Sweet Theology

November 30, 2009 at 9:21 am | Posted in Selected Psalms, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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“Theology” might be defined as the study of the true nature of God. It is a word which is derived from the ancient Greek word for “God:” Theo; and from the ancient Greek word logos, meaning a “discourse” or “systematic discussion of.” Theology, as practiced by the wisdom of man, can be very dry – boring even.

Therefore, theology must never be divorced from our greatest source of information about God: the Bible. This source is neither boring nor dry. In fact, it is living, powerful, fear-inspiring, and love-producing. The Bible contains the very Words of the living God, including His laws, principles, and His righteous dealings with sinful man over the centuries (His judgments, Psalm 19:9).

How people treat the Bible is a good indicator of how they feel about its Author. Are you willing to forsake opportunities to gain personal wealth in order to spend time studying God’s Word? Do you desire to be instructed in revealed righteousness more than you desire your favorite foods? Money and food may provide sustenance (temporary life), but the judgments of the Lord point toward Christ Jesus, the Provider of eternal life.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Psalm 19:10

The Elevator to Heaven

November 28, 2009 at 11:51 am | Posted in Salvation | 2 Comments
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Most people know how elevators work. We know what they do, where they are found, and how to get inside them. When we stand in the lobby of a building, and see the elevator door, we “believe in” that elevator. We know that it can take us to the top of the building. But do we really have “faith” in the elevator? I don’t really place my trust in an elevator until the doors slide open and I actually step inside. Once I’m inside, then I have faith in that elevator. If it goes up, I’m going up. If it goes down, I’m going down. I am then fully depending on that elevator to take me all the way up to my destination.

Jesus Christ is the only Elevator that can take you to Heaven (John 14:6). There are no stairs you can climb, and no other way up. Maybe you know “about” Jesus. You have heard that He was born in a stable, that He grew up with Mary and Joseph, that He was a great teacher, and that He did miracles. You may have even heard that He never sinned, and that people say He was the Son of God. If I told you that the Bible says that He was crucified, buried, and rose again, you would nod your head in agreement (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

But have you ever stepped into the Elevator which is Christ the Lord? Have you placed all your trust in Him? Have you ever admitted that you cannot get to Heaven on your own, because your sin has separated you from God? If not, He is calling you now to place your faith and your trust fully in Him, to believe not just that He died, but that He died for your sins. It’s not enough to know about Jesus – you must come to Him and know Him personally.

Wake Up to the Word

November 24, 2009 at 10:19 am | Posted in Matthew, parables | 10 Comments
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Have you ever noticed the disparity among church-goers as they listen to the Word of God being preached aloud? Many times you will see one listening with rapt attention, while another, right next to him, is day-dreaming, or, in some cases, sleeping soundly! In some ways, this mirrors the different spiritual responses to the parables of Christ.

Jesus explained it this way:

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Matthew 13:11-16

Christ’s parables had the power to hide truth and reveal truth at the same time, depending on the condition of the listeners. Let us make sure today that, if the Word of God is becoming hard to understand, or if it seems boring, we allow the Holy Spirit to arrest the process of spiritual blindness, deafness, and hard-heartedness. Just as the truth of the Gospel aroused your interest in becoming born-again, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing you (Colossians 3:16), as you grow in spiritual maturity, and grow closer to God.

What Is Lying at Your Door?

November 23, 2009 at 10:48 am | Posted in Genesis | 18 Comments
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When I was a very young boy I had a dog named Trigger. Trigger was the best dog in the world. He was affectionate, friendly, brave, playful, easygoing, and, above all, loyal. He was an “outside dog,” and his tendency was to lie in wait near the door of my home. If I came bursting through the door, on my way to play in the woods, Trigger was right there, leaping to join me, as if he had been poised, anxiously expecting me at any moment. In a way, his desire was to please me, and I ruled over him.

Cain and Abel were brothers. Each brought an offering to the Lord. Abel’s offering was a slaughtered animal. Cain’s offering was some type of fruit grown from the ground. Abel’s offering pleased God. Cain’s did not. We do not know for sure if Abel’s offering pleased God because it was a blood offering, given as a sacrifice for sin. If so, then Cain’s offering, which was bloodless, could have been rectified. He could have made a second, proper, sacrifice. We do know that Cain had a bigger problem with his offering than the thing that was being offered. The bigger problem was the condition of Cain’s heart, evidenced by his attitude toward God.

Genesis 4:5 tells us that Cain was “wroth:” burning with a fierce anger. God addressed the condition of Cain’s heart with him in Verse 7: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted..?”

God did not ask Cain the question in the first part of the Verse because He didn’t know the answer. God is (and always has been and always will be) omniscient. He may have asked Cain this question in order to give him a chance to repent, or to make a point. Then, in the rest of the Verse, God sets forth a warning: “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

Some Bible scholars believe that God was referring to Abel, Cain’s younger brother, when He said, “unto thee shall be his desire,” meaning that Abel would continue to look up to, respect, and try to please his older brother if Cain did what was right.

Others believe that God was telling Cain that, if he did what was right, he should (shalt) be able to rule over sin by not giving in to it, even though his wrong-doing had brought sin to his door.

Or is it possible that God was telling Cain that the attitude of his heart had brought sin to lie at his door like a faithful hound? Sin would be lying there, waiting obediently, and its (sin’s) desire would be to do the bidding of Cain, and those who followed the “way of Cain” (Jude Verse 11). Just as Trigger was anxious to please me, and have me “rule” over him, so sin would be the servant of Cain and all those who opposed the righteousness of God, and who encouraged others to rebel against Him (Proverbs 10:16). It is true that unregenerate people are the servants of sin (Romans Chapter 6). But it is also true that sin serves them as they attempt to corrupt and influence Christians (Romans 16:17-18).

Perfect Unbreakable Love

November 20, 2009 at 10:52 am | Posted in Eternity | 3 Comments
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True Christianity is so difficult for the unregenerate person to comprehend. People are born with an innate understanding that there is a God, and that, because of the hidden wickedness of their own hearts, they are not righteous before this God. So far, so good. But here is where the problem appears. Unregenerate sinners are blind to spiritual truth. Therefore, they grope about in the dark, and come up with this plan: “I will do enough good things to make up for my bad things, and God will be pleased.”

This flies right in the face of God’s revealed truth, which is found in the pages of the Holy Bible (Ephesians 2:9), but it makes a certain type of worldly, humanistic sense. After all, are not people supposed to do good things? The answer is that people are supposed to do good things, but not as a way to make God our debtor. Instead, God, in His grace and mercy, and for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32), forgives us our sins when we trust in Him, and that motivates and empowers us to do good things.

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Colossians 3:13

Notice what comes first in that verse. Christ forgives me first, then I am able to forgive others. Not the other way around: I do not earn Christ’s forgiveness by first forgiving others. The following verses shed even more light:

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

Colossians 3:14

Charity (self-sacrificing, giving, Christian love) is first the act of God. And it is the bond of perfectness. We are to love others because Christ loved us first, and gave Himself for us (Ephesians 5:2). Christ’s love is so perfect and its bond is so unbreakable that the natural result is for me to want to emulate it after I have experienced it. However, even when my love fails, Christ’s love is still effectual. For Christ to reject the regenerate would make His love less than perfect, and His bond weak and breakable. These things simply cannot be.

Seeking the Source

November 19, 2009 at 11:28 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Ezekiel | 13 Comments
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Some lakes are formed by rivers or streams flowing into a lower land area. Bays are formed when the ocean washes into a cove. Some creeks are formed by water springing up from an underground source. Puddles are formed by rain falling down. The point is, bodies of water have sources.

As the angel in Ezekiel 47 brought the prophet to the place where the waters of God’s grace were deep enough to swim in, he paused.

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, a river that could not be passed over.

Ezekiel 47:5

At that point, the angel turned Ezekiel around, and they returned to the brink of the river.

And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river.

Ezekiel 47:6

The river of God’s grace which flows steadily into the lives of Christians is a wonderful thing. It brings such blessings, in fact, that there is a temptation to bask in these blessings, and to forget the Source of the river. In other words, we sometimes enjoy the blessings and ignore the “Blesser.” When you find yourself saturated in the grace of God, and you are splashing, soaking, and swimming in His blessings, do not forget to seek the Source of the river of life. The sweetest, coolest, and best waters are found in the presence of the Source Himself.

Faithful Wounds

November 18, 2009 at 11:39 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Biblical Violence, Biblical Walking | 21 Comments
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The young boy walked across the church parking lot, tossing a ball in the air and catching it as it fell, casually wandering toward a busy highway. One man noticed this, and, being a religious man, he began to wring his hands, pray, and ask the boy politely to stop, to change directions, or at least to pay attention to where he was going. The boy remained oblivious and kept moving toward the highway. Another man observed the boy, and, being a caring man, he ran in a flat-out sprint toward the boy, dove through the air, and crashed into the boy with a flying shoulder tackle. Both he and the boy landed, just short of the path of a speeding truck, in a ditch filled with mud, weeds, and broken glass. The boy was shaken up, crying, cut, and bruised, but still alive.

The two men had taken drastically different approaches. One man appeared loving and polite, but his passivity was evidence of a callow cruelty toward the boy. One man appeared hateful and rash, but his willingness to act was evidence of a true love for the boy.

Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:5-6

Christians are not supposed to just “have” friends. They are supposed to LOVE their friends. Christian love is more than just a “feeling.” It always involves action. If I have a friend who is walking toward destruction, my “secret love” for this friend will be of little help. However, a loud verbal warning during a face-to-face confrontation, even though it may cause hard feelings, could do a world of good. I need to have a loving willingness to batter and bruise (and then bandage) my friends, instead of a weak-willed sentimental desire to give them little kisses good-bye as they head for damnation.

Pavlov’s Kids

November 17, 2009 at 9:16 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Despite what is taught in biology classes all over the world, human beings are not a highly evolved form of animal. The Bible clearly delineates the differences between people and animals. However, there are some behavioral similarities.

Animals can be trained by a process of lure and reward. A dog which does not want to enter the veterinarian’s office might be tempted into the examination room with a dangled morsel of meat. The painful vaccination which follows will no doubt be good for the dog, even if the dog does not particularly enjoy it.

When the dog is later benefitting from a healthy heartworm-free and rabies-free life, he will not necessarily associate the benefits with his trip to the vet. Therefore, he must be enticed anew each time.

The ordinary, every-day, average, garden-variety 21st Century American teen-aged child is much the same. You can win over his or her willingness to come to church with delicious treats. Food and fun, games and gimmicks, seem good TO them, but they are not necessarily good FOR them. And, although they might be willing to sit through a Bible lesson in order to receive these treats, when the treats run out (usually around the time they turn into legal “adults”), it is unlikely they will continue to endure spiritual “treatment” without the fleshly “reward.” In other words, what you win them WITH, is what you win them TO.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us a better way to win converts to the Lord, regardless of their age or personal preferences.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

I Corinthians 1:20-21

Believe it or not, it is the preaching of the Cross of Christ that wins converts to Christ, regardless of their age or interests. There is no Biblical authority for separating the means for getting young people to the Cross from the message of the Cross itself.

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 2

November 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Arise, Biblical friendship | 8 Comments
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In Part 1 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)

Now we will meet Jezebel, the wife of Ahab.

III. The Poisonous Puppeteer

And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.

I Kings 21:7

This is so characteristic of how the devil works. Lacking the ability to know the thoughts and intents of every heart the way God does, he watches and observes… Until it’s time for him to “arise.” He rises like a serpent with its head poised to strike. He finds someone who is saying no to God’s way – someone who loves things more than God – someone who loves self more than God. Then the devil arises, and he strikes, and he tells his servants to arise. Beware of the poison of those who will manipulate you at the behest of the devil.

Jezebel knew just which strings to pull. She injected the poison of greed and covetousness, and she started to put on the devil’s own puppet show.

Take a moment to figuratively look around you right now. Who has hold of your strings today? Are you surrounded by good and Godly friends? People who will hold you accountable in tough love? Who will tell you when you’re sinfully pouting? Or do you have acquaintances who are working for the devil? You can recognize them by the way they always have a soothing word – they’re quick to tell you just what you want to hear. And secretly they are pulling the strings and they are moving your hands away from prayer and the Bible. They are moving your feet away from the church house. They are pulling your eyelids open until the wee hours on Saturday night, and holding them down on Sunday morning. You need to ask God to cut those strings.

When Jezebel started pulling the strings for her devilish puppet show, she played a masterpiece of evil. First, she forged Ahab’s name on a poison pen letter.

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

I Kings 21:8

Then, she blasphemed God by pretending that someone in Jezreel had sinned against Him and Ahab.

And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:

I Kings 21:9

To be “set on high” was not an honor. It was to be placed in the seat of the accused. Naboth, who had honored God, was being falsely accused of dishonoring God. When the devil says “arise,” there are always plenty of his children eager to do his bidding. Jezebel brought out two puppets to bear false witness.

And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.

I Kings 21:13

Covetousness led to lying, and to blasphemy, and to theft, and to murder. Never kid yourself that the sin of coveting what your neighbor has is a harmless or a minor little fault.

II Kings 9:26 tells us that not only did these sons of Belial, these worthless puppets – playing on the ends of their strings for their evil puppet-master Jezebel – kill Naboth, but they took his little sons out and killed them, too. They did this so that Ahab would not have to contend with any heirs to Naboth’s vineyard.

If you play with sin, sin will play with you. And if sin plays with you, it will wreck your life. If you fool around with sin, sin will make a fool out of you.

Sin will take you further than you wanted to go.
Sin will teach you more than you wanted to know.
It will keep you longer than you wanted to stay.
It will cost you more than you wanted to pay.

So far, we have seen two despicable characters: Ahab, the Pouting Potentate, and his manipulative and evil wife, Jezebel, the Poisonous Puppeteer. We have seen one person in this whole account who has acted honorably: Naboth, the Pious Patriarch. And he and his beloved sons have been killed for their trouble.

Now we will see that when someone arises to the cause of God, and then the devil and his minions arise to do battle, the outlook is not always rosy from start to finish. When the devil says “arise,” sometimes his victims are struck down. But aren’t you glad that, even though Satan has his followers to whom he can say “arise,” God has His man to whom He can say “arise?”

And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.

I Kings 21:17-18

IV. The Pestering Prophet

Elijah was Ahab’s and Jezebel’s old foe. He did not live in a palace like Ahab. He was from the little town of Tish. He did not wear fancy clothes like Ahab. He wore rough clothes. He did not dine on delicacies and herbs like Ahab. He had a strange diet in the wilderness. But underneath his rough exterior, he had a pure heart, a holy devotion to God. Ahab’s fine garments covered a corrupt, rotten heart.

Ahab wandered through the vineyard that Jezebel had got for him with treachery. We might wonder if a shadow suddenly fell across his path: the shadow of Elijah the prophet.

I call Elijah the pestering prophet not because he was a pest in general, but because in the days when Ahab’s wife and yes-men encouraged every frivolous sin he indulged in, Elijah alone was the one voice who would not condone, who not go along, who would not soften his tone, who would not bow before the throne of the wicked.

And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.

I Kings 21:20

Elijah was not really Ahab’s “enemy.” No, he was the only friend he had in all the land. Your best friend is the one who tells you the most truth. Elijah was no more Ahab’s enemy than Christians who are intolerant of sin are the enemies of a nation. We live in a day and age when we are not only allowed to sin, not only tempted to sin, not only encouraged to sin, but praised and honored for being good at sin. We tolerate everything in this world – except intolerance.

Liberalism says that everyone is free to do what he wants – except to tell the Truth about Jesus. We don’t want Christ in anything anymore. We are not supposed to talk about celebrating Christ’s birth in December – we’re just supposed to say “Seasons Greetings.” We are not supposed to celebrate Resurrection Day – we are supposed to have “spring break.” We don’t pray in our schools anymore – we’re too busy reminding our kids that they came from an amoeba or a monkey. A man can fornicate with a man or a woman with a woman – and celebrate it in a parade. But if you stand up and say the Bible says it’s not marriage, it’s sin, then you’re guilty of a hate crime! When a missionary or a pastor or a Christian father or mother who was faithful for 60 years dies, it’s not on the news. Because if it were on the news, it would have to interrupt the spectacular tribute to some idol whose great contribution to society was wearing a sequined glove and walking backwards while pretending to walk forward! According to today’s society it’s narrow-minded, close-minded, “everybody who rejects Jesus is going to hell” Christians who are the only problem we have in this country. And that’s the way it’s portrayed in the media.

Ahab called Elijah “my enemy.” “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” And this wasn’t the first time Ahab had taken this attitude toward Elijah. After Elijah had told Ahab it was not going to rain, he went to see him after three years of drought.

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?

I Kings 18:17

That’s what the government – that’s what society – that’s what popular culture – is saying to Christians today: “You are the ones who are troubling America.” One day – and it might be soon – they’re going to see just what this world will be like without Christians troubling it – and they’re not going to like it one bit.

I. The Pious Patriarch
II. The Pouting Potentate
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer
IV. The Pestering Prophet

In Part 3, we will examine the Preeminent Precept.

Conscious of the Conscience

November 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Acts | 14 Comments
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Acts Chapter 20 is the beginning of the farewell section of Acts. The Apostle Paul had a genuine love for the churches the Lord had used him to start, and he wanted to visit them one last time. It was while he was in Corinth that the Holy Ghost gave him the Book of Romans.

When Paul, Luke, Timothy, and Titus meet at Troas, we get a picture of their church services: they met on the Lord’s Day, at night, at someone’s house. They shared a meal. Then they observed the Lord’s Supper, and they declared the Word of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the account of Eutychus – the man who fell out of church (literally!)

Paul went to report to the Ephesian elders. His report is written as more of an address than a sermon. It is not what we would consider “evangelistic.”

In this report Paul describes the past (Acts 20:18-21), and he highlights his faithfulness. He describes the present (Acts 20:22-27), and explains how he had no interest in doing anything other than serving the Lord. He describes the future (Acts 20:28-35) as being a time of coming dangers.

In Acts 21 we find that a large part of Paul’s third missionary journey was spent collecting a love offering from the gentile churches to send to the Jerusalem church. He was also occupied battling the Judaizers, who were very determined.

It was Paul’s desire not to see Christianity defiled with a mixture of Judaism. This desire for the purity of the Gospel message drove him to Jerusalem despite of all the warnings not to go there. When Paul reported about his trip, the Judaizers were ready right away with their rumors. Paul tried to cooperate by not giving offense, but he could not compromise the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and he could not compromise in the area of undivided fellowship with the gentiles.

Paul was arrested wrongfully when a riot broke out. The riot was caused by Jews who claimed he had brought his gentile friends into the temple. The Roman authorities kept him from being killed. They thought he was someone else at first, but he spoke Greek to them, so they let him speak to the Jews, and he then spoke Aramaic.

Paul declared what he had personally seen and been involved in:

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

Acts 21:19

He was impressing the Jews with this testimony until he mentioned the word “gentiles.” That word almost started another riot.

Claudius was going to have Paul scourged, but then Paul revealed that he was a Roman citizen. Roman citizens were not to be bound or scourged. Claudius had obtained his Roman citizenship by bribery. Paul had inherited his Roman citizenship from his father – he was “born free.”

It had been preordained that Paul was going to Rome – it’s just that God was making it so that Rome would foot the bill for the journey: Paul was going as a prisoner.

There is no Acts 12:5 in Acts Chapter 22.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

Acts 12:5

Paul was in prison. The Judaizers were probably influencing the church in Jerusalem. And Satan was probably influencing the Judaizers. We must never let Satan stop our prayers.

In Acts Chapter 23 Paul is taken by the Roman captain before the Sanhedrin. He testified as a defendant, but his testimony was really preaching.

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts 23:1

When the Bible uses the Word “conscience” in this verse, the Holy Ghost is telling us that our conscience applies the standard for our behavior, not that it sets the standard. You may have seen the stereotypical movie tough guy who lives by a “code.” He will rob, kill, and extort, but he won’t allow a lady to be insulted, or maybe he won’t shoot somebody in the back. That is the world’s idea of “conscience,” in which each person determines his own behavior by whatever happens to offend him or her. It is not the Bible’s idea of conscience.

We do not know if the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know that one reason it was written was to explain the difference between being a Jewish Christian and a Jew who wants to be called a Christian. Hebrews explains the seared and the evil conscience. The Apostle Paul used the word “conscience” 21 times in his letters.

Paul didn’t particularly enjoy being slapped in the face as a petty raging insult by Ananias the high priest, and he called him a “whited wall.” Then he brought up the Resurrection – which he knew would divide the council. The Sanhedrin had now officially rejected Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

Paul’s sister and nephew warned Claudius of a plot to kill Paul, so Claudius knew he had to get him out of Jerusalem. He had Paul taken to Caesarea and turned over to Felix the Roman governor and imprisoned in the palace.

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