Calling Witnesses (Part 2)

March 30, 2011 at 10:16 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation | 3 Comments
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The first witness that I called to take the stand against the unconverted sinner was the True Christian.

SECOND WITNESSES: PRAYING PEOPLE

I now call to the stand Christians who are serious about prayer. Sometimes we call them “prayer warriors.” These are people who pray often, who pray long, who pray sincerely, who pray passionately – people who pray without ceasing.

Their testimony will not take long. I really have only one simple question for them: “Aside from your loving conversation with your Heavenly Father… aside from the time spent simply adoring and speaking forth the majesty of God in worship… what do you spend most of your time praying about?”

Their answer: “Why, unconverted sinners, of course.”

Does this surprise you? Did you think true Christians spent all their time begging God for new cars, new houses, new clothes, big piles of money? Certainly they spend a great deal of time in prayer for the sick, and for the concerns and cares of their fellow Christians, but number one in the “request” portion of their prayer time is spent not in begging, but in volunteering: they are asking God to use them to reach you with the truth of the Gospel. Their zeal is exemplified in the statements of that master soul-hunter, the Apostle Paul:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Romans 9:3

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Philippians 1:23-24

Paul was almost willing to go to hell himself if it meant his family could be saved. And he was willing to delay going to Heaven if he could reach more souls.

THIRD WITNESSES: GODLY MEN AND WOMEN OF THE BIBLE

Some of these witnesses are even the inspired writers of the Holy Book itself – God’s explicit revelation of Who He is, what He has done, and who you really are. Can I call each one? Well, I could… the pages of the Bible are filled with them. But for time’s sake, I’ll let the person who has not trusted Christ choose.

Would you call Job? He lost everything in this temporal world that was dear to him except his life… but here is his testimony:

And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Job 1:21

Would you call Jeremiah? You may say that he would help your case, having devoted his life to serving God, but appearing from a worldly standpoint to be a failure. After all, he preached for years without a single convert. But here’s his testimony:

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Jeremiah 31:3

Would you call David? He was persecuted, hunted, abandoned by his friends. Surely he would not recommend that you give your heart to the Lord! Yet here is what he said:

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man… O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 118:8, 29

Maybe you could find somebody more recent – ah, how about Stephen? In Acts Chapter 6 they made him a deacon, and in Chapter 7 they stoned him to death… talk about a witness against the Lord! But wait – here’s what Stephen had to say:

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God… Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Acts 7:56, 59

These men of the Bible have let you down… and they have hurt your case.

Next time, we will continue the parade of witnesses against the unconverted.

Warning Sign #8: Regularly Scheduled Miracles

March 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Posted in When Good Preachers Go Bad | 10 Comments
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If your pastor is in the transitional phase of crossing over into the “word of faith” or “prosperity gospel” movements, you may want to consider getting him a notebook for his birthday or pastor appreciation day. I know that does not sound like a very special gift, but it can come in really handy. Just make sure it is fairly thick. He’s going need it to be able to write down and keep up with all his different “anointings.”

He will want to write down the dates and times he first received his “preachin’ anointing,” his “speaking-in-tongues anointing,” his “harvest anointing,” his “anointing of increase,” his “anointing of favor,” his “financial anointing,” his “binding and loosing anointing,” his “dreams and visions anointing,” any musical or singing “anointings” he might have received, and many many more. These usually happen during a “vision retreat” where he abandons his family and flock for a few days so he can go somewhere secluded and hear God speak to him audibly in a place where no one else is around to verify it.

Of course, these “lesser anointings” will decrease in importance as he grows in faith. He is really just biding his time until he receives his “healing anointing” and his “miracle-working anointing.” That’s where the real money and fame is, after all. You don’t get much more “anointed” than being able to do a miracle, heal someone from a a disease or injury, or even raise the dead.

When your pastor gets to that level of anointedness, look out. It’s time for him to start regularly scheduling the miracles! If you think I’m exaggerating, think again. Even the Apostle Paul and the 1st Century Christians weren’t this anointed. Oh, sure, they did miracles by the power of God. But even they couldn’t make a “miracle reservation” and invite everybody to come “receive their healing” at an appointed time of their own choosing. Look at what Paul told Timothy:

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

I Timothy 5:23

Too bad Benny Hinn wasn’t around back then. (If you type “regularly scheduled miracles” into Google, he is the first name that pops up.) Benny could have pushed Timothy over onstage in front of thousands of spectators and instantly healed his stomach problems without that pesky wine. (Of course, Timothy would have had to pay to park, wait in a long line at a big event center, dodge the numerous offering baskets, and sit through two-plus hours of droning repetitive trance-inducing “praise and worship music.”)

Or how about these poor believers, who suffered not because they didn’t speak the right “words of faith,” but because they did speak faithfully:

They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

Hebrews 11:37

Too bad they couldn’t have held on a little longer until the next “weekend of miracles” so a greedy “anointed” faith healer could lay hands on them and convince them that there is guaranteed physical healing in the Atonement.

Does God work miracles today? Without a doubt. Is he doing them at regularly scheduled pre-planned events calculated to bring glory and riches to men? Not likely. If your pastor is getting into this sort of thing, lovingly offer him a ride to the nearest critical care unit, pediatric cancer ward, or severe burn treatment center, so he can really put his “anointing” to use free of charge. Or better yet, take him to the morgue. If he can slap your Aunt Boo-Boo upside the head and heal her ingrown toenail, surely it’s only a difference in degree between that “miracle” and raising the dead. Right?

The Early Bird Gets to Wait

March 25, 2011 at 9:07 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, Biblical Teaching, Selected Psalms | 6 Comments
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Teaching our children to begin each day by seeking the Lord sets the tone for the rest of the day. It will keep them focused and motivated, and will help to keep them from being distracted by non-essential things.

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 13:24

If we love our children we are to chasten them “betimes” – early and often. That principle applies not just to corporal discipline, but also to the teaching of Scripture and Biblical principles. Doing something early shows that we think what we’re doing is important. Many people disagree with me on this point, but logically it is better to plan on being early than on being right on time. If I’m planning to be right on time, I might end up being late, but it’s very unlikely that I will wind up being accidentally early. If I plan on being early, then my “late” could end up being the objective “right on time,” but it is far less likely that I’ll end up being late.

One of the problems with time is that it is beyond our control. What is often in our control, however, are the self-created problems that commonly prevent us from being early.

Here is some practical advice from the Bible that will help you be early.

When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

Proverbs 3:24

Try to get a good night’s sleep. If you are reluctant to go to bed early because you feel like you won’t be able to sleep, focus on the Scriptures and pray for a good night’s sleep. (Or you can read my blog – that’s sure to make you sleepy!) One of the things that interferes with our sleep is fear, but we know that God wants our sleep to be sweet.

God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.

II Samuel 22:33-34

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

Psalm 25:4

Another very practical tip for when you have to go somewhere is to pray for guidance on the best way to get there. “Hinds’ feet” refers to the feet of deer, and we know how fast they can move!

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Proverbs 4:26

Ponder = seriously consider
Established = made strong or solid

Planning the night before makes for smooth sailing in the morning. Take some time to think about and plan your morning routine. There are some things that, even the night before, we just know we are going to need in the morning. (Shoes and hair brushes are safe bets!) We can control more than we think by how seriously we take our commitment to be early.

One of the things that people fear about being early is that they will have to sit and wait. We are conditioned in our hectic society and culture to think that “sitting around waiting” is one of the worst tortures imaginable!

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Biblical “waiting” isn’t sitting around doing nothing. It’s not loitering or just taking up space. “Waiting on the Lord” is waiting with expectancy – believing that something is going to happen. When you are early you can focus on the Lord. Be early to please Him, and He will meet with you while you wait. You can soar like like an eagle even when you’re merely running, and even plodding. That doesn’t sound logical to us, but obedience opens the door for divine intervention. People sometimes say that God helps those who help themselves, but really God helps those who want to be used by God.

Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

Psalm 143:11

Prepare to Meet Your Maker

March 22, 2011 at 8:45 am | Posted in Amos, Common Expressions, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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What a revival! Tithes were up and people were coming to church every day! Public worship was encouraged and popular! Praise songs were topping the charts! There was only one problem… The revival was not genuine. People were play-acting and faking it. God was not pleased. The prophet Amos used a little holy irony to drive home the point.

Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

Amos 4:4-5

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

Amos 5:21-23

Wouldn’t you think that a bunch of people who were singing praises to God, attending church all the time, and giving their money, would be ready to meet God? Amos’s prophecy was a message to these people: “You’re acting like you’re ready to meet God? Well, guess what…You are about to!”

Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

Amos 4:12

I wonder if, upon the pronouncement of this prophecy, you could have heard a pin drop?

Are we that different from the people of Amos’s day? Have you ever attended church as a listener, instead of a learner – hoping to be entertained instead of taught? Have you ever given yourself a “Sunday off,” since you had made it to church on the previous three Sundays? Have you ever stayed up until 3:00 a.m. to watch a movie, only to find yourself dozing off during the Sunday sermon? Have you ever spent scores of dollars to attend a religious rock concert, right after saying “I’ll think about it” when someone invited you to a free Bible study? Meeting God is a wonderful prospect for those who are truly prepared. But it is a terrifying prospect for those who only appear to be prepared.

Strange Weapons Lesson 2: The Peg (introduction and narrative)

March 18, 2011 at 11:55 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 6 Comments
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Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

Lesson Two: The Peg

[In Lesson One, I renamed Shamgar’s ox-goad a “prod” (as in cattle prod). Now I’m going to call Jael’s “nail” a tent “peg” – even though, where I’m from, “Jael” and “nail” rhyme.]

Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Judges 4:21

Both Shamgar’s prod and Jael’s peg were strange weapons, even though the days recorded in the Book of Judges were not such strange days. In fact, they were eerily similar to our “days,” in the sense that people were generally doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.

Judges 4:1-2

It appears that Jabin was king of the Canaanites, but his captain, Sisera, who had 900 chariots of iron, was the one who really terrorized the Israelites. He did not, however, terrorize their God:

And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

Judges 4:15-16

This battle took place in the area around Mount Megiddo where – according to Revelation 16:16 – the battle of Armageddon will be fought. There were a number of Biblical battles fought at this location, and it is also the place where Napoleon defeated the Turks under similar circumstances in 1799. God sent a storm, the river overflowed, and the chariots bogged down and got stuck in the muddy and drenched ground.

Barak (who shares a name with our current U.S. President) wiped out Sisera’s army as they fled on foot. Sisera himself, however, escaped to the the village of Heber the Kenite, and to the tent of a lady named Jael. Which brings us to…

And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.

Judges 4:18

The “mantle” was sort of a blanket (maybe one of those “snuggies?”). Sisera was tired and he wanted to hide.

And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

Judges 4:19

The “milk” was sort of like what we would call “half and half” or “yogurt” – it was possibly fermented. Jael tucked in Sisera with his milk and his blankie and put him “night-night.”

Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.

Judges 4:20

Sisera asked Jael to lie for him.

Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Judges 4:21

Jael, whose job, as a woman in a tribe of nomadic desert-dwelling people in those days, would have been to regularly take down and put up the tent in addition to other hard physical types of labor, was probably big and strong (with arms like the Arm and Hammer Baking Soda man).

arm and hammer

The name “Jael” meant “mountain goat,” so it’s kind of hard to envision her as petite and dainty.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.

Judges 4:22-23

There is a tendency here to feel a little sorry for Sisera, considering he was on the run, desperate, and hunted. He turned to this woman for help, and she coaxed him to sleep and slammed a tent peg through his brain!

https://i1.wp.com/trendsupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/jael-and-sisera1.jpg

But before we feel too sorry for Sisera and start being too critical of Jael, we need to remember that if Sisera had won the battle against the Israelites, or if he had escaped and raised another army, or if he had been able to come back with reinforcements, he and his men would have raped the women and taken all their valuables.

Jael’s weapon – her tent peg – was a strange weapon in her day. So too are the weapons of our spiritual warfare in our day. Next time, I want to make three comparisons between the peg and the spiritual weapons we must wield against our enemy who has come to kill, steal, and destroy.

Ignoring the Obvious

March 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Romans | 5 Comments
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An overview of the middle chapters of the Book of Romans can seem like a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. In Chapter 7 the Apostle Paul is a “wretched man.” In Chapter 8 he is “more than a conqueror.” Then, in Chapter 9:

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Romans 9:2-3

Why did he have great heaviness and continual sorrowing in his heart? Why could he wish himself accursed from Christ? Because of his kinsmen.

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Romans 9:4

The Holy Spirit used Paul to show that it was the Jewish people, not God, who were to blame for their rejection of His Messiah.

1. God is faithful: He kept His covenants with the Jews. He chose them as the people through whom He would bless the world and through whom the Messiah would come. Even when they tried to circumvent His plans, He honored His covenants.

2. God is righteous: The people who seem to have been chosen by God for dishonor are the ones who have willfully refused to acknowledge Him or repent.

3. God is just: The clay can not question the wisdom of the potter, nor can it claim that it wouldn’t have fitted itself for destruction if God had given it “free will.”

4. God is gracious: A sinner is never in a position to demand what he deserves.

The Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were given specifically to the Jewish people. All these prophecies pointed to Jesus. The law which God gave to the Israelites was designed to be their schoolmaster to teach them the way to Christ. Christ came unto His Own people and they received Him not – they rejected Him.

Why would they reject Him? Because they didn’t believe they needed to be saved. Their attitude was, “Saved from what?” This was mirrored in Paul’s life. Before he was converted he believed the Gentiles were at enmity with God, but not the Jewish people. The Israelites believed they needed political salvation from Rome, but not spiritual salvation from their own sin – even though they were zealous for God.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Romans 10:1-2

They had banished idolatry in the temple and even forbidden Gentiles from entering the temple, but their “knowledge” wasn’t real knowledge. They were proud and self-righteous.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Romans 10:3, emphasis added

“Establish” means to set down a foundation and make it secure. But the Jewish people had rejected the Cornerstone – the Head of the Corner. They had “set Him at nought.” They didn’t understand their own law. Paul cites Moses (from Deuteronomy 30:11-14) to show that the righteousness of the Law was meant to point the way to salvation. But those written commands were meant to have an effect on the heart. What is in the heart comes out of the mouth. What comes out of the mouth is the “word.”

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

Romans 10:6-7

Is keeping the Law of God difficult? No, it’s not difficult – it’s impossible for everyone but Christ Himself. For a human being it would be like using our own physical abilities to go up to Heaven to find Christ – or to go down into the grave, the land of the dead, to find Him. It can’t be done.

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

Romans 10:8

The word of salvation was right there – in the heart – in the mouth – and that word was and is “faith.”

Check Your Sack Before Jesus Comes Back

March 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Genesis | 2 Comments
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Jacob and his family were out of food, and the famine was still going strong.

And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down? And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:

Genesis 43:1-9

Judah stepped up to the plate for his family. Maybe he learned a lesson from the incident with Tamar.

Jacob sent his sons back to Egypt, and he reluctantly sent Benjamin with them. Now the brothers had three main problems:

1. Returning to Egypt, how would they explain why they still had the money they were supposed to have used to pay for the corn?

2. Simeon was still locked up in Egypt. How would they get him out?

3. How would they make sure that nothing happened to Benjamin?

These problems have spiritual corollaries as they picture similar problems that we, as Christians, may face in our lives today:

1. Are we still carrying some type of material or spiritual baggage from an excursion we made into the world, and, if so, how are we going to get rid of it?

2. Do we have “brothers” who got locked up in the ways of the world while they were out in it with us, and, if so, how will we get them back?

3. Are we doing what we can to make our “little brothers and sisters” safe from the world?

Here’s how God arranged for Joseph’s brothers to deal with these problems:

First of all they confessed that they had something they weren’t really supposed to have.

And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

Genesis 43:19-22

This took care of two of their problems at once: They were not in trouble over the money, and they got Simeon back.

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Genesis 43:23

The dream which was part of the beginning of all Joseph’s troubles was now fulfilled:

And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

Genesis 43:38

The brothers still had one problem left, but God’s grace took care of that one, because “the Egyptian ruler” took a mysterious liking to Benjamin.

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

Genesis 43:34

It must have also seemed exceedingly strange to the brothers that the Egyptians had them seated according to their birth order. How could they have known that?

The events in Genesis 44 take place about 22 years after the brothers had thrown Joseph into a pit, sold him into slavery, lied to their father, and “got away with it.” Now they thought that their problems had been solved. They were on their way home with Benjamin, Simeon, and the corn: mission accomplished. Joy over hidden sin (and the idea of “getting away with it”) might produce a type of relief, but it is a false relief – a false joy. Joseph’s brothers were shocked when they were overtaken on the way home by Joseph’s steward.

And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

Genesis 44:12

The steward searched their sacks according to their birth order, which, again, must have seemed strange. The brothers had made a deal that the one who was found with the silver cup would remain in Egypt and be a servant. The tension would have been heightened as they moved toward Benjamin.

The word “found” can be “found” about seven times in Genesis 44 [Verses 8; 9; 10; 12; 16 (twice); and 17]. There is also the expression “come upon” in Verse 34. The brothers’ sin was being “found out.”

The word “father” is mentioned about 17 times in Genesis 44 [Verses 17; 19; 20 (x 2); 22 (x 3); 24; 25; 27; 30; 31; 32 (x 2); 34 (x 2)]. Sin was being “found out” and the “Father’s” judgment was coming upon it.

And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Genesis 44:2, emphasis added

And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.

Genesis 44:16, emphasis added

In Scripture the “cup” is often the image of God’s wrath.

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

John 18:11, emphasis added

You do not want to be caught with the cup of God’s wrath in your sack when Jesus comes back.

And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.

Genesis 44:14

Notice that Judah appears to have taken the position of leadership. Also, Joseph’s dream has now been fulfilled again. They all bow.

Judah’s speech in Genesis 44:18-34 is very interesting. Judah may have been divinely inspired to appeal to the Egyptian (Joseph), using Judah’s own father (Jacob), without knowing he was talking to a man who also called Jacob “Father.” Notice “thy servant my father” in 44:24; 27; 30. Now came the fulfillment of Joseph’s second dream where Jacob also bowed before Joseph. Through this speech – this impassioned plea – Joseph realized Judah had changed.

Discipleship Lesson 7: Sin

March 11, 2011 at 10:11 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 20 Comments
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If you are a Christian, when you were born again (regenerated by the Holy Spirit), you became a new “man,” (or new woman if you are female.) But the old man did not disappear. The old man – in the image of Adam – has a sinful nature. The new man – in Christ Jesus – has God’s nature. These two men are at war with each other. It is an intense struggle.

I. What is sin?

A. Sin is breaking God’s law.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

I John 3:4

B. Sin is any unrighteousness.

All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

I John 5:17

C. Sin is anything done apart from faith.

And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Romans 14:23

II. What causes sin?

A. My inherited sinful nature causes me to sin.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

I Corinthians 15:45-49

B. My old nature draws me into sin.

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

James 1:14-15

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:14-25

C. We are tempted in three major areas: we like to feel good; we like to look at that which is pleasing to the eyes; we like to feel important in the eyes of others.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

I John 2:16

III. How does God deal with sin in the life of a Christian?

A. God judged at our sin at Calvary.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

B. God chastens His children when they continue in sin.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Hebrews 12:6

C. God allows us to reap what we have sown.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Galatians 6:7-8

IV. How can a Christian get the victory over sin?

A. By accepting responsibility for his own sin.

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

B. By refusing to allow sinful thoughts to control his mind.

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

C. By not giving the flesh an opportunity to achieve its desires.

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Romans 13:14

D. By remembering that he is dead to sin in Jesus Christ.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:11

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Colossians 3:1-10

D. By agreeing with God about his sin (judging it).

But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

I Corinthians 11:31-32

E. By confessing his sins to God.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9

F. By recognizing that God has made a way to escape from every temptation.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

G. By remembering God’s Word.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

H. By trusting God’s promises and praying.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

II Corinthians 7:1

I. By walking in the Holy Spirit.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:16

J. By being led by, and following after, the Holy Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1

K. By submitting himself to regular examinations by the Holy Ghost.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

V. Memory Verses

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:11

Strange Weapons Lesson 1: The Prod (comparisons and conclusion)

March 9, 2011 at 11:01 am | Posted in Biblical farming, Strange Weapons | 9 Comments
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Last time we looked at the background information on Shamgar and his ox-goad (or cattle prod), which you can read about in Judges 3:31 and 5:6. Here are three comparisons between Shamgar’s prod, which he used as a weapon, and the weapons of our spiritual warfare today:

1. A prod is used in provoking.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 9:1-5

Before the Apostle Paul became the Apostle Paul he was the dreaded Saul of Tarsus, the scourge of the early Christian church, and one day he was charging down the road to Damascus like an angry bull. Suddenly, he felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been prodded by the Holy Spirit?

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added

The Greek word which is translated as “provoke” in Hebrews 10:24 is paroxysmos, from which we get the word “paroxysm,” and which means “a violent fit.” This shows how serious and earnest and even urgent we are to be as we provoke each other to love and to good works. The Holy Spirit prodded Saul as he was traveling to attack Christians, but we, as Christians today, are supposed to prod each other and exhort each other to get into the battle and fight our enemy, Satan.

2. A prod is used in plowing.

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

Jeremiah 4:3, emphasis added

If you’ve ever done any farming or gardening, you know that ground must be broken up before seeds can be planted.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

In addition to breaking up the ground before planting, there are usually stones which must be removed from the earth before the ground is soft and useful.

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

Plowing is not a one-time-only event for a farmer. Plowing is continuous work in the life of a farmer. Allowing the Holy Spirit to use us to break up hard hearts, to remove stony obstacles, and to stay busy moving forward in the Christian life are all important parts of our spiritual warfare.

3. A prod is used in purifying.

Remember that part of Shamgar’s prod (ox-goad) was used for cleaning off dirt. There was a sharp point on the front end and a small spade on the back end. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s role in cleaning out the sin in our lives so that we can be pure and used of God. The part of the prod that cleans the plow also makes the plow lighter, thereby making it work better and more efficiently. As a Christian I certainly want to be free from sin, but there are many things which may not necessarily be sinful in and of themselves. These things become a problem when they consume my attention and energy, and take me out of the battle that Christ wants me to be fighting.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The Holy Spirit may be speaking to us right now and telling us to lay aside every weight that would keep us from finishing the work in our assigned field.

CONCLUSION AND REVIEW

A prod is a strange weapon, but Shamgar lived in a time when the Philistines had taken away all the Israelites’ conventional weapons (I Samuel 13:19). I am afraid that the world and the devil are stripping Christians of our weapons today. The world may take away public prayer, Bible study in the schools, the right to speak out at work, but, if and when that happens, will you take your “prod” and use it for the Lord? Our warfare and our weapons are not conventional because we are in a spiritual, not a physical, war. Does your automobile become a strange weapon when you use it to drive to someone’s house to tell them about Jesus or to the hospital to pray for a sick person? Do your shoes become strange weapons when you wear them to walk up and down the streets of your neighborhood, inviting folks to church and sharing the Gospel? Is a pecan pie a spiritual weapon when you bake it and take it to your neighbor who needs a friend in times of trouble? Is your telephone a strange weapon when you use it to call someone who hasn’t been to Sunday School in a while and invite them to come back? Will you take whatever is at hand to provoke, to plough, to purify?

The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 2

March 4, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 17 Comments
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Last time we looked at the first two of four Bible principles to help us understand what God wants to do in our marriages. Think about some of the things that you have been told to do in order to make your marriage “happier.” Chances are, the things that are coming into your mind are things that focus ultimately on changing your spouse instead of changing you. How different are God’s ways from our ways!

Principle Number 1: Satisfaction in Marriage

Is being unhappy in your marriage a sign that your marriage is not “working?” No! Not when we use God’s definition of “working.” If your marriage is “unhappy,” but God is using it to conform you to the image of His dear Son, then you can find satisfaction in your marriage.

Principle Number 2: Separation in Marriage.

If you are married to someone right now, make a list of people with whom it’s okay for you to be physically intimate in a romantic or sexual way… That list should be very short. It should have one name only on it, and that name should be the name of your current spouse. That is “separation” from the affections of others.

Obviously, the principle of “separation” applies when it comes to sexual intimacy, but also, when it comes to where our devotion and affections lie, our spouse must hold a place of separation that is higher than our parents, our friends, even our children.

Then, there is the “separation” from worldly wisdom about your marriage. Let’s be honest: Who knows more about marriage?
God or Dr. Phil?
God or a psychiatrist?
God or that sweet little elderly couple that’s been married for 60 years?
God or a marriage counselor?

God invented marriage and He commanded its rules and consequences. We would have to agree that God wins out every time in a test of Who knows more about what your marriage is supposed to be!

Now I want to move on to the third and fourth principles:

Principle Number 3: Sanctification in Marriage

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Not only is your spouse ordained to be your spouse by God, but your spouse was specifically chosen for your sanctification. That does not mean that your spouse was chosen by God for your immediate, temporal happiness! Your spouse was chosen for your “ultimate” (the “ultimate” may be far off) joy, and for God’s glory. This concept of how God works has become almost alien to us in our modern society. Maybe this illustration that I’ve borrowed from a Puritan preacher named Chadwick will help to make it more clear.

One Saturday afternoon Mr. Chadwick was in his study, trying to decide what to preach in church the next morning. He could not seem to find any inspiration, so after much prayer and study he went for a walk. As he walked down a country lane, he saw a little shop, and out front were two men. One man was an awful looking oaf. He was huge, with big muscles and an evil scowl. He was pounding a giant hammer down onto a piece of metal which was lying on top of an anvil, and sparks flew with every grunting blow. Beside the monstrous oaf was a fastidious little man in fancy clothes. He wore spectacles, he had not broken a sweat, and he was simply pointing imperiously at the anvil as the larger man did all the work. This scene did not sit well with Preacher Chadwick, who, being a Puritan, prized the ethic of hard work and despised laziness. Mr. Chadwick went up to them, and said with disdain to the smaller man, “Well sir, I’m not even sure why you’re here! He’s doing all the work, and you don’t seem to be doing anything!” The fastidious little man smiled, and calmly explained, “No, sir, you don’t understand. I’m the blacksmith here, and this man is just a mean-spirited oaf. He thinks he’s destroying something. I am simply pointing out to him where to strike. Without me, he would make a mess of the job, but with my control and direction, the end product is going to be something beautiful.” Mr. Chadwick immediately knew what he would preach about the next morning!

This story is a picture of God and the devil. The devil may be pounding away at your marriage even as you read this. No doubt, he thinks he is destroying you, and your spouse, and your children, and your whole family. What he does not realize is that he is being used by God to make you into exactly what God wants you to be. One day, when you stand before God justified and sanctified and looking much more like Jesus Christ than you ever thought you could, with your children gleaming like jewels in the crown of Christ our King, I think the devil will be furious at how often he thought he was performing pure evil, when, in reality, God was allowing him to work out God’s perfect will all along!

The things about your spouse that seem like his or her faults – the very things about him or her that drive you absolutely crazy – are the very things designed by God to teach you to grow in Christ-likeness. And if your spouse has certain strengths, then these strengths are the very things which God knows must be present if you are not to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear.

Remember that your marriage isn’t just for you – and it isn’t just for your spouse – it’s for God to use in making you more holy, which is the definition of sanctification.

Principle Number 4: Sacrifice in Marriage

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:24-25

Spouses are supposed to love each other the way that Christ loved the Church. In other words, the way that He loved all the people who would one day trust Him for eternal salvation. I can not think of a single thing that Jesus should have done for the people that would one day go to Heaven, but that He failed to do. Many spouses are willing to envision a scenario in which they would dramatically die for their spouse. But few are willing to go through the mundane, day-to-day, detail-oriented task of living for their spouse. Christ did both. He lived and died for His bride, the Church. Christ gave Himself for the Church.

In giving yourself for your spouse, the primary emphasis is not on dying literally, but on sacrificial giving. Be a “living sacrifice,” says Romans 12:2. Think of some of the most serious issues that cause problems in a marriage.

Adultery? Adultery is terrible and hurtful. The pain and destruction that it causes must not be minimized. However, we have all committed spiritual adultery (unfaithfulness) against Christ, and yet He loved us anyway.

Cruelty? Mental cruelty toward your spouse is a grievous sin! It can be a form of torture. However, no one has ever been as cruel toward anyone as the people that Jesus came to save were toward Him. Yet He loved us anyway.

Physical violence? I think a man who physically abuses His wife should be whipped and then shot and then put under the jail. But no spouse has ever endured a beating like the beating that Jesus willingly took from the people that He came to save. And yet He loved us anyway.

Lack of affection? I wonder if there is anyone in the world as lonely or heartbroken as the spouse who can not get affection from his or her spouse. But Jesus was forsaken by His family, His friends, His relatives, His disciples – by everyone He cared about – and yet He loved us anyway.

Finances? How many people have I counseled with who have had their credit completely ruined by their spouse? Their savings gambled away, their children’s education spent on beer or toys or drugs or pornography. But how much of the resources that God has entrusted to us have been spent on vain and frivolous and even sinful things rather than invested in His Kingdom? And yet Jesus loved us anyway.

Christ never ever has and never ever will divorce His bride, the Church – no matter what! Has your spouse done worse to you than you’ve done to Christ? The Cross of Calvary says no – not even close.

Some people tell me, “You just don’t know what my spouse is like! I can’t love him or her, because he or she is just unlovable!” That describes Jesus’s ministry to a tee. He came to love the unlovable. I want everyone to have a happy marriage, but I’m simple and sentimental. God wants everyone to have a marriage that makes them more like Jesus. Jesus loved the unlovable. If God has chosen your marriage and your spouse to be the vehicle to teach you how to love the unlovable, then I’m sorry. I genuinely am. But, on another level, I’m also excited and glorifying God for your sake! He works in the lives of those He loves and He will one day repay every hurt with joy unspeakable!

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