A Snapshot of the Lord’s Adolescence

October 30, 2009 at 9:12 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 3 Comments
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“Dad, can we go play in the youth building?” Billy (aged 12) asked his father, during a break between speakers.

“I’m sorry, son,” said Billy’s father. “We’re here to strengthen our faith in the Lord, and to learn from God’s Word.”

“But, Dad, we’ve been here for hours. We’ve sung, we’ve prayed, we’ve heard preaching. I’m bored with this conference.”

“Well, let me ask you something,” Billy’s father said. “Are you a ‘Christian?’”

“Yes.”

“Who are Christians supposed to act like?”

Billy thought for a moment. “Christ… Jesus.”

“That’s right, son. Now, I want you to read Luke Chapter 2, and tell me what Jesus was interested in doing at age 12.”

Does this exchange between a father and son sound familiar to us today? It probably doesn’t, but it should. If we profess Christ, then His life must be our example for Christian living.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

Luke 2:41-46

Jesus Christ, approaching what this world calls His “teen years,” was not interested in vain amusements, dabbling in youthful sin, or filthy entertainment. They did not have Guitar Hero for XBox in His day, but if they had, you can believe He wouldn’t have played it in the synagogue.

Our Lord’s affections were set on sitting in the house of God, among the elders of the church, listening to the Word of His Father.

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 1

October 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Arise | 13 Comments
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To “arise” means to get up – to get moving – to stir, and to get busy.

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria…

Matthew 4:18-24

And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Matthew 8:21-22

When Jesus got ready to recruit disciples, He had been preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God, but when He called disciples, He didn’t give much of a sales pitch. “Follow me,” He said. Have you ever wondered why they did it?

The answer, I think, lies not in the command “follow.” There’s no shortage of people who want to tell you what to do – to give you a command. The answer lies in the “Me” – that short little two-letter Word is more than just the direct object of the sentence. The ME is the King of Glory – the Son of God – the Prince of Peace – the God over all gods – the King over all kings – the Maker of Heaven and of Earth – the Alpha and Omega – the Author of Salvation.

They really didn’t need the “follow” to be convinced. All we really need is the “ME.” When you begin to understand the greatness of Jesus – His infinite worth – you want to – no, you have to – be with Him. And you put the Person – “Me” – together with the “follow,” and you’ve got a Person and a Path.

He says, “Arise. If you want the ‘ME,’ you’re going to have to go places. But it’s okay – because you’ll be going with ME.”

The disciples followed, and it seemed great at first. Matthew 4 says Jesus did miracles. He healed the sick and fed the hungry, and gave sight and the ability to walk. And they became famous, and crowds followed, and people loved them – as if someone said, “Here, free candy – just for coming to church.” Most everybody likes candy. Why? Because it’s sweet. It doesn’t require much effort. It sort of melts in your mouth. But once in a while you get a surprise – a different kind of candy – the kind of candy that, when you say, “Hey, you’re giving me candy, I’ll follow you” – suddenly things turn sour.

Jesus says, If you’re going to follow Me, sometimes things are going to get sour. Sometimes you’re not going to have a bed or pillow or shelter. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to be loved by your family. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to do all the things you want, because you are a follower – and a follower follows a leader – and a leader is in charge – in command.

When a leader says, “Let’s go, you don’t have time to bury your father – let the dead bury the dead – we’re following hard after my Father now…” Do you spit it out? Give up? Too sour? Not what you bargained for? Or do you just keep sucking it up – knowing that one day things will be sweet again – sweeter than ever?

I hope – when things in your life seem too hard – too hard deal with the way a Christian is supposed to deal with them – the way the Bible says to deal with them – that you’ll remember this simple little lesson – you’ll remember Who you are following. Don’t shy away from doing the hard thing. Jesus – if you are really His – loves you even when you taste bad. He is worthy to be loved and followed through any circumstances, trials, troubles, and hardships.

I. The Pious Patriarch

Naboth was the owner of a vineyard in the little town of Jezreel. (A vineyard is a piece of land used for growing grapes.)

So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.

Numbers 36:7-8

Naboth, years later, was the patriarch of one these families in one of these tribes. A patriarch is the male leader of a tribe. Naboth’s vineyard had come to him, through his forefathers, directly from God. It was really God’s vineyard. Naboth was a steward over it for God, and for the good of those that God had placed into his care. Every one of us are stewards over the gifts God has given us, and we are to use these gifts to help others, so that God is glorified. Naboth had a command from God: Keep this land in your family. He had a blessing from God: You may enjoy this land.

We have every reason to believe that he did enjoy it. Perhaps in his own childhood, he had played there. Perhaps his wife’s family had worked and played in this vineyard. Perhaps Naboth and his fathers and sons had driven out lions and foxes from this vineyard. Perhaps Naboth enjoyed watching his own children frolic in the rows of grapes, and play in the soft fertile dirt. I call Naboth the Pious Patriarch because when there was a strong temptation to do what was easy, Naboth, instead of doing what was easy, did what was right. But he did so because of a devotion to God.

And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

I Kings 21:1-3

Saying no to a king is a dangerous thing. Saying no to certain people today – saying no to certain things – can seem very dangerous to us. It can be very difficult. Someone might tell you the same thing Naboth was told: “Give up what God gave you, and you’ll get a fair price for it.” Or, “You’ll get something better in return.” How much more popular could you be with your friends if you would sell your purity – your devotion to God? How much more money could you make if not for having to attend, and serve in, church? How much more rest could you get? How many fun and entertaining things could you see and do?

Naboth said no. He didn’t say, “In my childhood I played here. My wife’s family worked and played in this vineyard. My father and sons have driven out lions and foxes from this vineyard. I love to see my own children frolic in the rows of grapes, and play in the soft fertile dirt.” He didn’t say all those things, but he could have. Instead, he let it be known that he feared God more than the king. He loved God more than men.

Do you love God more than men? That’s the question you’re going to have to ask yourself every time someone tells you to give up what God gave you, and you’ll get something better, or you’ll get a fair price. Will you sink down into the muddy pit of conformity? Or will you arise and say, “The Lord forbid it me.”

II. The Pouting Potentate

A “potentate” is someone with “power” – someone who is “potent:” a king, a ruler, an emperor. King Ahab is the “Pouting Potentate” in this account.

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.

I Kings 16:30

… Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

I Kings 16:33

Ahab married the wicked Jezebel – from Sidon – and, at her prompting, instituted and encouraged the wicked worship of Baal among the groves. The worship of Baal involved sexual debauchery, child sacrifice, and worship of “nature” instead of God. It happened long ago, but it sounds very familiar today. It’s just that we don’t call it “sexual debauchery, child sacrifice, and worship of nature instead of God.” We call it “hooking up, abortion, and environmentalism.” R.G. Lee called Ahab “the vile toad who squatted on the throne of a nation.”

And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.

I Kings 21:4-6

Ahab, the King of Israel, who had lands beyond number, who had livestock, gold, jewels, money, orchards, palaces, servants, maybe 100 vineyards, was pouting like a spoiled little baby – or an over-indulged teenaged child – because he couldn’t have one little garden of herbs right where he wanted it!

Are we much better? Are we always wanting more? Do we worship things, or do we worship God? What is our energy devoted to obtaining? Clothes? Electronics? Cars? Nicer, more expensive luxuries? Or righteousness?

What could make the king of God’s Own people so depressed? As Christians we have access to the eternal riches of glory in Christ Jesus. And the wonderful thing is that God has made us stewards over everything He has given us, but He remains the Owner! The devil comes to you, and whispers in your ear – the way we will see Jezebel do it in Part 2 of this message – and he says, “Disobey God – just a little – and you can have this – you can enjoy that.”

But you say, “Devil, you can’t give me anything – because I have everything I could ever need or want in Christ Jesus!

He says, “Fine, you can’t be tempted with the promise of gaining something you don’t have – but I’ll take something away from you!”

And you say, “Go right ahead, I don’t own anything for you to take from me – this all belongs to God, not me.”

Vance Havner used to say, “What are you gonna do with a man like that?” You can’t give him anything because he has everything – and you can’t take anything away from him because he doesn’t have anything. You can’t head him off if you cut off his head!

I know the world laughs at this, but “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6) I know whom I have believed – though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! (II Timothy 1:12; Job 13:15)

Ahab should have been arising. Rising up to praise God. But instead he was sinking down into a bed of sorrows – discontent, grumpy, pouting.

In Part 2, we will see Jezebel enter the scene.

Promoted with Straight “A”s

October 28, 2009 at 7:44 am | Posted in Acts | 7 Comments
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May the Lord grant our true Christian local churches sweet fellowship of the kind we see in Acts. In Chapter 20, we see a church meeting that got straight “A”s. First of all, they had the right Attitude. They met on the first day of the week, because, in all things, they endeavored to put Christ first.

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together…

Acts 20:7

Second, they Ate. The breaking of bread (enjoying a meal together) was common practice for these believers, and it also allowed them to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

…the disciples came together to break bread…

Acts 20:7

Third, they Assembled. How important it is for Christians to regularly attend church!

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

Acts 20:8

Fourth, they Announced the Good News. The preaching of God’s Word must be the central component of any church service.

…Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:7

Fifth, they saw the power of the Lord in Action. Wonderful blessings are often imparted to believers when they gather together in obedience to Scripture.

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

Start each week off right! Give God your first and your best by heading for His house each and every Sunday morning.

The Strait Gate and the Wall that Will Not Fall

October 27, 2009 at 8:01 am | Posted in Nehemiah | 10 Comments
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In about 443 B.C. Nehemiah led a brave group of Jewish exiles back to the city of Jerusalem to rebuild the walls which had been destroyed by Babylonian invaders. As he systematically assigned different groups of workers to work on different sections of the walls, we can see how these different sections were divided by different “gates.” The Bible outlines these different gates in such a way that we might glean a spiritual lesson.

Among the various gates, there was a fountain gate (Nehemiah 3:15) and a water gate (Nehemiah 3:26). In Scripture water for drinking (a fountain) is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Water for washing is a picture of the Word of God. The names of the workers who repaired the fountain gate are recorded for posterity. The people of God need the power of God (the Holy Spirit) to do the work of God. However, there is no record of repairs on the water gate. This reminds us that the Word of God stands forever, and will not fall. Neither will it ever need to be “repaired” or “improved.”

LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

Psalm 119:89

Why Parables?

October 26, 2009 at 11:30 am | Posted in Matthew, parables | 10 Comments
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By reading the true historical and inspired accounts of the life of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), you will notice how frequently the Lord taught in parables.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

Matthew 13:10

The word “parable” comes from two ancient words: para, meaning “alongside;” and bole, meaning “to throw.” Literally, a “parable” is two different topics thrown alongside each other so they can be compared or contrasted for the purpose of greater enlightenment. In the 21st Century we are guilty of laziness, and our more common forms of the parable are the simile and the metaphor. We may say, “Kay was as mad as a hornet,” or, “Bob is just a couch potato.” These forms of speech sketch a picture, but they pale in comparison to the richness of Bible parables, which not only sketch the outside of a lesson, but vividly paint it in living words.

Christ’s parables are, in a sense, like the keys to a mansion. Mansions look interesting from the outside, but the keys allow us to go inside, spend time, explore, and closely investigate. Jesus invited those whose spiritual sight and hearing were growing dim and dull to become interested and excited, and to examine the things they knew about the world while those things are “thrown alongside” the principles of the Kingdom of God.

Do You Want to Live Forever?

October 23, 2009 at 9:31 am | Posted in Eternity, Salvation | 25 Comments
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You have probably heard the expression, “Life is short.” In one sense, it is. No one will live forever in this world. However, in eternity, everyone will consciously exist forever. Do you know what your eternal existence will be like, and, if your answer is yes, upon what are you basing that knowledge? The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5). If this is true, then it is absolutely crucial that you know Him personally. You will spend eternity in the presence of God. The presence of God through His Mediator will be absolute bliss, blessedness, and joy (Revelation 21:1-7). The presence of God without His Mediator will be unbearable torment (Revelation 14:10).

John Piper’s S.W.I.M. Prayer

October 22, 2009 at 8:51 am | Posted in Hebrews, Quotes | 3 Comments
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Father, we fear our deadly fondness for floating toward the falls when we ought to be swimming against the current. Oh, God, have mercy to waken us again and again to the perils of drifting in the Christian life. Help us heed Hebrews 2:1… Woe to the drifters in a world where all the current is toward destruction!

John Piper

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Hebrews 2:1

The Founding Father

October 21, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Genesis | 12 Comments
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Since Genesis is the first book of the Bible, it makes sense that it would lay the foundation for the great doctrines of God revealed later in Scripture.

In Genesis we learn that God founds. He creates.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

In Genesis we also learn that God forms.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

Genesis 1:6

In Genesis we also learn that God fills.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

Genesis 1:20

Genesis is a Book of “firsts.” It contains the record of the first rest.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

Genesis 2:2

Genesis also contains the record of the first residence.

And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Genesis 2:8

Genesis also contains the record of the first relationships (covenant and marriage).

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:16-18

Our modern world uses belief in the literal truth of the events recorded in Genesis as a test for a person’s sanity. I heard a commentator once say that America was divided into states where people believe in billions of years of evolution, and states where people believe that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church. I freely admit that I believe that the animals that we know today as “dinosaurs” were alive in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and, before sin entered the world, Adam had dominion over these animals, so he might very well have ridden them to whatever form of worship (or “church”) which he and Eve practiced. Call me crazy if you like, but the Bible describes a relatively young Earth (approximately 6000 years old). And it does no good to say that the six days of creation might have really been “epochs” or “ages” or “periods of time” consisting of millions or billions of years each. The Hebrew word for a literal “day” – yowm or yom – is the same word used in Exodus 20:9-10: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:” No one can honestly argue that these “days” in Exodus are anything but literal “days.”

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We see the wisdom of God in creating for Adam a “helper.” My wife says that this proves Eve was smarter than Adam, because a “helper” is someone who is able to do things that you couldn’t do on your own.

Notice that Eve was not taken from Adam’s head or foot, but from his side. This signifies equality, protection, and proximity to his “heart.” Eve was really a gift for Adam from God.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

Genesis 1:20

The birds (flying) and the fish (breathing under water) could do things Adam couldn’t do, but that was good.

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:21

God also declared the land animals to be good, but He brought them before Adam to be named.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:19-20

Adam could do most of the things the land animals could do, but they were doing something in pairs that Adam couldn’t do alone – and that was not good. This seems to have been a motivation for God to make Eve.

It is important to remember that Adam was not a brute, a savage, or a cave man. He was probably the smartest man in the history of the world – hardwired straight from the mind of God. He named all the animals and got married in one day. He did not have a mother-in-law, but he had the best Father-in-law of all time. Those of us who have Christian wives need to remember that our wives are daughters of God.

All in the Past

October 20, 2009 at 7:50 am | Posted in Eternity | 14 Comments
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Satan, the adversary of every Christian, will one day be bound and utterly defeated. At that point he will no longer have the ability to harass and torment the children of God. Today, however, he is tirelessly at work doing all he can to rob God of glory, and to destroy the creatures that God loves. Dr. Frank M. Kepner, the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Long Beach, California, from 1956-1979, once wrote: “Yes, when we have been brought close to Christ by some high spiritual experience or by some noble decision, we may always expect great temptation to follow. For Satan never surrenders a life to God without a desperate struggle.”

Of course, the faithful Christian who studies his Bible is not ignorant of Satan’s devices, weapons, schemes, or persistence. When he is tripped by Satan, and stumbles into sin, he need not fret or wallow in defeat. In fact, Christians have access to a great promise concerning God’s compassion on His children even when they have shamefully stumbled.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

When you have been “born again” – that is, born into the family of God – your past sins are forgiven, your current sins are forgiven, and even your future sins are forgiven. The “tense” of your sins is not the important thing. The tense of God’s forgiveness is. The sins of believers were dealt with on the Cross of Christ and they “hath” been (past tense) forgiven.

A believer who is dealt a blow by Satan, and who gives in to sin, grieves the Holy Spirit of God.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

This would have been the perfect place for God to tell us that our sins can cause the Spirit to be grieved to the point that He leaves us, and that we lose our eternal salvation. But He does not. Instead, He reminds us that, though we may grieve the Holy Spirit, He still seals Christians unto the day of redemption. Satan is strong. Some men are strong. But no one can break the seal of God.

Swimming for Spiritual Fitness

October 19, 2009 at 9:06 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Ezekiel | 3 Comments
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Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. It utilizes almost the entire body: the arms, legs, shoulders, back, and abdominal muscles. It is great for the cardiovascular system because it increases the heart-rate and helps to control breathing. Water can seem as hard as concrete if we fall into it from a high distance, but swimming in it is a low-impact exercise because it causes no jarring to the bones and joints. Water is thicker than air, so swimming involves muscle-building resistance.

The water of God’s grace is likewise a good place for spiritual exercise.

Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in

Ezekiel 47:5 (Emphasis added.)

God’s grace teaches us to present our entire bodies over to Him for our complete spiritual exercise (Romans 12:1-2). The grace of God influences our breathing (Psalm 150:6) and our heart rate (Luke 24:32). The impact of God’s grace can break us like a rock, but He is the Rock Who then redeems us, puts us back together, and makes us whole (Psalm 78:34-35). The very presence of God Himself envelops Christians the way water engulfs a swimmer.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being…

Acts 17:28

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