Turning

May 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Posted in The Leadership P.A.T.C.H. | 3 Comments
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P.erceived
A.dvancing
T.urning
C.
H.

The T in P.A.T.C.H. is for Turning.

And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

II Kings 4:8, emphasis added

As a Christian leader, turn in thither where you are needed. Be willing to stop and serve when needed, and when opportunity arises. See problems not as obstacles to be avoided, but as opportunities to be activated.

And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Acts 4:35, emphasis added

Next time, the “C” in P.A.T.C.H.

The Scientific Method

May 26, 2010 at 9:26 am | Posted in Genesis | 10 Comments
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Rebekah and Jacob concocted a scheme to get Jacob the blessing of his father, Isaac, but they did not need to do this. God had already ordained that Jacob would receive it. Jacob’s name is complex. In Hebrew it is Yaaquob, which sounds like aqueb. Aqueb is the word for heel. Aqueb also sounds like aqab, which means “to supplant or sneak up from behind and overtake by surprise.” So, while the name “Jacob” actually means “may God protect,” it became a nickname for someone who is a trickster or a “heel-grabber.” Jacob, of course, came out of the womb grabbing Esau from behind, as though he were trying to overtake him. This paints Jacob in a bad light, but at least he wanted the spiritual blessings. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. God can deal with you to change your means if your motive (heart) desires Him.

Now, after that brief interlude about Jacob’s name and his birth, let’s go back to the narrative of Issac:

And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we. And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.

Genesis 26:11-19

The old wells had living water.

And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.

Genesis 26:20

Esek meant “contention.”

And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.

Genesis 26:21

Sitnah meant “hating” or “strife.”

And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.

Genesis 26:22

Rehoboth meant “enlargement.” Isaac wanted God to enlarge his territory not just to get more land – he wanted to enlarge his influence. The Philistines saw his tents and altars every time he moved. We should ask God to enlarge our sphere of influence for witnessing.

Once again, we see in Esau evidence of his lack of desire for spiritual things.

And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Genesis 26:34-35

In Chapter 27 Jacob’s trickery shows that his name was well-deserved. He attempts to supplant his brother by creeping around behind his back, although the scheme seems to be more of Rebekah’s idea.

And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.

Genesis 27:19

Isaac is lying down, probably bedridden.

And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.

Genesis 27:21

Apparently, he can’t see. His is blind both physically and spiritually. He has closed his eyes to God’s command. He should not have been wanting to give the blessing to Esau. God had commanded that Jacob was to get it, and, furthermore, Esau had evidenced a flesh-driven nature.

Little children, in elementary school, are commonly taught the “scientific method.” I know it’s more complicated than this, but, basically it boils down to teaching them to take matter and examine its properties, and learn about it, using their natural senses. Touch it. Look at it. Smell it. Taste it. I’m not opposed to children being taught that way, but think of the spiritual implications. In Genesis Chapter 27, Isaac employed a form of the scientific method with Jacob. Jacob and Rebekah plotted to deceive Isaac into thinking that Jacob was Esau. Isaac touched him. He listened to him. He couldn’t see him but, no doubt, he smelled him. And he came to the wrong conclusion! It would have been better for Isaac just to believe God’s promise by faith, that Jacob, although the younger, and not Esau, was to receive the blessing.

And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.

Genesis 27:6-10

We are not told how Rebekah made goat meat taste like venison, but look at Jacob’s concern:

And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.

Genesis 27:11-12

Jacob did not want to break the “11th Commandment:” Thou shalt not get caught.

Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Hebrews 12:16-17

Isaac trembled after being deceived, but Esau did not accept any of the blame. He sought the blessing “carefully” with many tears. Then, when Jacob was sent away to keep Esau from killing him, look at what Esau did:

When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

Genesis 28:6-9

He took a third wife from Uncle Ishmael’s family.

Just as a side note, Genesis 28:22 is the second mention of the practice of tithing in the Bible, the first being Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek.

300

May 25, 2010 at 9:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Celebrating the 300th post on this site with a blast from the past:

Getting Ready To Swim

We live in a day and age when the fountain of God’s Word seems to be flowing in pitifully small, and rapidly drying, streams. By and large, the practice of the world is to stomp right past the cleansing fountain of the wisdom contained in the Bible, and to wallow instead in the muddy imaginations of man. (II Corinthians 10:5). However, there is coming a day when “… the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) In that day, experienced “swimmers” will have an advantage. Having spent much time learning to maneuver in the cleansing water of the Word, some will not be shocked or afraid as the tidal knowledge of the Lord’s glory rises, and covers the whole earth.

Over the past few weeks, our S.W.I.M. lessons have looked at the competitive strokes of literal swimming, and applied them to spiritual truths found in Scripture. This week’s lesson will serve as a brief review:

  1. The Backstroke: True disciples of Christ will encounter opposition that will at times push them backward into troubled waters. The Bible’s solution to this situation is to look up to the Lord, and keep moving ahead. (Acts 27:41-44)
  2. The Breaststroke: God’s hands go forth from God’s heart, and the love of God will cause His hands to reach out and push away the encompassing enemies of His people as they humbly call upon Him. (Isaiah 25:11)
  3. The Butterfly: Some swimmers follow strict rules of form to appear graceful, when in fact they are thrashing violently beneath the surface. God is not impressed by a false show of outward beauty or self-righteousness. ( Matthew 23:27-28 )
  4. The Crawl: Creeping and crawling is sometimes seen as a reason for scorn among the skeptical, but God has appointed to all things a time and an order. Just as there are nocturnal animals which creep forth at night because of the design of God, so also new believers in Christ Jesus must go through a period of spiritual crawling, before growing into walking and running. (Psalm 104:19-20)
  5. Freestyle: Competitive swimmers with the freedom to choose the stroke they want, will choose a style which allows them to swim most efficiently. Christians, striving for the prize of the high calling, see their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to do those things which are most profitable for the cause of Christ and the glory of God. (Galatians 5:1-7)
  6. The Dog Paddle: When new Christians begin to navigate the waters of spiritual maturity, they must be careful not to imitate, or pick up the bad habits of, those who would promote a “watered-down,” or ritual-based gospel. (Philippians 3:2)

Those who have believed on Christ Jesus in their heart, and who have called upon the name of the Lord, must dive into God’s Word and learn to “see what it means” (S.W.I.M.). In His Word you will find reasons to be grateful, and promises and comfort for the coming storms.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

“Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman Jr.

Don’t Beat around the Bush

May 24, 2010 at 11:57 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Exodus | 5 Comments
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The origin of the expression “beating around the bush” is thought to be from when hunters would employee folks known as “beaters.” These beaters (sort of the bird-hunting equivalent of golf caddies maybe) would beat the bushes to scare up birds. They would “beat around the bush” until the hunter would raise his shotgun and “get to the point.”

The common expression, “stop beating around the bush,” reminds us of Exodus Chapter 3:

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

Exodus 3:1-3

Moses had killed an Egyptian and fled from Pharaoh. God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and gave him a clear specific order. But instead of obeying right away, Moses started “beating around the bush.”

Sometimes we tend to do the same thing when God tells us to do something we don’t want to do. We don’t usually just say “No, God, I am in rebellion against You. Therefore, I flat-out refuse to do what You say.” Instead, we “rationalize.” The sin of rationalization, along with pride, may be our most frequent sin. I remember, as a kid, seeing a movie called The Big Chill. One of the characters, played by Jeff Goldblum, was explaining to his friends how frequently we rely on rationalizations. I’m sure this is a paraphrase after all this time, but he said something like, “Rationalizations are more important to us than anything. Try to get through a whole day without at least one big juicy rationalization.”

Here are Moses’s excuses or rationalizations – his “bush-beating:”

1. Who am I?

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

Exodus 3:11

Moses says, “I’m not worthy, I’m a nobody,” and God basically says, “You’re right, but I will be with you.”

And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

Exodus 3:12

2. Who are You?

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13–14

Moses didn’t have a Bible, but today we can know if we’re really hearing from God by comparing what we hear to God’s Word.

3. How will I keep them from thinking I’m crazy at best, or lying at worst?

And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

Exodus 4:1

God told Moses that He would give him what he needed to do the job. Moses yielded his rod to God. When he thought of it as his, it was just a crutch. But when he thought of it as God’s, God used it to do His work.

4. What if I can’t say it the right way?

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

Exodus 4:10-12

When we realize that our rod isn’t really our rod, and our tongue isn’t really our tongue – when we yield them to God, He can use them.

5. How about somebody else?

And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

Exodus 4:13-16

This fifth rationalization seemed to make God mad. However, He told Moses to take Aaron along with him, reminding him that he would be accountable for him.

Let’s not rationalize and beat around the bush with God. When it’s time to serve Him, let’s trust Him, believe His Word, bring along a friend, and work together for God.

After the Fire

May 20, 2010 at 10:22 am | Posted in Daniel | 4 Comments
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Lord, we know that You are in the midst of Your people in their times of trial, testing, and trouble, just like You were with Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace. You were in the midst of their troubles because You had been in the midst of their prayer time, their Bible study time, their time of assembling together with their brothers to learn about You. Please remind us to call upon You to enter into our midst when we do these things also. In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.

The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.

Daniel 2:5

The threat to make their houses a dunghill was a threat not only to them, but to those they represented. For the Chaldeans it would only be their own families, but to Daniel and his friends, it would be all the Jews they represented. Daniel did not take sole credit for what the Lord allowed him to do. His friends had been faithful to pray with him for the interpretation of the dream (Daniel 2:36), so he was faithful to give them part of the credit.

By Daniel Chapter 3 Nebuchadnezzar had already forgotten how he had been forced to acknowledge the greatness of Daniel’s God. He builds a statue (Daniel 3:1) 60 cubits by 6 cubits. If we think of the number of the beast, 666, we see two of the sixes in these dimensions, but where is the third six?

That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet [1], flute [2], harp [3], sackbut [4], psaltery [5], dulcimer [6], and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:

Daniel 3:5 (bracketed numerals added)

There are six instruments mentioned, which, combined with the measurements of the false idol, may be a clue to us that this music was being inspired and used by Satan.

And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Daniel 3:11-12

Three stood up when when everyone else fell down.

Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:21

He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Daniel 3:25

Daniel’s friends were saved from the fire and their bonds were loosed. They were set free and their bonds were loosed, but their clothes were not burned off.

And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

Daniel 3:27

Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

Daniel 3:29

Daniel’s friends yielded their bodies. How did they know to yield their bodies to righteousness when they didn’t have the New Testament? They knew the principle of Romans 6:13 before it was written.

Daniel Chapter 4 is Nebudchadnezzar’s official autobiographical document. This is unique in the Bible, that God made a pagan king’s official writing a part of inspired Scripture.

Nebuchadnezzar had a vision of a tree, and he was overcome again with pride. When Daniel interpreted the dream for Nebuchadnezzar, it was revealed as a vision of Nebuchadnezzar himself, being cut down, and banded or sealed in the wilderness for a period of seven years. Daniel followed the pattern of calling an unbeliever to repentance, which I have analyzed with the acrostic O.A.R.S. from Acts 17. He O.pened. (Daniel 4:24). He A.lleged (Daniel 4:22), as he cited the Word of God as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah. He R.easoned (Daniel 4:18-19), as he dialogued with the king and used tact and love. He S.poke and S.hared the truth (Daniel 4:27), as he preached.

The “Ways” to Remember

May 19, 2010 at 9:51 am | Posted in Biblical Remembering, I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

I Corinthians 11:24, emphasis added

Previously, I noted that it is amazing that we have to be told to remember Christ. I also mentioned the importance of remembering His Person – Who He was and is – and Who He will be always. We must remember Who He is, what He does, what He did, and what He’s going to do.

We must not “forget to remember,” so we need to talk about the “ways” to remember. Not the “ways” meaning “means” or “methods” or “techniques.” Not really “how” to remember. But “ways” in the sense of “follow His ways.” Train up a child in the “way” he should go – not his route home – but the way he is to live.

For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

I Corinthians 4:17, emphasis added

Imagine a pastor saying to the congregation, “I’m leaving, but I’m sending you a new pastor. You’re going to like him. He’s a good fellow. He’s going to remind you of me, and he’s going to continue my ways.”

“How arrogant!” we might think. “What do you mean, ‘your ways’ – what about Jesus’s ways?”

But that is essentially what the Apostle Paul is saying in this verse: “Listen to Timothy. He’s going to remind you of my ways – which are in Christ.”

Is it wrong to want to be so much like Jesus that our ways remind people of His ways? We are often so afraid of responsibility that we are quick to try to deflect criticism by saying, “Give me a break – I’m not perfect!” Trust me, if you’ve been involved in very much Christian ministry, it’s unlikely that anyone really thinks you are perfect – especially in the sense of being sinless. However, we ought to be striving to be better than we were before we were saved. I ought to be a better Christian now than I was ten years ago. In fact, I ought to be better than I was last week. I ought to be blameless. (Philippians 2:15) “Blameless” is not faultless. When my children write letters to missionaries, there are mistakes in the letters. The letters aren’t “faultless.” But they are “blameless.” Our “ways” should make it hard for people to know a great deal about our own personal likes and dislikes. Do you know certain mature, Spirit-filled Christians, who, when you think about them, you think about Jesus? We must decrease, so He can increase. If the thermostat isn’t set to my perfect satisfaction and I’m a little cold or hot in a room full of people, so what? Does everybody have to know I’m hot or cold? If someone is kind enough to serve me a hot dog, do I have to make it known that, in the future, I would like mustard instead of ketchup? What our opinion is on everything that’s not related to the Kingdom of God is really not that relevant most of the time. We need some folks whose ways have to remind us of Jesus – because they no longer have their own ways.

“… [A]s he is, so are we in this world.” Those are the nine words that end I John 4:17, and they make a wonderful outline: three words in each of three sections.

As He Is: There’s only one thing I can think of that Jesus ever was, but that He’s not anymore, and that’s “dead.” He is certainly alive today! We can remember Him and remember His ways by walking with Him right now.

As He is, So Are We: We can be like Him. In fact, with His imputed righteousness covering up our iniquity – with His blood buying us access into the Holy of Holies in Heaven – we are like Him, in a sense, right now. He is in us and we are in Him.

As He is, so are we, in this World: Even now, in this modern Sodom and Gomorrah, we should be able to say to our children and to new Christians, “Follow my ways – because I’m following His ways.”

This do in remembrance of Him – and make your ways remind others of His ways.

The Solemn Ascension

May 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 10 Comments
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Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:3-5

This is a good text to use if you ever have a “solemn assembly” service at your church. It is okay to be solemn in church, and solemnity is very much lacking in the demeanor of many modern Christians. Titus Chapter 2 says for the elder men to exhort the young men to be sober, and for the older women to exhort the younger women to be sober. Sober means solemn, serious, alert, vigilant – serious about getting sin out of your life. We all need to be serious about getting the sin cleaned out of our life. Even the Apostle Paul said he did not speak as one who had already attained or who was perfect (Philippians 3:12).

If you read the Bible long enough, you will meet yourself – your true self – and you will not like what you will see. You will hunger and thirst for righteousness – and a knowledge of God – and you will be blessed. But we must do more than just agree that the Bible is the Word of God. We must resolve that, if the Word says we are in sin, we will get out of sin – that’s repentance.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24:3

Who can ascend? Who can climb the hill of the Lord? The strong? The swift? The worldly wise? We must throw out our worldly ideas of what it means to “ascend” – to go up. Can the prestigious ascend? The famous? The wealthy? The influential? Since this hill is the Lord’s hill, and since He recognizes no strength in men because He created all men from dirt, who will ascend?

Will the ones who ascend be the weary ones? “No,” says the world, “you have to have your own energy to ascend.”

Will the ones who ascend be the contrite ones? “No,” says the world, “it takes boldness to climb a mountain.”

Will the ones who ascend be the broken ones? “No,” says the world, “there are no handicapped mountain-climbers.”

But what does God say?

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

James 4:10

God says no one will ascend His hill under his or her own power. The only ones who will ascend are the ones who get weary, but do not depend on their own strength.

The only ones who will ascend are the ones who have a Guide who will lead them over or around the streams and boulders of temptation.

The only ones who will ascend are those who have the right foot-gear – their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.

The only ones who will ascend are the ones who the Lord Himself will lift up.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24:3

And who will stand? Who will remain in the holy place? Who will draw near and stay near? Billy Sunday said, “Revivals may not last. Neither do baths, but it’s good to have one occasionally.” However, we want to ascend and stand – to stay there – to get right and stay right.

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

Psalm 24:4

We will stand and remain by having clean hands and pure hearts. This means more than following a set of rules and regulations. Jesus was hardest on the Pharisees because they claimed to love the Law – but wanted nothing to do with the Lawgiver.

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Hebrews 7:19

We are going to have to, by faith, follow after the Lord. We must realize that our hands are dirty, and we must trust Christ to clean them. The hands of sinners are stained and bloody. They are filthy and vile. But:

… while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

What makes our hands so unclean?

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

I Timothy 2:8

Wrath makes our hands unclean – so does doubting. When we have an unpleasant ministry job to do, we say we’re “getting our hands dirty” – but spiritually we are not defiled by unpleasant tasks of love. Jesus was not afraid to touch the unclean. In our flesh, we are quick to touch the attractive. Who doesn’t like to hold a cute baby? Or hug an attractive person? We are not so quick, however, to lift our hands when it’s time to take out the trash. Water can wash away physical uncleanness, but what can wash away sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

“Clean hands and pure hearts,” Psalm 24:4 says. But what washes the heart to make it pure? The Word of God. Christ gave Himself for the Church,

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:26

The heart that truly wants to know God will not lift itself up to vanity. Ultimately, vanity is idolatry. If vanity is anything that is spiritually empty, then 99.9% of what the average person does is lifting up his soul to vanity. What should we be doing with vanity? With emptiness? With anything that is what the Bible calls “imaginations” – anything without eternal worth?

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:5

We should be casting it down, not lifting ourselves up to it. Casting down means destroying. In the Old Testament, God wanted the Canaanites destroyed – even the women, children, livestock, altars, statues of false gods – everything. Why? Because they were like thorns or weeds or cancer. If they were only trimmed down, they would spread and grow back stronger. If we are going to have repentance – and revival – we are going to have to cast down imaginations, not just what the imaginations produce. We must seek the cause of our sinful behavior, and get the root out. We must cast out imaginations and worldly thinking. There is no revival without repentance. If you’ve ever been closer to God than you are right now, then you are backslidden. Here is the result of getting right with God:

He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:5

Stand Up for Jesus

May 17, 2010 at 10:23 am | Posted in Daniel | 14 Comments
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The events in the beginning of the Book of Daniel took place in 605 B.C. – after Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel would have been approximately 15 years old at that time.

Daniel was a real historical person. He actually existed. He is referred to in Ezekiel Chapter 14, along with Noah and Job for their righteousness. The context there is that the righteousness of these men could only save themselves, not others.

Daniel is also mentioned as a real person by the Lord Jesus.

But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

Mark 13:14

He is also mentioned in Matthew 24:15.

Daniel and his friends were the “best and brightest” of the young men of Jerusalem. They were also royalty.

And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.

Daniel 1:3-4

The Babylonians changed their names:
– Daniel meant “God is my judge;” Belteshazzar meant “Bel protect his life.”
– Hananiah meant “the Lord shows grace;” Shadrach meant “command of Aku” (the moon-god).
– Mishael meant “who is like God?” Meshach meant “who like Aku?”
– Azariah meant “the Lord is my help;” Abednego meant “servant of Nego.”

As Jews, Daniel and his friends were not supposed to eat defiled food, according to the Old Testament covenant. Compare the New Covenant application:

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

Acts 21:25

Daniel and his friends chose the Word of God over the king’s food, even while being gracious toward authority. They were trained for three years in Babylonian beliefs and science and languages. They were examined and scored higher than anyone else.

Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

Daniel 1:18-20

Between Chapters 1 and 2, Daniel was given some authority in the kingdom, reminding us of Joseph’s favor in Egypt, found in the Book of Genesis. Daniel was in a position of relative security, but Nebuchadnezzar was crazy and temperamental. He was having bad dreams.

[Caution: Be careful about your own dreams. Before Christians take their dreams as some sort of a vision from God, and decide to act in accordance, we must make sure our actions line up with Scripture. If you have a dream that makes you feel rebellious, it may be from your own subconscious, rather than from God.]

Nebuchadnezzar tested his counselors by pretending to forget his dream. This was somewhat of a double test: Could they tell him what the dream had been, and could they then tell him a believable interpretation of it? If we suppose that Satan was behind this scheme, then it is important to note that he was willing to kill all his false prophets just to get rid of four righteous servants of God.

Daniel was in trouble and needed to comfort himself.

Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:

Daniel 2:17-20

He sought the Word of God first; then he began to praise and worship Him. That’s our order when Satan comes against us – when we’re in trouble.

The dream depicted the time of the Gentiles described by the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:24. The head of gold symbolized Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. The chest and arms of silver symbolized the Medes and the Persians. The legs of iron with feet of iron and clay symbolized the Roman empire. Christ the Solid Rock is the only firm foundation this world has ever known. All other ground is sinking sand.

Note all the references to “standing” and “stood:” Daniel 1:4; 1:5 1:19; 2:2; 2:31. “Stand” carries the connotation of “standing” for something. If we don’t stand for something, we’re going to fall for anything.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-14, emphasis added

When you feel like your can’t serve the Lord – when you’re like Daniel and you have to serve someone else – remember: You can still “stand” before them, and “stand” for the Lord.

Getting Your Goat

May 14, 2010 at 10:40 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 2 Comments
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You have probably heard the common expression, “So-and-so really gets my goat!” We use it when we talk about someone who has a way of provoking us.

I don’t think anyone knows for sure where the phrase originated. It might have come from the idea of someone getting your “goad.” A goad is a sort of prod or instrument used to irritate recalcitrant farm animals into moving forward. It might have come from an old expression whereby people said that an annoying person would “get your gut,” as in bringing out a “gut reaction.”

There was a time when farmers would use goats to calm down dairy cows. They have also been used at times to calm down race horses.

There are a few interesting references to goats in the Bible.

And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

Daniel 8:6

This goat represents Alexander the Great, who led the armies of Greece.

And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.

Daniel 8:6

The ram is Cyrus, king of Persia. The goat is powerful and angry, and he not only defeats the ram, he also stamps on him.

And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

Daniel 8:7

Then he felt strong.

Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

Daniel 8:8

When someone “gets my goat,” they call out the “goat” in me, and then I become angry and full of pride. And that’s a problem. Because God does what to the proud? Resists. And He gives what to the humble? Grace. (James 4:6)

Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zechariah 10:3

Zechariah gave a prophecy of the Messiah, and referred to the time referenced in Ezekiel 34.

Zechariah said that when the people begin to follow the evil shepherds, and are led astray by them, then God will turn the flock – the goats and the sheep – into war-horses, and He will defeat the evil shepherds. This reminds us to be careful not to be the ones trying to get someone else’s goat. If we begin to harass, and rebel against, and lead astray with false teaching, God’s flock, then we’re in a sense trying to get God’s goat. And we might find we’re getting hold of a goat we can’t handle.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25:31-46

We have a mental image of goats as funny-looking animals with little beards who eat cans or shirttails, or who’ll butt you if you’re not looking. But God uses goats and sheep to illustrate something very serious. One day He will say, “Sheep on My right hand, goats on My left!” The significance of God’s right hand is that those on the right are favored and those on the left are disfavored.

Ask a farmer with a great deal of experience, and he will tell you that goats are never happy with what they have. They are always sticking their head through the fence. They
can’t stand to be confined. They are rebellious and stubborn. They are not good followers. Sheep will usually stay together, but goats wander off on their own. A “Judas Goat” is a goat that is used to lead – but it leads to the slaughter. Goats like to get higher up than the other animals.

We all have some goat-like characteristics in us. We want to stand out. We’re tired of following. We’re not happy with what we have. We like to eat things that sheep wouldn’t eat, even if these things have no value and will make us sick.

Don’t hold on to the “goat” in you. If someone wants to “get your goat,” let him have it. You don’t want it anyway.

What turns away wrath?

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

Those on the right hand of the Lord, the sheep, have the characteristics of those who will be favored by the Lord. Those on the left hand, the goats, have the characteristics of those who will be told to depart. So, if someone is harassing you, say, “Look, I know you’re just trying to get my goat, so I’m going to let you have it, but you are not going to be happy with it. I’m one of God’s sheep. He calls and I know His voice. Let’s leave that old goat to wander out in the wilderness like the scapegoat, and I can introduce you to my Shepherd. We can be in the flock today, and we’ll be like victorious war-horses one day.”

The Cleansing Fountain

May 13, 2010 at 11:43 am | Posted in Zechariah | 2 Comments
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In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

Zechariah 13:1

Zechariah prophesied about a fountain that would cleanse God’s people from their sins.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

William Cowper

Unlike earthly water, this blood cleanses the heart, and it will cleanse the people from their desire to worship false idols and follow false prophets.

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

Zechariah 12:2-3

Here we see the nations preparing to drink the cup of Jerusalem, but the contents make them sick and drunk. This describes the campaign of Armageddon.

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Zechariah 14:2

The nations will invade and find an immovable rock that will cut them to pieces. This is the result:

And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Zechariah 14:9

The geography will change and the land will be healed.

All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

Zechariah 14:10-11

The Lord will be worshiped at Jerusalem.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.

Zechariah 14:16

Safety will be the order of the day.

And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

Zechariah 14:11

There will be true justice.

And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

Zechariah 14:18

Holiness will be the norm.

In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.

Zechariah 14:20-21

Zechariah, following the great comforting pattern of Bible prophecy, gives us wondrous promises to keep us looking to God.

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