility. A few suitcase nuclear weapons or bio-weapons released in half a dozen of our major cities could well mean our sudden demise. Or, a continued decline in the economy and increasing corruption in high places could do us in more gradually, but just as effectively.
Nations rise and fall in world history. The key to the actual strength of a people under God is found in the state of health of God's remnant people within that nation. Mere church attendance does not tell the tale, because small and vigorously godly pockets of real Christians have a pervasive salt-and-light effect on the whole.
Wisdom builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. He who walks in uprightness fears the LORD, but he who is devious in his ways despises himGod scorns the wicked, but the upright enjoy his favorThe house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to deathIn the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of deathThe wicked is overthrown through his evil-doing, but the righteous finds refuge through his integrity. Wisdom abides in the mind of a man of understanding, but it is not known in the heart of fools. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14)
The daily news tells us of new plans for peace in the Middle East each of which sounds less plausible than the last. The entire region is poised for a war which could easily escalate and quickly become world wide. Peace on earth will come but not until God's Messiah arrives to bring it about by force. Psalm 2 gives us a wonderfully succinct picture of how God sees the seething violence of the nations as they rage against God and one another:
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
It is a clearly stated fact in the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is now the ruling Lord of the universe. It is also clear that His sphere of influence will increase. There will come a day when all men everywhere acknowledge Him-either willingly, or by force if need be.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
"God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)
In my email correspondence with people all over the world it is not unusual to encounter (especially from a younger person) the view that if only Jesus would make Himself visibly known here and now, crowds would flock to Him eagerly. I try to show them from the gospels that this happened at first when Jesus was with us on the earth the first time. But eventually virtually all turned away when they saw the implications of his lordship in their personal lives. When we take into account the fact that ignoring someone important is one of the most obvious signs of hatred and resentment, it becomes clear that the majority of people on earth are enemies of Jesus and hate the very thought of His return. On top of that, legions of fallen angels have entrenched themselves in our social institutions for centuries and they will only be dislodged by violent cosmic warfare. (see There's a War On, Folks, http://ldolphin.org/war-on.html) and Toppling Strongholds, http://ldolphin.org/topple.html).
Jesus now reigns over the entire universe, but He does not yet rule on earth. This past week I read once again through C.S. Lewis great science fiction trilogy which describes our earth as the "dark planet" ruled over by a "bent angel." Sixty years ago Lewis saw clearly that the return of Jesus as earth's absent landlord would involved the near destruction of most of mankind and the fall of world civilizations everywhere.
It is because of these realities that everyone who names the name of Jesus as Lord should live one day at a time as if it were his or her last day, and stay separated from the satiating and numbing spirit of the age of lures of the world which press in upon us with increasing intensity every day we live.
As C.S. Lewis said,
God is going to invade this earth in force. But what's the good of saying you're on his side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive comes crashing in. Something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left. This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it's become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it.
Death of a Nation, Expositional sermons on Jeremiah, by Ray C. Stedman."I have chosen this series of studies because it is set in a time of crisis and of the moral decline of a nation. It reveals what is behind the death of a nation. In two years the United States of America will celebrate its two hundredth birthday. And it may be that in these very days, as we celebrate our Bicentennial as a nation, we also may be witnesses to the beginning of the end of the United States of America. There are some who feel this is so. I hope it is not true. But the forces which are destroying our nation are the same forces which destroyed the nation Jeremiah witnessed to. We can learn a great deal about what is going on in our nation's life by studying this great prophecy of Jeremiah. We can learn here how to behave in a time of national and personal crisis. What should a believer do when things are falling apart around him in his home, his community, his nation, and the world in which he lives? The answers are here. And from this prophecy we will also learn what is the word of hope in an hour of despair and darkness, and how God plants the seeds of new life in the midst of death and destruction all around." (http://raystedman.org/jeremiah/index.html)
The Mystery of History (Studies in Matthew 13), by Ray C. Stedman. "...Why, for instance, has Great Britain lost its empire and been reduced to a second rate power in our day after being the leading nation of the world for many decades? The answer is that the English people knew truth which they failed to act on. They did not incorporate into their economic and national life the truth which they admitted widely as a people. They were false to principles they knew to be true, and, as a result, their scepter of power has been removed and they have sunk into relative obscurity. There is no other explanation for it. You can talk about economics, about politics, and other such things, but those are merely the processes by which this principle is worked out. Why did the Roman Empire fall before the barbarian hordes after it had been queen of the world for centuries? The answer is that, when its paganism was confronted with the truth of the cross of Christ, it rejected that truth and fought back with fire and sword and wild beasts and cruel tortures. And the empire crumbled from within. All the wisdom of the Senate and all the experience garnered in centuries of world dominion was unable to hold that empire together. Why are the Russian people now deprived of the right to worship, and of freedom of speech and of the press, and forbidden to travel abroad or even to read of other cultures? Because, when the truth of the gospel was widespread in Russia, as once it was, it was canonized and ritualized and evacuated of its content until it became a hollow shell of pretense and religious hypocrisy. When that happened the nation was rendered ripe for revolution. What do you think is happening in the United States today? This nation is facing exactly that same possibility. The open rejection of the truth about Jesus Christ on the part of the American people, truth which they have known and seen, and the hollow pretense of obeying it when they really do not believe it, is dimming the light in this land and removing the barriers to savagery and violence -- and the barbarians are at the doors again. And evangelicals can be as guilty as anyone else in this respect." (http://raystedman.org/behind/0452.html)
Counseling: The church today has an enormous need for biblical counseling. Pastors are often too overwhelmed to provide the counseling and can lack the tools to help effectively. If you have depression, anxiety, anger, marital problems, grief issues, sexual/physical abuse issues, sexual addiction, overeating issues or any other problem that requires the help of a counselor. Sound biblical counseling is available through New Life Ministries. Additionally, they offer a whole myriad of other services (i.e, books, seminars, etc.) tailored to meet the individual needs of the hurting and wounded in the body of Christ. Contact: http://www.newlife.com or 1(800) New Life. (submitted by Darren Lowman, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Classes. My week-night Palo Alto Bible class is taking our time in the Gospel of John. The Wednesday Brothers of Thunder men's group is nearing the end of Deuteronomy, and our Saturday college group is completing the Book of the Revelation. Finally for the next three months I am teaching Biblical creation in the Forum Class at PBC, Palo Alto. This is an exciting class. Several younger students have joined and they seem to ask the best questions. I'll put the audio files on my server shortly. New or revised articles on my web site will be found at the top of my library page, http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml. Archived newsletters are found at http://ldolphin.org/news/.
The Paraclete Forum is our team of PBC-related evangelical Christian men and women. We reply to email from folks searching for God and we seek to help people with their theological and apologetics questions. Email to our team will get a personal answer from one or more of us. Our web site, http://paracleteforum.org features a bulletin board and archived lively email discussions.
Contributions: I am very grateful for the financial help of friends who help me stay actively answering email, growing my web site, teaching the Bible and spending lots of time with individuals. Your contribution can be addressed to Peninsula Bible Church (include a note that it is for my ministry support). 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. I do not receive a list of contributors so I can not write thank you notes. Your prayers are highly valued above all else.
Sincerely, Lambert Dolphin.
December 24, 2002. Web Archive for these newsletters: http://ldolphin.org/news/