The One Question You MUST NOT Get Wrong

July 31, 2009 at 8:47 am | Posted in Mark, Salvation | Leave a comment
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As you go through life, you will be right about some things, and, because no one is perfect, you will also be wrong about a great many things. However, you must make sure that you are NOT wrong about this one thing in particular: Who do you say that Jesus is?

This is the question that Jesus asked His disciples (Mark 8:29). Some think He was a teacher; some think He was a prophet; some think He was a lunatic. However, Jesus Himself said that He was God in human flesh (John 10:30). Because Jesus Christ was Who He claimed to be, He is the One you must know in order to escape eternal damnation, and to receive eternal life.

Spurgeon Would S.W.I.M. Deeper than Most

July 30, 2009 at 8:28 am | Posted in Quotes | 5 Comments
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If God has not told us any truth, it is for His glory not to tell it to us. Perhaps we have as much reason to bless the Lord for what is not in the Bible as for what is there; and what He has not revealed may be as much for our benefit, and certainly is as much for His glory, as what He has revealed. For instance, if He does not tell us all about Himself and the mystery of His Person, do we want to know it? Can we not believe in Him and love Him all the better because we do not understand Him? Surely a God whom we could understand would be no God. We delight in being out of our depth — in finding waters to swim in where understanding with its little plumline finds no bottom, but where love with a restful spirit finds perfect peace. Doubtless there is a glory in the Lord not revealing Himself so far as the past or present is concerned.

Charles H. Spurgeon

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The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29

Quarterback Commandment No. 11

July 29, 2009 at 10:04 am | Posted in Quarterback Commandments | 5 Comments
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The year following Bill Parcells’s departure as Head Coach for the Cowboys, Dallas defeated Buffalo in a Monday night game. During the broadcast, Parcells appeared on camera and read the list of “Eleven Quarterback Commandments” he had given to Tony Romo to help him understand his job, and to further his development. I have been posting the 11 Quarterback Commandments, one at a time, and have tried to draw a spiritual, Biblical application for each one. Today, I have reached No. 11.

Quarterback Commandment No. 11: Don’t be a celebrity quarterback. We don’t need any of those. We need battlefield commanders that are willing to fight it out, every day, every week, and every season, and lead their team to win after win after win.

Spiritual Application: Christian ministers are not to seek glory for themselves. The Christian life is a race and a battle and a pilgrimage, not a parade or an awards banquet.

When the Dallas Cowboys win a game, I like to watch the post-game festivities. One feature I try to catch is the press conference. The head coach and different players will often take the podium, and answer questions, and bask in the spotlight. The main attraction of the post-game press conference, however, is usually the winning team’s quarterback. A team’s quarterback, especially if he is considered a “franchise quarterback” (one around which the rest of the team is built, and on whom the future success of the team is largely staked), is said to be “the face of the team.”

Parcells is rightfully wary of this. Celebrities tend to be famous for how they look. Heroes are famous for what they have done.

King David was a hero. His son, Absalom, was a celebrity. Christian ministers would do well to model their lives and ministries on Biblical heroes such as David, Stephen, and Paul.

Take the Apostle Paul. He was a “battlefield commander” who was willing to “fight it out” every day.

But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

I Thessalonians 2:2

However, he did not do this to gain a celebrity status, nor to make himself recognizable or famous among men.

Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

I Thessalonians 2:6

An NFL quarterback should know the responsibility that comes with being recognizable. However, he must beware of having a “prima donna” attitude that would take his focus off his job, or engender jealousy in his teammates.

A Christian minister must be mindful that, while he leads, he will receive honor according to the victories the Lord uses him to win. However, this honor must not be allowed to stray into the area of celebrity. A Christian minister may be a leading soldier in the battle of the Christian life, but He still serves a Commander Who is over him. This Commander reminds us not to get ourselves enmeshed in this world’s false ideas of leadership, to the point where we forget to serve, and expect to be served.

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:3-4

It’s Just Faith

July 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Eternity, Habakkuk, Romans, Salvation | 17 Comments
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If you have no real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if you have never received Him as your Savior, you are in a dangerous and deadly condition. According to the Bible, when God considers your eternal soul, lifted up before Him, it is not “upright.” In other words, you are not right before God, and you may not stand before Him and live.

How can this situation be rectified? What can you do to escape from eternal death, and receive eternal life? All praise to God, He has made a way! This way is called by some “justification.” Justification is the way that God makes the unrighteous righteous before Him, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

But what is the means by which you can receive this gift from God? Must you work for it? Must you pay for it? Can you inherit it from your earthly parents? Will men grant it to you if you join an organization or perform some rite of initiation? By no means! The only way to be justified before God Almighty is through faith.

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4

Do you want to live? I mean live eternally? If so, you must transfer your faith from whatever it is currently in, and place it entirely on the Lord Jesus Christ, believing that He paid the price for your sins on the Cross of Calvary, and that He died and rose again.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Romans 4:5

Up for the Count

July 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Biblical Violence | 2 Comments
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When a boxer is badly beaten, knocked down by his opponent, and cannot get up, the referee counts to ten, and the fight is over. This is the idea behind the common expression we use for someone who appears to be defeated, when we say he is “down for the count.”

The Bible, however, says that Christians – even when the powerful punches of life are landing relentlessly – are not “counted out.” Instead, they are counted “up” (happy) if they endure.

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

James 5:11

“But wait,” says the skeptic, “I thought Christians were supposed to claim their blessings by faith… Isn’t suffering a sign of faithlessness for a believer?” Dear friend, be not deceived. Faith is not blindly grabbing for rewards. True faith is obeying the Lord in spite of consequences, and enduring – like Job did – by depending on His grace, His time, and His Word.

What to Buy for Your Kids

July 23, 2009 at 9:49 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 9 Comments
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The Bible tells us of three things that parents should be for their children:

Be an enforcer.
Be an encourager.
Be an example.

It also tells us three things that parents should do for their children:

Pray for them.
Play with them.
Pay attention to them.

Now, let’s conclude by looking at what parents should buy for their children.

We are not talking about material things, although obviously parents should provide certain material things for their children. We are not even talking about things like paying medical bills, or paying for their education. Those things are good, and I understand that parents want to give their children all the things they didn’t have when they were growing up. But “thou shalt give thy children all the things that thou didst not have” is not a command from Scripture. In fact, the things that your children don’t have – the things that aren’t given to them – the things they have to work for themselves – may just be the very things that God uses to make them the kind of men or women God wants them to be.

The Bible tells us what parents should buy for their children – and what parents should teach children to buy for themselves.

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Proverbs 23:23

Now, I know that “the truth” is not really for sale, but what the proverb means is that there are some things worth sacrificing for in this life, and the truth is one of them. I can spend my time as a parent investing in worldly or material things, and my children will learn to do the same. Or, I can invest in eternal things, and “buy” for my children something much more valuable. “Buy the truth and sell it not.”

As one preacher warns, “Do not sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate.” Good works done for Christ will last. Everything else is vanity, and will not last.

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Proverbs 23:23

From where does wisdom come? It comes from the Lord. Instruction is the obtaining of wisdom, and the application of truth. Understanding comes from knowing God and His Word. These things are so valuable that they are invaluable. They are worth too much to be traded for anything.

When we see a Bible verse like Proverbs 23:23, we can do one of two things. One thing will bring great blessings, and the other thing will bring a great deal of trouble.

We can say, “I know that’s the Bible, and that’s God’s Word, and I see now that what I’m doing is different from what God says. Therefore, I’m wrong, and God is right, and I must change.” This attitude stings, but it brings great blessings.

Or, we can say, “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I’ve got my own way of doing things. Besides, that verse couldn’t be for me because it would be impossible for me to do things differently from the way I’m doing them now. God will just have to understand. My kids are different. My work schedule is an exception. My financial situation is an exception. God will just have to give me a break on this one. I can provide for my kids on my own. They’ll have a place to live, they’ll have nice clothes, something to eat, they’ll be happy.”

By taking this attitude, we cut ourselves off from God’s help.

All parents need to know this about God’s will: God’s will is perfect.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

God will never command us to do something, and then make it impossible for us to do it. He will never ordain something for us in His providence, and hold us accountable for it, unless He has made it so that we can handle it.

Parents will give an account before God of what we did with our children, along with (and possibly even before) giving an account for our time, talent, resources, and even our ministries.

Dad: Are you the most faithful person in your household? Are you the one who insists that your family will not miss church unless it’s absolutely necessary? Are you leading the way in Bible study, in prayer, in worship, in personal holiness?

As a father, on the day of accountability, I will not be able to say, “But Lord, I needed to earn more money to give to missions. I needed to spend more time with my friends – I was trying to get them to come to church.”

If “my” children, who are really “His” children, are lonely, needing affection, needing their father, needing somebody to protect them and keep them from going astray, I will answer to God for that.

When I do anything right as a father, I have to admit that the Holy Spirit gets the credit. But if I mess up, that’s on me. The truth is, I will do more right on accident while being led by the Spirit, than I will do on purpose leaning on my own understanding. However, that is not an excuse for me to just sit back, do my own thing, and trust that the Lord will fill in for me when I’m not on the job, leading my family. God is sovereign, but it may well be that, in His sovereignty, He has ordained me to be the means by which He protects and blesses my children.

The last two verses in the Old Testament are Malachi Chapter 4, Verses 5 and 6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

The next time you’re out in public, take a moment to really look at the kids you see. I know we don’t judge people strictly by their outward appearance, but when you see the wildly spiked, multicolored hair – when you see the bizarre-looking piercings and tatoos – when you truly can’t figure out if some of the kids are boys or girls – see if you do not agree that today the hearts of children are turned away from their fathers like never before. I may be wrong, but I think the devil knows that the great and terrible day of the Lord – the day of the return of Elijah – is getting near. I think he’s doing everything he can to turn children’s hearts away from their parents.

My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

Proverbs 23:26

We must teach our children to keep constant watch on their attitude, actions, and acquaintances.

Spiritual Cheating

July 22, 2009 at 9:01 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors, Ezekiel | 23 Comments
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The Bible shows that, throughout history, God’s people have been given the responsibility of being witnesses to their lost neighbors, while being warned of God not to join in with any sinful practices.

However, in the Old Testament we find, time and time again, God’s people succumbing to the worldly and fleshly activities of unbelievers they lived among. This is still a problem today, as Christians grieve the Holy Spirit by crossing the line, and going from being “in the world,” to living like we are “of the world.” To show the seriousness of this in the Lord’s eyes, He likens such unfaithfulness to fornication and adultery.

As God’s people began to dabble in idol-worship, pagan religious practices, and making treaties with heathen nations, rather than trusting in the Lord their God, He used the prophet Ezekiel to speak forth some of the strongest language in the whole Bible.

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

Ezekiel 16:26

Believers today must avoid the temptation of committing spiritual prostitution. We must not invest the great blessings we enjoy into worldly, or flesh-driven, pursuits, even those of our neighbors.

The Remedy for Mood Swings

July 21, 2009 at 8:32 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring | 9 Comments
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During his later years, Simon Peter, the disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, was a shining example of a Spirit-filled Christian. However, this was not always the case. Like many of us, Peter started off his Christian life sometimes acting like a tantrum-throwing toddler or a moody teen-aged child. We’re talking about a man who went from refusing to allow Jesus to wash his feet in one breath, to demanding that He wash his whole body, in the next. (John 13:6-10)

What caused the change from this Peter to the man we see in the epistles I and II Peter: the spiritually mature believer? The answer is that he grew in grace and knowledge.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

II Peter 3:18

Nature teaches that the keys to physical and mental growth are a healthy diet, exercise, and caring companionship. These are good illustrations for the balance needed for spiritual growth also – growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Believers must partake of spiritual food: the bread of life, which is the Word of God. Also, they must be active in obedience and good works: Christian love, or “charity.” Finally, they must learn to fellowship with other believers in caring for, and being helped by, the Church.

Christians who swing violently from one extreme to the other in spiritual matters are demonstrating spiritual immaturity. Those who are growing are marked by consistent Bible-study and obedience, active service in sharing the love of Christ, and in regular church attendance and ministry to the living saints.

Character and Integrity Part 1

July 20, 2009 at 9:40 am | Posted in character and integrity | 13 Comments
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Integrity is a quality of “soundness.” It comes from the idea that an “integer” is something that is “whole,” or “complete.” When something has integrity, nothing can get inside it and mess it up. Example: A real football has integrity. It can get wet on the outside, but not on the inside.

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A Nerf football has no integrity.

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If it gets wet, the inside will get all soggy.

When it comes to people, integrity is determined by what we do when no one is watching.

[A Psalm of David.] Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.

Psalm 26:1

It’s easy to have integrity when everyone’s watching. Pretend that we are in a room, and I show you a container, and tell you that inside is something very valuable, very exciting, very personal to me, and very secret.

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If I left the room, and told you not to look in the container, would you be tempted to take a peek? Probably not if other people were watching, but what if you were left completely alone with the container, and no one would know?

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That’s a test of integrity. Integrity is between you and God.

“Character” is a little different. Character is the combination of qualities that make you the “type” of person you are. If you are honest, hardworking, always on time, you have a trustworthy character. If you are selfish, unfair, sneaky, you have a greedy character.

Integrity is between you and God. Character goes into how other people perceive you.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

Proverbs 22:1

We might say that your character is what kind of name you have – what you are known for.

Does God want us to have integrity? Yes.

The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.

Psalm 7:8

Now, let’s examine what kind of character God wants us to have.

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

I Samuel 16:7

When God looks at us, He sees more than just our physical appearance; He sees us in light of the things we do, and our reason for doing those things, and our true attitude while we do them.

God does care about the appearance of the things we do.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

I Thessalonians 5:22

One reason why God is concerned about the outward appearance of our actions is because we have an influence on others. People in general often adopt the actions of others with whom we spend time. People who hang out together often wear the same clothes, use the same language, and listen to the same music.

One reason that I need to spend time with Jesus – praying, reading my Bible – is that, if I spend time with Him, I’ll start to act like Him.

Many times, we have a challenge when we have an opportunity to do something that might not necessarily be “wrong” in and of itself, but would appear questionable to others. Our challenge is to remember that Christians are being watched by others, and we are supposed to be the “salt of the earth.” Salt adds flavor, but it also has an astringent quality, a cleansing quality. And it has preserving quality.

Christians have a responsibility to God, to ourselves, and to others.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

Changing Names and Calling Names

July 17, 2009 at 9:56 am | Posted in Acts | 13 Comments
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In Acts Chapter 9 Saul of Tarsus meets Jesus Christ. When this happened Saul was charging down the road to Damascus like an angry bull. Why was he angry? His conscience was being pricked. He was under conviction. He had seen the witness of Stephen. Saul was very intelligent. He was very well-educated. He was very zealous for the Jewish faith, and very angry about anything that threatened it. He was very focused on his job, as a hunter of heretics. He was very self-righteous.

Saul had “wasted” many churches.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

Acts 9:21

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

Galatians 1:13

But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

Galatians 1:23

The Jewish council trusted him to go as far as Damascus. The Gospel had spread to Damascus – possibly because converts had fled there to escape persecution in Jerusalem. Saul had no doubt in his mind that Jesus of Nazareth was dead. In his heart? We don’t know.

Saul is commonly portrayed in Bible story books and church art as riding a horse just prior to his Damascus road experience. The fact is, the Bible does not tell us that Saul was riding a horse to Damascus, but if he was, the Lord knocked him off his “high horse,” so to speak.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Acts 9:3-4

This light was so bright that it was bright at midday (Acts 26:13). All the men with him heard the sound of speaking, but only Saul understood the words. Now he knew that Jesus of Nazareth was alive. He had to re-think everything he believed in – everything for which he stood. In an instant, Saul became a new creation.

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

Acts 9:8-9

He went from being an angry bull to being a docile lamb. For three days he fasted and prayed – and probably tried to sort out what this meant.

The Lord sent Ananias to him. (This is a different Ananias than the one who was killed for lying to the Holy Ghost.) All the Christians knew who Saul was, and feared him. He received his sight back, and he received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:15 sort of summarizes Saul’s/Paul’s life and ministry: “But the Lord said unto him [Ananais], Go thy way: for he [Saul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:”

Now the hunter became the hunted. And the hunter of men became the master soul-hunter.

Saul was at first rejected by the Jewish Christians because of his reputation and because of their experience with him. Also, by the time he was presented to them as a Christian, it had been three years since his conversion. He had probably been in Arabia during this time, being taught of God, witnessing, and suffering persecution.

Barnabas was the one who convinced the Jewish Christians that Paul really was an Apostle. Paul began to witness to the same Jews who had killed Stephen – so they plotted to kill Paul.

In Acts Chapter 10 we meet Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a “God-fearer.” Cornelius wanted to please God, so God sent him an angel. The angel told him to go and see Simon Peter.

We might ask ourselves why the angel didn’t just give him the Gospel message himself. The angels can carry God’s messages, but they have not experienced God’s grace in the same way that Christians have. The Gospel is not the same good news for them that it is for us. They have not been redeemed, and it is God’s plan that men share and preach the Gospel, not angels.

Peter was living in the home of a tanner, a person who worked with dead animal skins. This was remarkable for a Jew like Peter.

It is humorous to see that Peter was hungry, and he had a vision about food.

And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

Acts 10:10-15

Peter preached the Gospel to Cornelius, and he believed, and immediately the Holy Ghost fell on all them who believed. This was a special event. Now the Holy Ghost had been given to the Jews (Pentecost), the Samaritans (when Peter went after Philip preached), and the Gentiles. Peter the Apostle went to all three ethnic groups, and was the instrument through which God gave the Holy Ghost. Peter is the one to whom Jesus had given the “keys to the Kingdom.”

Note that these Gentiles received the Holy Ghost before they were baptized in water.

The other Apostles and Christians were a little upset with Peter when he got back, but he told them the whole story.

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Acts 11:18

And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

Acts 11:20-21

Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome itself and Alexandria. The movers and shakers of Rome came for business and pleasure. This was the only city where the streets were lit at night (which would turn out to be kind of ominous for the Christians.) Antioch had a main street paved with marble. In such a cosmopolitan locale, you might expect the preaching of the Gospel to fall flat. Yet the witness of the Holy Spirit, through Godly believers preaching the Word, was very effective.

The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas (whose name meant “the son of encouragement”) to encourage these gentile believers.

And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Acts 11:26

“Christian” has become such a common word today that it has lost some of its valuable impact. The people in Antioch used it the way we might call someone a “Little Christ.” It was a combination of the Hebrew Word for “Christ” with the Greek suffix “ian,” meaning “belonging to the party of.” It was an insult back then, but it was not a “vulgar” (common) term like it is today. When non-believers called them “Christians,” they knew that they had repented of their sins, believed the Gospel, and believed in the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, and as the One True and Living God. Today, “Christian” is a vulgar term: It just means somebody who goes to church, at best – or somebody who is not a pagan, agnostic, or professing atheist, at worst.

Barnabus got Paul to help, knowing that he had been called to preach to the Gentiles. With a famine affecting Jerusalem, the gentile Christians in Antioch sent a special love offering back to the church in Jerusalem, from which had come the message that saved their souls. We need to remember to always try to provide for the physical needs of those who reached out to us when we were lost, and those who helped us grow in the faith.

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