Cross-Examining the Master

August 7, 2009 at 9:41 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors, Luke | 5 Comments
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Lawyers in Bible times were not the same as what we call “lawyers” today. They were thought to be experts in Old Testament law. However, like lawyers today, they had a penchant for trying to trip folks up with tricky questions:

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 10:25

Jesus, the Master, however, was not fazed by such a question. Instead, He turned the tables, forcing the lawyer to confront his own self-righteousness:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Luke 10:29

This question Jesus answered with the story of the “Good Samaritan.” This story (so familiar to us today) forced the lawyer to realize that a hurting neighbor should not be a problem to be avoided or a topic to be debated. Instead of analyzing who is, and who is not, our neighbor, Christ taught that we should see a hurting neighbor as an opportunity to serve. As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, our question should not be, “Who is my neighbor?” Our question should be, “To whom can I be a neighbor?”

Diverting the Flow of the Word

August 6, 2009 at 10:26 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring, Daniel | 11 Comments
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The prophet Daniel had been a very important young man in the kingdom of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, the wicked and powerful ruler, had known him very well. As the years passed, however, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor came to power, and Daniel faded out of the thoughts of the movers and shakers in Babylon.

One day, however, a hand appeared out of thin air in the royal banquet hall, and began to write on the wall. The king was scared out of his wits. He did not understand what the writing meant, and none of his advisors could tell him. Suddenly, Daniel was remembered.

But the Daniel who was summoned to appear before Belshazzar was not the young whipper-snapper who had dealt with Nebuchadnezzar. This Daniel was probably about 82 years old, and he had no time or interest for the king’s frivolous gifts. (Daniel 5:16-17)

We can almost see Daniel, God’s man, shaking his stern finger at Belshazzar, and giving him the interpretation of the writing on the wall without fear:

But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified… In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

Daniel 5:23; 30

It is interesting to note the manner in which the Medo-Persian army invaded the supposedly impenetrable walls of Babylon. First they diverted the course of the Euphrates River, which ran under the walls, and into the city. When the water level went down they were able to go under the walls.

Water is very important to a city. Without water, two tragedies would befall the inhabitants. One, they would get thirsty. Two, they would lose the ability to maintain hygiene, thereby increasing the spread of disease.

In the Bible, water is a picture of God’s Word. (Ephesians 5:26) If the flow of God’s Word is cut off from His people, the people will get thirsty, they will become defiled, they will get spiritually sick, and, ultimately, many will suffer a form of spiritual death. The preaching and teaching of the Bible must be central in the local church.

Character and Integrity Part 2

August 5, 2009 at 11:43 am | Posted in character and integrity | 5 Comments
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Let’s pretend that I offer you a sandwich, but you are not going to be able to eat it right now; you are going to have to save it for later. I offer you two options for preserving the quality of the sandwich before you stick it in the fridge. In one hand I have a beautifully ornate wrought-iron bird cage.

bird cage

It looks both sturdy and beautiful. In the other hand I have an ugly old Zip-lock bag.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/000/0/6867105/il_570xN.334496059.jpg

It looks flimsy and plain. Which are you going to choose?

Obviously, you are going to choose the Zip-lock. Why? Because it has both integrity and character. A properly sealed Zip-lock bag stops both air and water from getting inside. There is a “soundness” and a “wholeness” to a Zip-lock bag. It has integrity. Furthermore, you’ve had experience with bird cages (or a least containers made up of metal sections with gaps in between). You’ve also had experience with Zip-lock bags. Zip-locks have kept a many of your sandwiches fresh before. Zip-lock bags have character.

God wants His people to have both integrity and character. He wants us to be sound, and to be known for being sound.

Who does not want you to be be “sound?” Who wants you to look strong and sturdy at a glance, but to prove unfit upon further inspection? Who wants you to try to act like something you are not, to be a fake? Your enemies, that’s who: the devil, the world, and your flesh.

The Bible doesn’t have much good to say about “the world” once you get past the part where God made it and saw that it was good. It’s been pretty much negative since then (Romans 12:2; I Corinthians 2:12; II Corinthians 4:4).

The “world” is the Bible word for the point of view of those who don’t love God. They don’t necessarily admit that they hate God. They will claim that they would rather just stay on their side and let the Lord stay on His. But there’s one thing that really motivates the world to get proactive – to start campaigning against God: greed, the love of money (I Timothy 6:10).

Here’s a good example. After World War II (1945) there were lots of young people getting to do things they’d never done before. This engendered a certain fear – the fear of “juvenile delinquents.” This kind of fear is not good (II Timothy 1:7). Adults would see something broken or defaced in public, and would start defaulting to, “It must have been those kids…” meaning teenaged kids.

This kind of thinking led to polls. The polls led to an identifiable market. Manufacturers starting producing things like “teen” toys, “teen” dolls, “teen” magazines, “teen” movies, “teen” TV shows, and “teen” clothes. Most of these products were focused on the idea of making kids think ahead to when they would be “older,” and subtly sending the message that it was a good thing to strive to act like they were older than they really were. You can witness this phenomenon going on today with pre-teens (the media calls them “tweens”).

The suspicion of adults and the influence of marketing led to teenaged kids becoming experts at duplicity. Duplicity is the opposite of integrity (James 1:8).

Remember Eddie Haskell from the old show, “Leave It To Beaver?”

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Eddie was duplicitous, even though he never really fooled Mrs. Cleaver when he gushed over her “beautiful dress.” Today, teenaged kids are smarter than Eddie. Most parents would faint if they really knew what CDs their kids listen to, what movies they watch at sleepovers, what’s really posted, but set to private, on their social networking sites.

But God knows. He knows that their integrity is damaged. And other people know, even if the parents don’t – and that has damaged their character.

David (pre-Bathsheba) is a good example of character and integrity. I Samuel 16 is mainly about David being anointed king and playing his harp or lyre for Saul. Chapter 17 is mainly the account of David and Goliath. David was probably about 15 or 16 when he was anointed, and probably close to 20 when he killed Goliath. David was not slothful in business (Romans 12:11; I Samuel 16:10-11). He was keeping his father’s sheep. He was fervent in spirit (Romans 12:11; I Samuel 17:34-35). He risked his life to protect what God had given him. He was serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I Samuel 16:8

Let’s look at David’s character in this verse. These are the things David, even as a teenaged child, was known for – what Proverbs 22:1 calls his “good name.” He was cunning at playing (musical talent). He was mighty and valiant (known for overcoming problems). He was a man of war (a good fighter, someone who stands up for what is right). He was prudent in matters (smart). He was a comely person (good-looking).

It’s really not that uncommon to find someone about whom we can say all or most of those things. But, with David, in addition to those things, they could say, “The LORD is with him.”

Is the Lord with you? (Integrity) Do other people recognize that the Lord is with you? (Character) Both are important to God.

Preaching, Pressing, and Pushing On

August 4, 2009 at 11:48 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 8 Comments
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Acts Chapter 12 starts off by telling us that Herod the king killed John’s brother, James, and had Peter arrested. This Herod is the third Herod – Herod Agrippa I. Herod the Great was the one who had killed the babies in Bethlehem right after Jesus was born. The Herod in Acts 12 is that Herod’s grandson.

King Herod the Great had killed his own son, Aristobulus, who was Herod Agrippa I’s father. Herod Agrippa I (the Herod of Acts 12) had an uncle named Herod Antipas who had beheaded John the Baptist.

As you can see, the Herods were evil, and they practiced nepotism. Warren Wiersbe says nepotism is when a father, being evil, knows how to give good gifts to his children. (Luke 11:13)

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

Acts 12:5-6

Peter was so dangerous that they put two guards on him, but God freed him anyway.

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

Acts 12:7

We meet two other important characters in Acts 12: John Mark, who would write the Book of Mark, and James (not the same one killed in Verse 2), the sort of “half-brother” of Jesus.

But he [PETER], beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

Acts 12:17

This is the same James who wrote the Book of James. It seems that he was also the pastor or the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

Acts 12:20-23

Herod’s last days seem to foreshadow the Antichrist.

In Acts Chapter 13 God called missionaries when His followers were seeking to glorify Him.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 13:1-4

Six men, including John Mark in Verse 6, were ministering in Antioch: Barnabus; Simeon (who was probably from Africa because his nickname was “black”); Lucius (whose name meant “light”); Manen (a friend, or maybe the adopted brother of, Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist); and Saul/Paul. These men were prophets and teachers. At times they did foretell the future, but primarily they were prophets in the sense that they proclaimed God’s Word. We need this type of prophetic ministry today more than we need seers into the future or “words of knowledge” or “fresh revelation.” We need men who will stand up, as elder prophets, and say, “This is what the Bible has to say about that…”

Antioch was in Syria, and from this point in the narrative of Acts, Antioch and Paul replace Jerusalem and Peter as the focal points.

Barnabas and Paul are sent, and they take Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark, with them. They go to six different cities in Chapters 13 and 14. Satan packed up his bag of evil tricks and went after them, or, actually, it appears that he may have gone before them in some instances.

They went to Paphos.

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

Acts 13:6-9

In Paphos, Satan had sown tares among the wheat. The devil is a planter of counterfeits. (Matthew 13:24-25)

Next they went to Perga.

Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

Acts 13:13

In Perga the attack came by way of backsliding. We do not know what caused John Mark to turn back, but he was restored later. It could have been his discomfort with the Gentiles. It could have been a fear of danger in these new areas. Maybe he was jealous concerning Paul’s leadership over his cousin, Barnabas. (Note Verse 13 where it says, “Paul and his company…”)

The first sermon of the Apostle Paul which is recorded in the Bible begins in Acts 13:16, and it was preached in Pisidia. His method was to proclaim the Gospel (Acts 13:28-30), and to press hard for a decision (Acts 13:38-41). This method has come under attack lately by those who claim that pressing for a decision means that men are being deceived into trusting a “decision” rather than trusting Christ. Indeed, it may well be that the method has been abused, twisted, warped, or incorrectly worded, but the fact is that the preaching and pressing which Paul did was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, it is the Bible way of evangelizing.

At first Paul and Barnabas were invited back to the synagogue.

And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

Read 13:42-44

But the Jews stirred up a desire to have them thrown out. They stirred up the leading men and women of high society.

But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

Acts 13:50

Here is a brief rundown of Paul’s first recorded sermon:
1. He reviews the history of Israel.
2. He accuses his listeners of killing the Messiah.
3. He proclaims the Resurrection.
4. He reminds them of the promise of a King on the Throne of David. (Habakkuk 1:5; Isaiah 49:6)

In the Old Testament, God used Gentiles to punish the Jews. At the beginning of the Church in the New Testament, the salvation of the Gentiles is coming through the Jews.

Some people think that the restoration of Davidic worship is the sign of Christ coming back to reign on the Throne of David. I tend to disagree because the Jews were used by God in early Christianity, but for the most part, as a people, they have rejected the message. So now the message has gone primarily among the Gentiles. I do not think that the sign of the coming of Christ will be enthusiastic worship. I think it will be false worship and apostasy and falling away. (II Thessalonians 2:3)

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Acts 13:48

This shows the sovereignty of God.

And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

Acts 13:49

This shows the responsibility of man.

The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man always go together.

In Acts Chapter 14 the Christian missionaries leave Pisidia and go to Iconium. There, Satan opposed them by stirring up Jews. There were signs and wonders along the trip through the different cities, but, despite the signs and wonders, they preached the Gospel (Acts 14:7), and went down into Attalia (Acts 14:25), and:

… when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many,

Acts 14:21

They never ceased to preach the Word.

They went from Iconium to Lystra (home town of Timothy). I suppose they would be called divisive and insulting in today’s politically correct climate for what they did when people wanted to worship them and call them false gods.

And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Acts 14:12-15

Paul didn’t preach from the Old Testament this time because these people were mostly pagans. Instead he preached the God of creation.

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 14:17

The devil and his followers from Iconium and Antioch kept showing up.

And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:19-20

They stoned Paul, but either he survived, or God raised him from the dead. He and his fellow-servants went right back to Antioch, through some of the same places they had been thrown out of. They not only evangelized, but they trained new believers and established churches. Paul’s first missionary journey (there would be two more) lasted about one year.

Chuck E. Church

August 3, 2009 at 9:13 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 6 Comments
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Rollerblading for senior citizens? “Teen” night on the Weather Channel? A bouncy water slide for widows’ ministry? Needlepoint-and-prayer meeting for toddlers? Let’s face it, some activities are not for everyone. Some activities are limited by interest, physical ability, and even age. But is the main reason for church attendance – the hearing of the preaching of the Word of God – one of those activities?

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:… Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

Ephesians 1:1; 6:1

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 2:16

It sure looks like, from the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, that all different types of people, children of all ages, and adults, all met together and heard the preaching of the Word of God together as a matter of regular practice. The wisdom of man says that a person’s need is to be rescued from boredom, for which specialized entertainment is the solution. The wisdom of God says that a person’s need is to be rescued from sin, for which instruction, training, and exhortation from the Word of God is the solution.

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