Christ’s Childhood Preparation

December 19, 2014 at 10:55 am | Posted in Matthew | 1 Comment
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In the book of Matthew, as we study the beginning of Christ’s life on Earth, we learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, was taken to Egypt for His protection, and actually grew up in Nazareth.  He was sometimes called “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Nazareth was a disreputable place, and must have seemed hardly a fit background for the King of Kings.  However, it may be that Jesus’s childhood home was one of the things that prepared Him for a life of humility.

God’s desire for Christians is that they actually be conformed to the image of His Son.  Are we keeping this in mind in our prayers for our children today?  If we are praying in God’s will that they be conformed to the image of Christ, then we may be seeing those prayers answered when our children experience rejection, pain, or humiliation from their peers.  Parents may grieve over this, but, really, it should bring us joy.

After all, will a child who has never experienced the “embarrassment” of dressing modestly in carnal world, or who has never expressed disapproval over the foul language of his classmates, ever have the nerve to stand up in public and proclaim Christ, or the courage to knock on a stranger’s door and share the Gospel?

Beware the Furious Fiend

December 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Posted in The Fives | 2 Comments
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As Jesus and His followers entered the country of the Gadarenes, they encountered a man possessed by demons. This man, because of his condition, was both pitiful and terrifying.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

Mark 5:5

A person controlled by Satan is person who is constantly (“always, night and day”) subject to the oppression of his cruel and terrible master.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Ephesians 2:1-3

A demon-controlled person is a person who would exalt himself to a high place of rebellion against God (“in the mountains”).

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Isaiah 14:12-14

He has a fascination with death (“in the tombs”).

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

Proverbs 8:36

The pawn of Satan is subject to bouts of depression and abject sorrow (“crying”) and self-abuse (“cutting himself”).

And they [the prophets of Baal] cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

I Kings 18:28

We get the idea that this demon-possessed man was unpredictable and violent, a scourge upon his community – for which the Gadarenes had no solution. However, Jesus had no fear at all. The man even recognized Him from afar, running toward Him and worshiping Him. Christ cast out the demons, and set the man free, commissioning him to serve the community he had previously tormented.

We must be like Jesus. Do not fear the fury of those who do not yet know Christ. Often the person who is at the greatest pains to show his hatred for God may be the person who is acting out of desperation in an attempt to convince himself or others that he is too fearsome, depraved, or far-gone to be reached with only thing that can really help: the Good News that Jesus saves.

The Victorious Humility of the Last Adam

December 15, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Matthew | 1 Comment
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Lord, help us to accept our circumstances, which are ordained by You. Help us to learn truths which will be encouraging. Help us not to be pessimists, drudging along dreading each trial. At the same time, please help us not to be fragile children, happily hopping around when things are great, but losing faith each time You test us or try us. Help us to delight ourselves in Your statutes, and not to forget Your Words when everything around is yelling at us to depend on ourselves, and not on You. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

As people gathered to hear the message of John the Baptist, he called the religious leaders a generation of vipers.

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Matthew 3:4-9

This should remind us to be humble. God can raise up stones to do what you do – and do it better. John’s humility made him reluctant to baptize Jesus, but he did it upon Jesus’s insistence. When he did so, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. Not like a royal eagle and not like not a bird of prey, but a bird of peace, a bird of mourning, a skittish bird. The Spirit of God indwelling us may be made to retreat when we sin against Him.

The Adam of Genesis 1 and 2 was the “first Adam.” Christ was the “last Adam.” Both the first Adam and the last Adam were tempted by Satan. The first Adam had everything he needed to resist this temptation. He lived in paradise. In Matthew 4, the last Adam went alone into a terrible wilderness, subjecting Himself to 40 days of fasting. The first Adam lost his battle with Satan, but Christ won.

Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness with three specific temptations.

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Matthew 4:3

This was Satan’s lie: “God doesn’t really love You, so put Your physical needs ahead of Your spiritual needs.”

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Matthew 4:7

Satan based this second temptation on a Bible passage:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:11-12

His lie to Jesus amounted to “God’s Word isn’t really true,” but he omitted “in all Thy ways” when he quoted it to Jesus. It is very common for the devil to challenge God’s Word by trying to twist Scripture.

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Matthew 4:8-9

In the third temptation Satan tried to convince Christ to take the easy way – to adopt a form of “worship” that did not include service. It was as if he hoped Christ could be tricked into thinking He could abandon the Cross and still receive the glory. Beware of temptations that invite you to take a short cut around God’s will.

The Wastefulness of Idolatry

December 12, 2014 at 11:33 am | Posted in Habakkuk | Leave a comment
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God is steadfast. He keeps His Word. He is also strong. He can stop iniquity at any time. He does not fret or tremble over the mightiest armies, weapons, or mass movements.

For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 2:14

God could flood the earth at this moment with His glory – even faster than He flooded it last time with natural water. He let Habakkuk know that Babylon’s powerful reign, although it seemed invincible, would one day be destroyed. This foreshadows the destruction of the new Babylon – the world system of the last days – which will be destroyed at the return of Christ (Revelation 17-18).

Compare the idols worshipped by the people of Judah to the idols that may be worshipped by God’s people today.

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?

Habakkuk 2:18

Things that do not profit us spiritually are a waste of our time (and not really “our” time, but God’s time that He has given us to manage).

Therefore, things which use our time for purposes other than the Kingdom of God would seem to be idols. Wasting time is wrong, although many people think it’s harmless. Idols, even though they can’t talk, have a way of “speaking” lies. The “wisdom” of man – found in TV programs, books, magazines, or just regular traditions – if it doesn’t originate from God’s Word, not only sucks up our valuable time, but is lies to us and deceives us.

When we place our trust in things made by man, rather than God’s Truth, we are worshiping the created instead of the Creator – which is the essence of idolatry.

A Fourth Word about God: His Rest

December 10, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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The first Word of the Decalogue prohibits the attitude of idolatry.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:3

The second Word of the Decalogue prohibits the “practice” of idolatry.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 20:4-5

Is this fair, that the descendants of idolators get punished for the crimes of their ancestors? What the Lord was describing was not the imputation of guilt. Rather, it was the (accurate) prediction of the outworking of sin through generations of sinners.

The next verse expresses God’s heart of love in the matter.

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:6

The first three Words of the Decalogue are negative commands (thou shalt not). The fourth is the first positive command (thou shalt).

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Exodus 20:8

This helps us to see it as more than just a command to stop working. In fact, it is followed by a specific command to work – on the other six days of the week.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

Exodus 20:9-10

In other words, the Sabbath was a day set aside specifically for serving God, and not for the normal activity of serving God along with serving self.

Work could not be shifted off onto children, servants, or even animals. This was something the people were used to (or should have been) from their dealings with the manna (no gathering on the Sabbath, but gathering enough on the second-to-last day of the week to last two days). Why was the 4th Commandment such an important law?

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:11

The Hebrew word for “days” is yom, the same word used in the creation account, lending more evidence to show that creation took place in six literal 24-hour days. Then on the seventh day, God rested. Why did He rest? Not because He was tired, but because He was finished. And in order to show that everything that was made needs to stop – at least once a week for a whole day – in acknowledgment of Him. Everything needs to “glorify” Him for our existence. The Lord Himself had already blessed this special day. He had hallowed it – made it holy or separate – and decreed that it was dedicated to Him. It was not intended as a day for making money or a day dedicated to having worldly fun (unless it is fun that glorifies Him). It does benefit us physically to rest one day per week, but that is not the primary function of the Sabbath day. It was also a picture of our spiritual rest, which is Christ Himself, and so it is often said to have been fulfilled, making the Fourth Commandment the only word of the Decalogue no longer applicable in the New Testament, although this has been greatly debated and much disputed. Also, in the New Testament, we do observe the first day of the week as “the Lord’s Day,” and some if not all of the same principles apply.

The Top Ten

December 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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On December 2, 2014, The Deep End surpassed an impressive (just to me) number for all-time views. It still baffles me a little after all this time to think that people are reading the posts here on a fairly regular basis. Thank you to those who subscribe and/or follow. Of course, any good that comes of it is due completely to the Lord, and I praise and honor and thank Him for allowing me to continue studying the Bible and writing about it here.

I do understand, too, that clicking on or “viewing” a post is not an automatic indicator that someone has read it, but, in honor of the occasion, I thought I would provide links to the ten blog posts that have received the highest number of views.

1. Teaching the 3rd and 4th Commandments to Children (see commentary here)
2. How Tall Was Jesus?
3. What the Bible Says about Neighbors
4. Strange Weapons Lesson 3: The Pitcher (factual summary)
5. Parallelism in Psalms
6. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
7. You Can’t Get Blood from a Turnip
8. Explaining the Meaning of Biblical “Authority” to Children
9. Different Types of Burdens
10. Strange Weapons Lesson 1: The Prod (background)

The Provision of Peace

December 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Do You Know the Way? | Leave a comment
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Do You Know the Way? (John 14)

I. The Prepared Place (John 14:1-3)
II. The Particular Path (John 14:4-11)
III. The Power of Prayer (John 14:12-14)
IV. The Promise of the Paraclete (John 14:15-26)
V. The Provision of Peace (John 14:27-31)

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

John 14:27-31

Remember how John Chapter 14 started off: “Let not your heart be troubled…” Jesus told His disciples this because their hearts were troubled – very troubled. So, in His discourse He gave them words of encouragement about: a prepared place (Heaven); a particular path (Himself); the power of prayer (in His name); and the promise of the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit). He now restates the reason that He has been telling them these things:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 14:27

“Peace” is a popular idea these days. It has been a common theme in pop culture for years. When you see a hippie holding up two fingers, he is saying, “Peace, man.” Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “Know Jesus, Know Peace / No Jesus, No Peace?” I saw one the other day that said, “Visualize World Peace.” We tend to like the idea of peace, but Jesus told His Disciples that “world peace” is way overrated.

The peace that Jesus gives is “not as the world giveth” – which is a good thing because worldly peace is a counterfeit peace. It is a peace that is entirely dependent on circumstances. It is at best a temporary, illusory peace. Jesus gives us a peace that is greater. He had already told the Disciples that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Now, in a sense, He is also telling them that, not only does He give them peace, but He Himself also is their peace.

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13

This applies to the barrier between Jewish believers and gentile believers, but also to the barrier between holy God and sinful man.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Ephesians 2:14

Jesus gives us peace by giving us Himself. He is our peace.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Ephesians 2:15

The Bible is not speaking here about emotional, psychological peace. It is speaking about the peace that ends a war. Enmity is hatred with a cause. When it came to the enmity between God and man, Jesus abolished it. He ended it – not just by making a truce or a cease-fire – but by reconciling two otherwise irreconcilable enemies. He did not bring God and man into mere tolerance of each other. He brought them into loving fellowship and everlasting familial bonds.

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Ephesians 2:16

Jesus killed the enmity between God and man for all those whom He saves. This is real peace, not the counterfeit peace which this “world’s system” advertises when it takes about “peace of mind.” It is no surprise that this world’s version of peace is a counterfeit peace, because it is controlled by the great counterfeiter, Satan.

Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

John 14:30

This world system is opposed to Christ largely because it is controlled by Satan, “the prince of the world,” (but not the Lord of all the Earth). Satan is a temporary usurper who has been granted a limited ability to exercise authority in order to maximize God’s glory. Jesus says that this temporary usurper “has nothing in Me,” meaning that Satan could never get a foothold in Jesus’s earthly life. Not one single solitary victory could Satan accomplish in the life of Christ. Jesus says to us that He is the provision of our peace, and Satan and this world will not rob us of the peace which He has won for us with God the Father.

But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

John 14:31

If you love the Father, your love for Him exists because Jesus has given it to you. Now, as the Father commanded Jesus to go, He commands us also to “arise” – to go. Worldly peace holds the false promise of the end of activity. “You are at peace, so you can rest. One day soon,” it says, “you can retire. You can move to the country, where you won’t have any pesky neighbors to bother you. You’ll have money to live on so you won’t have to go to work with a bunch of sinners. You can even order your groceries on the internet so you won’t have to go to the market and hear a bunch of cussing, and people blaspheming God’s name. You can just cultivate a small circle of Christian friends. You can come to church, but without getting too involved. You won’t have to get your hands dirty anymore, trying to minister to a bunch of filthy sinners. You will be able to putter around in your yard or in your workshop, and fish and hunt, or crochet and bake your way into the presence of King Jesus.” But Jesus says no! He says arise! It means get up and get moving! This peace is not physical rest. It’s spiritual rest. It’s the assurance that you are right with God and that Jesus is with you, not so you can escape from the world, but so you can overcome the world in Him!

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Say no to world peace! Arise with the peace of God, and go make sure that this world either surrenders to Jesus or fights against Him, but never forgets that He is its rightful Lord.

Catechism Question 14

December 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | Leave a comment
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Question 14: What has God done for you so you can have eternal life?
Answer: He sent his Son.
Prove it.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

God came into this world in the Person of His Son, Who became a man while remaining fully God. He started out His earthly life by being born of a virgin, and then growing into manhood, all the while living a perfectly righteous and holy life, never sinning.

He purchased eternal life for all who would believe on Him by taking our sins upon Himself on the Cross, paying for them fully as He died, then rising from the dead.

Other verses to consider:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

Galatians 4:4

God is Steadfast

November 28, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Habakkuk | 1 Comment
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Lord, we know that there is nothing too difficult for You. We thank You for your strength. When things are easy and smooth, we know that is because of You. Thank You for those times. When things are difficult and rough, we know You haven’t forgotten Your children, and You have not lost control. Instead, You are teaching us to depend on You, and You are showing Yourself to be strong in our weakness. Thank You for those times, too. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Habbakuk’s name meant “to embrace” or “to wrestle.” It was a fitting name because he did both. He wrestled with God figuratively and he embraced God by faith. God doesn’t mind when His servants wrestle with Him in order to know Him better. What He has a problem with is when they ignore Him.

Around 600 B.C. the Babylonians were set to invade Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. They would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple there in 627 B.C. Habakkuk was probably a priest who was also called by God to be a prophet. When he received his vision from God concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, he questioned God – much like Job had done before him. As he questioned God, he began to accuse God of being uncaring and unfeeling, and of being double-minded, and of falling down on His job. These accusations were, of course, false, and from God’s responses we learn that God is steadfast. His promises can be trusted.

Habakkuk said:

Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

Habakkuk 1:4

God answered:

Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.

Habakkuk 1:5

God promises to honor faithfulness and obedience, and to punish wickedness. When we begin to ask God, “What are You going to do about all the unrighteousness going on in this world?” we must accept His divine will. We cannot prescribe for God the means that He will use to punish the wicked, or to chasten His Own children.

There is a lot of talk about terrorism these days. Many would like to see God punish the terrorists, but what if terrorism is God’s warning, or His chastening against His Own people? We don’t like to think He would use wicked heathens as His tool for correction or for punishment. Since 1970 approximately 4000 Americans have been killed by terrorists, but today – if today is an average day – 3200 Americans will be killed in one day by mothers and abortionists.

The people of Judah in the days of Habakkuk and Jeremiah and Nahum had seen plagues and droughts and military defeats, and the prophets had told them these were warnings from God to repent. God knows when to wait for repentance and when hearts have become hardened.

Don’t Be a Simple Evangelist

November 24, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

Proverbs 14:15

Two types of people are being contrasted here: “the simple” and “the prudent.” The simple are shown as a bad example. They are not simple in the sense of being uncomplicated. They are simple in the sense of being unwise, perhaps even foolish. The prudent are wise. The characteristic that distinguishes the simpleton in this verse is that he is gullible. He believes everything he hears.

The one exception where it’s okay to “believe every word” is the Bible itself – which is obvious from multiple other passages. But here, what is being described is a person with no discernment: someone who foolishly “takes at face value” whatever he encounters. The prudent man, on the other hand, is careful about what is presented to him.

This principle – a healthy willingness to evaluate – has various and sundry applications, and one is in evangelism – specifically when it comes to dialoguing with someone about whether or not he is saved. A quick nod of assent to the question, “So, are you a Christian?” should probably not be enough evidence to end the inquiry when you are trying to present the Gospel to someone you do not know well. Follow-up questions about the when, where, why, and how, and by Whom, would constitute “looking well unto your going” when you are hoping to lead someone to Christ.

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

Proverbs 14:16

Again, the wise man and the fool are contrasted. Wise men see evil and are afraid of damaging their testimony and the effectiveness of their Gospel witness. They also fear the Lord Whom they love for saving them. Fools “rage.” They go on a tirade against the idea that they can’t do whatever they want, and they are confident – but it is a false confidence. It is a misplaced self-confidence and a dangerous confidence that their relationship with the Lord makes them immune to discipline and correction.

He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

Proverbs 14:17

This verse is little different from the previous two in Proverbs 14. It is not a contrast between a “right” person and a “wrong” person. It is a contrast between a “wrong” person and a “more wrong” person. A short-tempered person loses his cool and does something dumb. It’s not excusable, but it is chalked up to the heat of passion, and can be repented of and repaired more easily. However, the person who coldly calculates a wicked plan, then carries it out, is not seen as bumbling or irrational. He is hated, even by those who are worldly, because he has first shown hatred to others.

Let’s remember to share the Gospel with others in a way that is honestly probing, non-hypocritical, and patiently kind.

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