Exposing the Enemy and Going Forth with the Truth

June 30, 2009 at 10:57 am | Posted in Acts | 20 Comments
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Acts Chapter 8 introduces us to Saul of Tarsus, who would become the Apostle Paul.

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Acts 8:1

Saul saw Stephen stoned, and he approved of it. But you have to wonder if it affected him – if God used it to begin to prick his conscience.

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 9:5

Something was bothering Saul, stabbing at his conscience as he charged down the road to Damascus like an angry bull.

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Acts 8:2

He “wreaked havoc” on the early Church – tore it to pieces like a wild beast – the way Samson once did to a lion (which normally tears the lamb.) But the early Church was empowered by the Lamb of God; persecution only caused it to grow.

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Acts 8:4-5

Philip went to Samaria. The Samaritans were half-Jewish and half-Gentile. When the Assyrians had conquered the northern tribes of Israel, they brought in people to intermarry. The Samaritans were the second ethnic group in Acts upon which God poured His Spirit.

Philip’s revelations were confirmed by special miracles for a special ethnic group.

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

Acts 8:9

Simon was doing satanic miracles; Philip was doing God-empowered miracles.

To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

Acts 8:10-11

Simon’s miracles bewitched the people; Philip’s preaching set them free.

Satan got Simon to infiltrate Philip’s ministry.

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Acts 8:18-20

The laying-on of hands is there in Chapter 8, but not in Chapter 10 when the Gentiles receive the Holy Ghost. Laying-on of hands is not necessary for Spirit baptism – and notice that only the Apostles could do it. There is only one prerequisite for Spirit-baptism: Salvation.

Simon the sorcerer has a word named for him: simony. Simony is the buying and selling of church offices. Simon was willing to pay for the ability to lay hands on people and impart the Holy Spirit to them. There is much division and confusion and strife about this among the professing Christian church today, and, obviously, if you read this, you can do what you want, but I would be very careful about paying money – whether you call it a “love offering” or “sowing a seed” or whatever – for some “anointed” object.

Peter was very good at ferreting out Satan, and he spoke harshly to Satan’s secret agents when they were exposed. When he exposed Ananias, Peter asked him, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” (Acts 5:3) He told Simon:

Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

Acts 8:22-23

It is possible that Ananias and Sapphira would have destroyed the church in Jerusalem, and likewise Simon could have destroyed the church in Samaria. It may be that Peter was so good at spotting Satan’s infiltration tactics because of his past experience with Satan trying to infiltrate the disciples through Peter himself.

But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Matthew 16:23

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Luke 22:31-32

Acts Chapter 8 also contains the important account of the Ethiopian eunuch. This Ethiopian servant would have been wealthy – he was riding in a fancy chariot. And it may be that he was not a real “eunuch” in the modern sense of the term, but rather a high-ranking servant who had retained the name. In any event, he had a scroll of Isaiah – which would have been very rare to have in those days. He apparently had an interest in being a Jewish proselyte. However, if he was in fact a real “eunuch,” he would have been barred from temple worship due to his physical mutilation. He could have still been what was known as a “God-fearer” (this is what Cornelius was). God-fearers were Gentiles who tried to observe the Jewish laws and rites, even though they could not be true Jews. Joseph pretended to be an Old Testament example of this. He gave his brothers a hint when he sent them home, saying, “This do and live; for I fear God.” (Genesis 42:18)

And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

Acts 8:30

The Ethiopian was reading from Isaiah 53:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

Isaiah 53:7-8

This passage of Scripture deals with the Messiah as a substitutionary sacrifice.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 8:35-39

Please note that the Ethiopian had to be saved before he could be baptized.

Philip was “caught away” – this implies a supernatural phenomenon. He ended up at Azotus, and then preached his way back to Caesarea – about 60 miles. There are few spiritual events that will energize your Christian life like leading someone to the Lord and seeing him saved.

Pouting Pastoral Pathetic Pity Party Permanently Postponed

June 29, 2009 at 10:32 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration | 5 Comments
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When the children of Israel entered into the promised land of Canaan, the Lord divided up the land among the various tribes. However, He singled out one tribe to minister directly unto Him.

At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.

Deuteronomy 10:8

The tribe of Levi was to be “separated.” As the special priests and ministers unto the Lord, they were to be set apart by special ceremonial and behavioral rules from the rest of the people. They were supposed to live “different” lives. They were also set apart unto God, devoted totally to standing before Him, and to blessing His Name.

Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.

Deuteronomy 10:9

While the other tribes enjoyed great material blessings and wealth, having been given bountiful land and opportunities for worldly prosperity, the Levites were to live a comparatively Spartan existence. Our spiritual leaders today often adopt a “woe-is-me” point of view concerning this aspect of full-time ministry to the Lord. They complain about members of their flock, who seem to be free from the inconveniences of daily ministry. For a church leader to say, “Oh poor me, I must spend time toiling in Bible study and care-giving visits, while my congregation can seek career advancement and material gains,” is to miss the point of the blessing of the tribe of Levi.

Sure, the other tribes had been given a great inheritance, but can there be any greater blessing than having the opportunity to devote one’s life to doing the Lord’s work on a full-time basis – of being free from the pressures that prohibit the lay-person from spending more time in personal worship with Christ, and from interceding on behalf of others directly before the throne of God? We must not make the mistake of feeling sorry for our spiritual leaders, nor must they make the mistake of wallowing in self-pity.

Goin’ off the Deep End

June 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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To the faithful readers of this blog – all five of you (you know who you are!): I will be offline for a little over a week. But, by the grace of God, unless Christ Jesus comes for His Church first, I shall be back.

In the meantime, if you find yourself struggling with insomnia, feel free to read up on some Biblical violence, Biblical parenting, Biblical doctoring, Quarterback Commandments, highlights from the Book of Acts, or other assorted posts.


What to Be for Your Kids

June 17, 2009 at 11:43 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 23 Comments
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Praise the Lord for kids! I have three of them myself [now four!; updated Sept. 2014]. As my wife likes to say, “I just love kids – but I couldn’t eat a whole one!”

The fact is that the three kids who call me “Daddy” are not really “my” kids. They are the Lord’s.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Psalm 127:3

Children are a reward, and a blessing, but they are also given to us as a deposit. We are to manage them, put them to use, protect them, and help them to grow – like an investment… an investment for the Lord.

And, when you have an entrusted investment, the Owner will one day want an accounting.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

Psalm 127:4

How are children like arrows? Both arrows and children must be “straight” in order to work right – not crooked, not “perverse.” Bent arrows are no good.

Second, arrows are made to be shot – they are made to go where the archer cannot reach. Arrows go into the quiver first, but they are not meant to stay in the quiver forever.

If you are a Christian parent, there are three things you should BE for your kids:

BE an encourager.

When a child does something good, tell him about it. When a child has something to say, listen to her.

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

Most parents are pretty good at the admonition part. Admonishing comes in when kids do wrong. We are often quick to tell them about the wrong, but not so quick to tell them when they do right. That’s the “nurture” part – the “building-up.”

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.

Proverbs 23:24

Do your children bring you joy? If so, let them know about it!

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.

Proverbs 12:18

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

Parents can encourage their children by talking to them, and they can encourage their children in how they talk to them.

Sarcasm is prevalent in our culture today. If your kids have been exposed to school or television at all, you have heard these phrases come out their mouths just dripping with sarcasm: “Yeah, right;” “Whatever;” “That’s just great.”

Sarcasm can be contagious. Kids bring it home from school or their friends’ homes, and before long the parents are doing it, too. We may think sarcasm is funny, but the Bible says it is corrupt communication. The purpose of sarcasm is to make the other person feel like they’ve said or done something dumb. It tears down; it doesn’t build up, and it doesn’t encourage. God wants parents to be encouragers, not discouragers. God wants children to honor their fathers and mothers – to speak to them respectfully – to not talk back. Children should never speak to their parents in a way that indicates a belief that their parents do not know as much as they do.

Parents should BE encouragers, and parents should BE enforcers.

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.

Proverbs 23:19 (emphasis added)

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.

Proverbs 23:22 (emphasis added)

It is very important for Christian parents to teach their children to listen – to hear.

Listening, hearing, and obeying do not come naturally to children. In fact, doing what is right in general does not come naturally to children. Do you know what does come naturally to children? Foolishness.

What makes a child carry a full-to-the-brim glass of red Kool-aid onto beige carpet? Foolishness.

What makes a kid who has 3 hours to clean her room spend 2 hours and 45 minutes listening to music, and then try to do the cleaning in 15 minutes? Foolishness.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…

Proverbs 22:15

When I think back to my earliest memories, I have to admit that no one ever had to sit me down as a little child and teach me to lie. No one ever had to teach me to be selfish and greedy, or to hit my brother. No, those things came naturally to me. I did not jump up and down, and say, “Can I go to church now? Please!”

As Christian parents we need to encourage our children to listen when they are in God’s house, and especially when God’s Word is being read or taught. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17; Galatians 3:5).

Getting children to hear the Word of God, whether they think church is boring or not, is a heart issue – not an entertainment issue. In Bible times, children were expected to come to church to hear the Word.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

Joel 2:15-16 (emphasis added)

God’s will in the Old Testament was for children to be in even the most serious of church meetings – and for people of all ages to be together in the congregation.

When the letter to the church in Ephesus was read in the church – in the assembly – it was read out loud to grown-ups and children alike. Ephesians 6:1 is directed straight at children, whom the Apostle Paul knew would be listening: “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Children have to be trained, and this includes being trained in how to behave in church. Training involves an enforcer, and parents are the God-ordained enforcers of their children. Being an encouraging parent is a not always an easy job, but being an enforcing parent is even tougher.

Proverbs 22:15 starts off by saying that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and the rest of it does not say that a good talking-to will drive it far from them. It does not say that being grounded will drive it far from them. It does not say that a “time-out” will drive it far from them. It does not say that sending them to their rooms will drive it far from them. It does not say that taking away their X-Box will drive it far from them. It says that the rod of correction will drive it far from them. I know this may sound archaic, but if I’m not enforcing discipline, then I don’t love my children.

For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Proverbs 3:12

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 23:13-14

As a father, if I do not discipline God’s child, placed in my trust, with a rod of correction, then I am placing that child’s life in danger.

Parents should BE encouragers. Parents should BE enforcers. And parents should BE examples.

Being a Godly example may be the toughest thing that parents have to be for their children.

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.

Proverbs 20:7

Integrity” is living what you believe. It is inconsistent for me to encourage my children with principles I don’t really believe. And it is inconsistent for me to enforce rules on my children I am not willing to follow myself. Parents need to be careful about saying one thing and doing another. As Pastor John Wilkerson says, what I allow in moderation, my children will practice in excess. What I dabble in, my children will dive into.

If you are reading this, and you happen to be a child, however, I want you to know this: When a parent places a rule on you, but does not follow that rule himself/herself, this is not an excuse for you to be disobedient.

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Matthew 23:1-3

The Pharisees appointed themselves to be the ones to tell people what God said they should do – they had authority. Jesus told people to do what they said, but not what they did. As a Christian child, you may be under an authority figure who is less Godly than you are. But there are blessings in obedience. Generally, God will not fight a battle for you that you are trying to fight on your own in the flesh. If you try to make your parents miserable through showing them disrespect, you may get what you want, but God may see to it that you do not want what you get. One of the worst judgments God can place on you is to let you have your own way.

Having said that, you must also realize that parents and adults know more than you think they do. If you are young – especially if you are a teenaged child – guard against thinking that you know everything. I have heard this attributed to Mark Twain, although I do not know for sure if he actually said it:

“When I left home at age 17, my dad was a complete fool – a total idiot. He didn’t know anything. After being on my own for a while, I came back home at age 21, and I couldn’t believe how much the old man had learned in 4 years!”

Parents should not be Pharisees – teachers who teach falsely. We will give an account for any little ones we lead astray. There is no shortage of terrible role models out there for children to follow: rappers, rock stars, movie stars, athletes, rich and famous people. People scream and follow them, and pay hundreds of dollars to get near them at a concert. People beg for their autographs. They wave their arms for a touch, and worship them. Many of these celebrities are about as big as a big-shot can get. But they don’t do anything for the Lord.

You won’t see many Godly pastors, children’s workers, nursery workers, Sunday School teachers, or Christian fathers and mothers on MTV or the E channel – but they are on God’s TV screen – they are before His sight. Children need to follow those who have God’s approval, more than those who have the world’s approval.

As a dad, do my kids ever see me praying? Do they see me singing to the Lord?

As a mom, I hope you would not put up with your kids using bad language. But when your cell phone goes off, do they hear a rap song or a country or pop song that glorifies sin?

I believe God wants faithful, humble parents – parents who do what’s right when no one else is looking. I believe He wants parents who are different, who are distinct. Parents who are going to stand out, and stand up, for Jesus even if it means being unpopular.

I believe God wants kids who don’t laugh at dirty jokes, and who don’t make fun of teachers and those in authority, even when everyone else is laughing and mocking.

Parents, we don’t have the choice to opt out. Our kids are watching us. Even if I am just one person in the world, I am the world to one person.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6

Next time: What to do for your kids.

Trusted with the Treasure

June 16, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Posted in II Corinthians, parables, Uncategorized | 15 Comments
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If you are a born-again child of God, saved by grace, though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have been entrusted with a great treasure. What is this treasure? It’s the Gospel message!

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

I Thessalonians 2:4

We have a responsibility to be keepers of, and stewards over, this treasure. That means we are to protect it, and put it to work, spreading it around, and causing it to multiply.

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

I Timothy 6:20

In our finite minds we might wonder why Almighty God would ever entrust something as important as the Gospel into the care of the frail and faulty care-takers we so often are. However, God in His wisdom decided that such an arrangement best serves His glory.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

II Corinthians 4:7

In Christ’s parable of the faithful and the unfaithful servants found in Luke 19:11-27, we see that all the servants were given a treasure. The ones who recognized the importance of this treasure were rewarded. We must never fail to recognize the significance of working for Christ. We do not work for our salvation, but as faithful stewards, we certainly ought to work because of it.

The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report

June 15, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Posted in Acts, Biblical Blessings | 16 Comments
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Previously, we saw the powerful prayer of the Apostles. When they had prayed, God shook the whole building.

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:31

We are tempted to wonder what would happen if such an occurrence took place today. However, the early church leaders did not determine to stage this prayer meeting over and over again, hoping for more signs and wonders. Instead they went to work. Instead of selling admission, they started giving.

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Acts 4:34-35

This was not an example of what we know today as Communism – this was giving motivated by love, not by force or for political ideology.

Satan had tried to attack the Church from without. Now he would try to attack it from the inside.

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 5:1-2

This is the beginning of the account of Ananias and Sapphira. They were Satan’s counterfeit givers. Contrast their giving with that of Barnabas.

And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas had not been motivated by fame. However, I’m sure his noble act had brought some coincidental fame to him. This fame made Ananias and Sapphira jealous. That’s when Satan pounced. We see the motivation of Satan in the pride and hypocrisy involved in Ananias and Sapphira’s sin.

Hypocrisy and pride are two sins that are especially abominable to the Lord. But before we look down our nose too much at Ananias and Sapphira… Their sin was a way of trying to look more spiritual in church than they really were, for their own glory. It was sin that involved lying to the Holy Spirit, and it was against the Church. If they could have gained a good standing in the Church, Satan would have had a couple of effective “inside agents.”

If a fighter is losing a fair fight, and he is a dirty fighter, he may try to get an unfair advantage by picking up something handy and throwing it at his opponent. My younger brother’s favorite projectile was a steel-spiked track shoe. I have a friend whose younger brother once threw a cat at him!

Satan, the dirtiest of all the dirty fighters, will often pick up a person, the way we would pick up a rock or a vase (it may be a person very close to you – maybe even a fellow church member), and throw this person at you.

Satan picked up Ananias and Sapphira, and threw them at the other Christians. For their sin, God killed Ananias and Sapphira. Their punishment was severe because their sin occurred at the outset of a new period in the history of salvation.

There are other instances like this, where God, at the beginning of what some people call a “dispensational period” of salvific history, will deal very harshly with sin that challenges or threatens the onset of a new revelation by Him, or a new era in Christian history.

Here are a couple of examples: Just after the tabernacle was erected, God killed Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). This was the incident of strange fire in the censer. Just after Joshua entered the promised land, God had Achan killed (Joshua 7). Achan “took the accursed thing” in the sacking of Jericho.

At the end of Acts Chapter 5, the Apostles are arrested, and they go before the Sanhedrin and the Sadducees. They are beaten, and Gamaliel attempts to get rid of them by trivializing their Lord.

The next recorded problem to arise in the Church had to do with the Greek-speaking widows, who believed that the Hebrew- (or Aramaic-) speaking widows were getting preferred treatment.

Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Acts 6:2-3

The Apostles were spending too much time “waiting tables,” and it was taking away from their time studying the Word, preaching, and praying. So, inspired by the Holy Ghost, they commanded that seven men be found. The Apostles were not “too good” to wait tables, but they were doing what others could be doing just as well. And Acts 6:3 sets forth the qualifications for what type of men they were looking:

Honest report:
Someone who can be trusted. All Christians ought to establish a reputation for trustworthiness. If you want to obtain an honest report, you will need to show up, even when you’re not feeling well. You will need to consistently raise your hand, and say, “I’ll help clean up;” “I’ll volunteer to do that; “Somebody’s missing – I’ll fill in.” And when these opportunities arise, you will strive to do a good job.

Then, people will say, “You know, we trusted him to do that last time, and he did a good job; we can trust him to do that again.” Pretty soon you’ll have an “honest report.”

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Proverbs 20:11

If even a child is known for his “report,” how much more a man?

Too often we want to be known by our sayings, when we should want to be known by our doings.

Full of the Holy Ghost: The Apostles weren’t looking for men who had filled up on the Holy Ghost once a week, after 45 minutes of music. They were looking for men who were “being filled” continually with the Holy Ghost. If I’m going to be continually filled with the Holy Ghost, I’m going to have to do more than sing and exuberantly worship. I’m going to have to get rid of the sin in my life. This does not mean I won’t ever sin, but I’ve got to hate that sin – confess it, and forsake it right away. Is the Holy Ghost comfortable in your heart, or are you grieving the Holy Ghost?

Full of wisdom: Too often, people are claiming to be full of the Holy Ghost, but are acting like muttering drunks. A characteristic of being filled with the Holy Ghost is wisdom.

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:17-18

What a shame if the Spirit truly wants to lead us, and the best thing we can do in response is to act big, talk loud, sit around, and do nothing. That’s what drunks do. They talk big, but they’re too uncoordinated to do anything. God has called us to do much more than just show up once in a while – even more than just to show up regularly. He wants us to be actively involved in ministry. We have an example of this in Acts 6 – an example of a man who met these qualifications: Stephen.

I’m not a Greek scholar by any means, but my understanding is that there are two different Greek words for “crown:” diadem and stephanos. (Stephanos is probably where we get the name “Stephen.”) A diadem can be inherited; a stephanos must earned – or won in an athletic contest.

Stephen was full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost. We know he was full of faith because, as he began to preach, and as the crowd he was preaching to got angrier and angrier, and as they began to stone him, he kept right on going. We know he was full of the Holy Ghost, because he preached with power. The Bible even says he was full of power.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Acts 6:8 (emphasis added)

He was so filled with the Holy Ghost that he even asked the Lord to forgive them as they killed him.

And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Acts 6:15

We say that someone who is really smart is “bright,” or that someone who comes up with a great idea is “brilliant.” Stephen was visibly brilliant! He told the truth from God’s Word.

His sermon is recorded in Acts Chapter 7. Part of it reads like a lecture on Jewish history. He preaches about Joseph from the Book of Genesis. He preaches that God does not dwell in houses built with human hands. He preaches that the temple of the Jewish faith is of God, but that the temple is not God. He preaches that the Law of the Jewish faith is of God, but that the Law is not God.

This preaching drove the unconverted Jews who heard it mad. Yet, they could not speak honestly against it, or intimidate Stephen. He was full of the Holy Ghost, he knew the Scriptures forward and backward.

In the Old Testament there are a number of “types” of Jesus Christ, which foreshadow the importance of His coming in the Incarnation. Stephen is a sort of New Testament “type” of Christ, in the sense that we can draw some comparisons between them. No one can truly be like Jesus. He was and is perfect. However, Holy Spirit-filled Christians ought to strive to be as much like Him as possible.

The Bible tells us Jesus was full of grace; it tells us the same thing about Stephen. Jesus performed miracles; so did Stephen. Jesus boldly confronted the religious establishment of the day; so did Stephen. Jesus was convicted by lying witnesses; so was Stephen. Jesus was executed despite being innocent of any crime; Stephen was executed for a crime he did not commit. Both Jesus and Stephen were accused of blasphemy. Both died outside the city, and were buried by sympathizers. Both prayed for the salvation of their executioners.

How much are we growing in Christ-likeness each day?

Having the Neighbors over for Dinner

June 12, 2009 at 9:15 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Biblical neighbors, Luke | 10 Comments
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The Pharisees, the self-righteous religious ruling class during Christ’s days on earth, knew of Jesus’s compassion for those who were suffering. In order to “trap” Jesus into some type of perceived religious violation, they were not above cruelly using a sick or disabled person to unwittingly play a role in their false accusations. However, the Lord Jesus was and is a keen discerner of ulterior motives.

In Luke Chapter 14 we find Him invited to a meal at the home of one of the chief Pharisees. After the Lord shamed them into silence by healing a man afflicted with dropsy, He took the opportunity to explain a valuable lesson.

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Luke 14:12-14

We must be careful not to play the game of false hospitality. Although fellowship with our neighbors is an important part of the Christian life, the love of God should motivate us to be kind, loving, and hospitable especially to those who will not be able to reward us or pay us back in kind.

Quarterback Commandment No. 9

June 11, 2009 at 11:30 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Quarterback Commandments | 7 Comments
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Bill Parcells, like him or not, has a passion for one thing above all else: Winning. Ultimately, in terms of their career, that is how football coaches are judged. In our ongoing series of Quarterback Commandments, which Parcells (then Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys) gave to Tony Romo, the same criteria applies to quarterbacks.

Quarterback Commandment No. 9: Get your team in the end zone. Passing stats and TD passes are not how you’re going to be judged. Your job is to get your team in the end zone and that is how you will be judged.

Spiritual Application: A Christian minister will be judged, not for how popular he is, and not for the number of followers, converts, or students he claims, but for his obedience to the Lord, and for how well he managed the resources God gave him.

Since the Super Bowl era began in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have had many quarterbacks, but only four really elite ones: Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Danny White, and Tony Romo. All four can boast impressive statistics: quarterback rating; completion percentage, yards passing, touchdown passes, etc. However, to date, only two of those four are considered to be truly “great:” Staubach and Aikman. And that is not because they had the most impressive statistics. It is because they consistently got their team in the end zone, and won games. They are the only two on the list with Super Bowl victories – 2 for Staubach and 3 for Aikman.

Bottom line: Quarterback is a glamorous position. Quarterbacks are lauded for performing well. But statistics don’t mean much if your team doesn’t win the game.

Christian ministers are not playing a game. We will ultimately be “winners,” but even that victory will not be credited to us – it will be because of, and redound to the glory of, our great Lord.

However, Christian ministers, like NFL quarterbacks, will be judged. Romans 14:10 tells us that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Unbelievers will stand before God’s Great White Throne in judgment, and then be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

II Corinthians 5:10

I don’t understand everything there is to know about the judgment seat of Christ, but it does seem to me that we who are counted righteous, and whose sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, will be judged based on our works. After this judgment, which is for true Christians only, we will go into the presence of the Lord with fullness of joy, and live with Him forevermore.

As Christian quarterbacks, I am afraid that, on that day, some of our passing statistics will be burned and counted as loss.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

I Corinthians 3:13-15

Here are examples of some Biblical “quarterbacks” who would have never been in the top echelon of “success” by worldly standards, but who definitely knew how to find the “end zone” of obedience:

Noah – the Old Testament preacher of righteousness, preached, and built the ark, for 120 years while the fools around him scoffed, laughed, enjoyed their lives, and ignored his call for repentance. When God poured water from the sky, and brought it forth from beneath the earth, the “crazy man” who was building a boat in the desert suddenly didn’t seem so crazy after all. Noah’s stats were awful: 120 years of preaching, with no converts except his own family – yet judged by God as a smashing success!

Jeremiah – the “weeping prophet,” despised and rejected throughout his ministry. He was beaten, imprisoned, put into stocks, and reviled. It appears that, during his ministry, no one was converted through his prophecies or preaching. However, he was vindicated by God, who fulfilled each and every one of Jeremiah’s prophecies to the letter. Jeremiah reached the end zone of obedience and faithfulness when everyone around him threw in the towel, phoned it in, or pandered to the crowd.

Paul the Apostle – Here’s what Paul thought of his “statistics:”

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Philippians 3:4-8

It was as if Paul told the Judaizers, “If you want to talk stats, I have thrown more completions, had fewer interceptions, had a higher passer rating, and more yards per attempt than all of you! And I consider all that to be excrement, compared to being called a ‘winner’ by Jesus!”

How will you be judged at the end of your life on earth? Were you popular? Wealthy? Influential? Attractive? God will not be impressed. Or will you be able to say that you obeyed the Lord with all your heart, working hard to score touchdowns for His team – and His team only – with every ounce of energy and every material resource He graciously entrusted to you?

S.W.I.M. with Spurgeon

June 10, 2009 at 8:49 am | Posted in Quotes | 2 Comments
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The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: My soul shall dive in and shall be swallowed up in the delights of His company.

Charles H. Spurgeon

Frightening Words

June 9, 2009 at 8:33 am | Posted in Biblical Violence, Exodus | 14 Comments
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The Old Testament law, given by God to His people, was first presented to them with a great show of power. The noise and sights it produced caused great fear of its Giver. In fact, there were those present who feared that the Word of God would kill them.

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

Exodus 20:18-20

Today, Christians are “under grace,” not “the law.” (Romans 6:14) However, the law itself was given for God’s glory, and the people’s good. It inspired a fear which was a healthy reminder of the seriousness of obedience to God. The real problem was not Old Testament law. The real problem was – and it remains today – man’s sinful condition which kept him from keeping the law, thus pointing the way to our need for a Savior Who could truly save from sin. We have that Savior today in the resurrected Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust Him today, and be eternally saved!

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