Proud Humility

April 27, 2012 at 8:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments
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Humility is something that does not come easily to human beings. Most of us feel at times that we are better than, or more deserving than, or more entitled than at least someone. However, humility is a crucial virtue when it comes to having a right relationship with God.

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

James 4:10

We should be extremely thankful the Lord allows us to humble ourselves. After all, it’s not as if we will not wind up humbled at some point anyway. One day, every person in this world will kneel before Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord over all (Philippians 2:10-11). My old Sunday School teacher, Pastor John Wilkerson, used to say that God will get the glory from your life one way or the other. Either you will humble yourself before Him, or He will humble you involuntarily.

Some Christians today have come up with very subtle ways to attempt to subvert the opportunity the Lord has given them to humble themselves. They seek the power of God in front of an audience, and hope that the Lord will knock them down. It’s always strange to me to see these people helped up by other people, as though God was powerful enough to physically overwhelm them, but not powerful enough to pick them back up. My Bible says that we are the ones who should be humbling ourselves, and the Lord will do the lifting.

Bob Jones Sr., the founder of the Christian university that bears his name, was once approached by a man who said, “One day, when I get on my feet, I’ll be saved.”

Jones responded by saying, “Sir, you don’t get saved by getting on your feet – you get saved by getting on your face.”

Danger + Weakness = Joyful Praise

April 25, 2012 at 11:08 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 1 Comment
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Psalm 9 is a Psalm of praise. Praise makes us joyful.

[To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David.] I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Psalm 9:1-2

Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.

Psalm 9:11

That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.

Psalm 9:14

God is a King and He is THE King. The King has a throne, and His throne represents His government.

For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.

Psalm 9:4

The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 9:9

God’s government is bigger than any earthly government, and we can praise the King of Kings even when we can’t praise our earthly “king” or president or governor or mayor.

Have you praised God for the same things that David praised God for in these Verses?

When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right. Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.

Psalm 9:3-6

Has the Lord turned back your enemy? Has He blotted out your enemies? Only God’s Kingdom will last forever. One of the reasons there is such joy in praise is because we find a shelter from trouble in praise.

The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Psalm 9:9-10

We are sheltered in times of leanness because the Lord never forsakes us. People will forsake you when you are in a lean place. An earthly government may be helping you or your family right now, but how long do you think a government will help you when the government leaders start to need help themselves? God will shelter His children, and He will never need to take away His provision and use it on Himself.

When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:

Psalm 9:12-13

The Lord will shelter His children when they are attacked, even though the blood of our own crimes is on our hands, on our houses, and on our heads. God is the “Avenger of Blood,” but He is also the “City of Refuge.”

For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever. Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.

Psalm 9:18-20

The Lord shelters His children in times of weakness. We are vessels of clay, so all our times are times of weakness.

Darkness Under the Sun

April 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 16 Comments
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King Solomon was looking at life from an earthly, temporal point of view, and he came to these conclusions:

1. Life is vain because of its monotony.
2. Life is vain because of the limits of wisdom.
3. Life is vain because of the limits of wealth.

I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:8-11

Solomon was the richest man in the Bible – maybe of all time. He was the Bill Gates of his day. However, no one can buy his way into Heaven or out of eternity. Somebody once said that if money can’t buy happiness, at least it will allow you to afford your favorite kind of misery. Money can be a valuable tool. You can’t eat cash, but you can buy food with it. You can’t keep warm with it, but you can buy fuel with it. This quote once appeared in the Wall Street Journal: “Money is a universal passport to everywhere except Heaven; and a universal provider of everything except happiness.”

For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

Ecclesiastes 1:21

You may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” but this is not true. When you go to see God, you won’t be judged for how nice a boat you have, or how impressive your music collection was. The Apostle Paul described life as if it were a race, but that race is not a race to financial security. It is a race to become more Christ-like. The preacher in Ecclesiastes tells us that, not only can we not take it with us, but we can’t control it anymore after we’re gone. Some of the most agonized-over and detailed legal documents are wills and trusts. There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide for your family after you die, but when we spend so much energy trying to make sure our descendants have an easier time of it than we did, we might be doing them a disservice. Sometimes, working to achieve things for ourselves is how God makes us into who He wants us to be.

King Solomon felt that:

4. Life is vain because it has an end.

We know that this is true only in a limited sense.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrews 9:27

The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 2:14

The idea that we’re all going to die can be a depressing thought. It is one of the reasons why there is so much “escapist” entertainment.

There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

If we are not careful, we will focus so much of our time, our energy, our money, on entertainment, that we will not have anything other than shallow entertainment to offer the people we care about when we find them suffering. Movies, music, television, and pop culture are no substitute for Biblical comfort, counseling, and promises when someone is truly in pain.

However, there is an opposite extreme to mindless entertainment that can also be vain. If we become so fixated on our own sorrows that they swallow us up, we will become “depressed.” There is a plague of depression in our society today. I realize that some of this is caused by actual physical conditions or chemical imbalances in the brain, but a great deal of it comes from being focused only on what’s happening “under the sun.” Without the assurance of a life beyond this world with a kind and loving God, there is a tendency to think, “We know death is coming anyway, so we might as well stop living now and get used to it.” That’s the view “under the sun.” But “over” the sun – “above the sun” – God wants us to enjoy life and have peace and hope and contentment.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

I Timothy 6:6

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:15-16

The Lord does want us to have fun – but with Godliness. And He wants us to be content!

Objections to Being Kind to Your Spouse

April 20, 2012 at 9:40 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:3-4 (emphasis added)

In marriage, we must show kindness to our spouses if we expect the Lord to show kindness to us.

With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

Psalm 18:25-26

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Matthew 7:2

I need to be longsuffering toward my spouse if I am going to have any reasonable expectation of God being longsuffering toward me. I need to be kind toward my spouse if I am to have any reasonable expectation of the Lord being kind toward me.

Here are some common objections to being kind:

Objection 1: My spouse’s behavior toward me is intolerable.

Why that is not a valid objection:

a. You’ve done worse to God than your spouse has done to you.
b. God has promised to love you – not just when you “act right,” but in the eternal future.
c. By being unkind, we imply that God was unworthy when He suffered wrong-doing for love’s sake.
d. God is worthy of being imitated.
e. The revenge or the resentment you are contemplating would not be okay if God applied it to you.
f. When you show unkindness in response to cruel treatment, you are implying that God is schizophrenic: that He commanded you to bear some things that you are unable to bear.

Objection 2: My spouse never repents.

Why that is not a valid objection:

a. Your own repentance is never quick enough or complete enough before God.
b. If your own sins are forgiven and under the blood of Christ, you ought not to demand a higher repentance of others than God demands of you.
c. If your spouse is obligated to bear your faults, you ought to make those faults as bearable as possible.

Objection 3: Putting up with mistreatment encourages more mistreatment.

Why that is not a valid objection:

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21

Standing before the Throne: Possession

April 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Posted in The Great White Throne | 8 Comments
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And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15

The King of all kings is sitting on a Throne. Will you stand before Him one day? Are you prepared to stand before the King of all creation and be judged?

Lord, thank you for Your great plan of salvation. It is a grace-gift offered freely to us – even though it cost You so much. When we look in Your Word we see that we are so unclean – and we have no excuse. We are undone. All our reasoning, all our speculation, all our schemes and imaginings amount to nothing. Lord God, help us not to just put You “first.” Help us to recognize that You are now, have always been, and will always be so much more than just “number one” out of many others. Help us to see that You are worthy ALONE, and that You alone can save and sanctify. In the Name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Most of our lives are passed in a haze of distraction. We are caught up in entertainment, in amusements, in the day-to-day business of earning and spending money, and tending to our families and talking to our friends. It is as if all three of our enemies – the devil, the world, and our flesh – are conspiring to keep us preoccupied with the temporal and superficial. But there are times – maybe a five minute interlude of unexpected solitude – when we get what recovering alcoholics sometimes refer to as a “moment of clarity.” The cold water of reality hits us in the face and we suddenly see what life is really about. This can be terrifying – and terror is a rational response. Here’s why: Within a relatively few years everyone reading these words will see God. And the stark reality is that the most pressing issue in your life is: How will you be judged when you stand before His Throne?

If you are truly a Christian – if you have been truly born again – you will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Your works will be judged there, but you won’t be judged for your sins. The reason why you will not be judged for your sins if you have been truly born again is that Christ Jesus was already judged in your place.

For those who are not truly Christians there is another judgment. If you choose to reject God’s Son, you will stand before God and be judged by Him at His Great White Throne. There are three things I want us to see about this Throne.

I. The Throne’s Possessor

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

Revelation 20:11 (emphasis added)

The Possessor of this Throne is the King. In fact, He is THE King of kings – the Lord of lords. He is the Possessor not only of this Throne, but of all of Heaven and of Earth – of all creation. This is a King who once appeared Himself before the judgment seat of men. Pontius Pilate sat on a judgment seat with Jesus Christ standing before him, and he bartered over him. He used Him like a pawn to bargain with King Herod. He trifled with this Man Who was a King, but the real King will one day judge Pilate.

For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

John 5:22

Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Acts 17:31

You see, God never stopped being God, but in the Person of Jesus Christ He became what God had never been before: a Man. Men crucified Him and He laid down His life. They buried Him, but the grave couldn’t hold Him. He was resurrected and He ascended. He came – in the body of a Man – to the gates of Heaven. Imagine the scene with me… Can you hear the silence within? The gasping and the holding of breath within the courts of Heaven? Who is this One who dares to come to these gates? What manner of man – a MAN! – dares to approach where only angels have come before? And this Man says,

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

Psalm 24:7

Can you see the significance of this? A Man commanding the ancient gates to lift up! Perhaps a lone inhabitant of the Heavenly City dares to speak up:

Who is this King of glory..?

Psalm 24:8(a)

And the reply comes back:

…The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

Psalm 24:8(b)

Now – with great authority – not a request for admission, but a command:

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

Psalm 24:9

The gates lift at His command, and this King of Glory enters… All bow before Him. All give Him praise and honor and glory. All worship and adore Him. He goes up to the Father – to the Father’s right hand – and He sits on a Throne that is both great and white – and He looks to the Father, and He says, “Father, it is finished.” Not a question. No hint of not belonging. Perfect Son and perfect Father and perfect Holy Spirit – all Three in One. The Father looks at the Son, and says, “Yes, Son – it is finished indeed.” Oh, can you see the Possessor of this Throne – the rightful Owner – the rightful King!

Maybe someone at some time has exhorted you to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Maybe you have been told to “crown Him King.” Perhaps someone has pleaded with you to “put Him on the throne of your heart.” But according to the Bible, God has already made Him Lord over all!

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Acts 2:36

The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

Acts 10:36

He is Lord over His children and over His enemies. He reigns and rules in Heaven and on Earth and in hell. One day you will stand before Him in judgment. Are you ready for that day?

The Lord is the Possessor of the Throne. Next time we will look at the Power of the Throne.

It’s Time to Grow Up

April 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | Posted in Bible Studies, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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During the months leading up to the birth of our first daughter, my wife and I had many long discussions about all the plans and goals we had for her life. We talked about education, development, character, spirituality, even sports. I wanted to be the best dad in the world. However, that first night home from the hospital was an eye-opener. All the visitors and well-wishers had left, we were exhausted (and when I say “we” I really mean my wife was exhausted), and we were ready for our first peaceful night as parents. Our daughter had different plans though. She didn’t want to nurse, she didn’t want to take a bottle, and she didn’t want a pacifier. Most of all she did not want to sleep. What she wanted to do apparently was cry all night (and when I say “cry” I mean scream at the top of her brand new lungs). To say that my wife and I were freaked out is putting it mildly. I tried to remain calm for her sake, but the truth is I spent most of the night pacing, praying, holding the baby, trying to sing soothing lullabies through gritted teeth, and (even though I’m embarrassed to admit it) even crying a little myself. I also drastically altered my main goal as a parent that night. My main goal no longer had to do with making sure I had a daughter who would graduate from college or excel at sports or have tons of friends. My new main goal changed to just making sure she stayed alive.

About 7 1/2 months later I considered myself successful. She was still alive – and it was easy to prove because she still cried almost all night every night – and throughout most of the day unless she was being intensely entertained and stimulated. Then she started walking, and I changed my main goal as a parent again. This time my new main goal was to keep her from busting her head open. That goal lasted until she was 18 months old, at which point she took a head first dive from her stroller onto a concrete sidewalk and busted her head open. Thankfully, God protected her and she survived with a few stitches and a very small scar. My friend, Pastor John Wilkerson, once told me that it’s far easier to have a baby than to raise a child. He was talking about the challenge of evangelizing the lost and then discipling new believers, but the thought really resonated with me.

Eventually most parents realize that one of their main goals is to help their children become “mature.” When the Lord used the Apostle Paul to found the church at Corinth, the new Christians there were like spiritual babies. They had been “born again” by trusting Christ, but they were not yet mature. They were what are sometimes called “carnal Christians.”

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

I Corinthians 3:1

Physical size is often an indicator of maturity in the natural sense. We can tell a baby from a grown-up partly because of how big he is. But that doesn’t work in the spiritual sense. A person can become a Christian as a young child or as a full-grown adult. However, there are other ways of distinguishing children from adults that do apply to Christian maturity.

DIET

New-born babies have a very limited diet: milk or baby formula – that’s about it. Grown-ups can eat “meatier” food. The spiritual version of food is the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures. Several kinds of food are used to illustrate the Word of God.

Honey:

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Bread:

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4

Meat:

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk:

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

I Peter 2:2

The Word of God nourishes Christians, and helps us grow, and we should be getting more mature in our understanding of the Word. We should not only be reading the Word, but heeding the Word.

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

I Corinthians 3:2

INTERACTION WITH OTHERS

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

I Corinthians 3:3

These kinds of statements are to be somewhat expected from immature children:
-“Would you stop touching me!”
-“She stuck her tongue out at me!”

But these kinds of statements are pathetic and unacceptable coming from grown-up Christian believers:
-“Somebody sat in my pew!”
-“The preacher had better not be too busy to call me back or I’ll find another church!”

Immature children frequently fuss and fight (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “strife”).

This is what you expect to hear from little kids:
-“I had it first!”
-“Sally got a cookie and I didn’t – that’s not fair!”

This is what we should not expect to hear from mature Christians:
-“I would tithe, too, if I had a good job like him!”
-“It’s easy for her to have faith – she’s never been through what I’m going through!”

Children tend to think they should have whatever the other children have (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “envying”).

We might think it’s somewhat cute to hear little kids saying:
-“I’m not going to be your best friend any more, I’m going to be Suzy’s best friend!”
-“Don’t let Jimmy join our club!”

But it’s not so cute to hear grown-ups saying:
-“We can’t invite Billy Bob to the retreat – he’s difficult to deal with.”
-“Oh sure, if I had a fancy car like so-and-so, maybe the preacher would like me, too.”

Children like to exclude some and include others as a way of being mean (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “divisions”). Two signs of maturity are what we eat, and how we act. Another sign of maturity is who we follow. Children tend to have “heroes.”

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I Corinthians 3:4

The baby Christians in Corinth were identifying themselves with Paul or Apollos or Peter or other church leaders, and they were making a sinful issue out of it.

Little boys brag: “My dad can beat up your dad.” But Christian men should not be dividing over which famous evangelist or TV preacher they follow. Mature believers look to Christ as our role model.

I Corinthians was written to church members who weren’t getting along. They were acting like little babies when, time-wise, they should have been growing up. These were people involved in ministry. They had talents and spiritual gifts, but they were ignoring the reason for these gifts. God gives us spiritual gifts to bring lost folks into the Kingdom, to do the work of bringing people to Jesus, to make disciples, to help others grow up, to build up the saints. Many times, though, like little bratty children, we’re misusing the gifts and talents which our loving God gave us. We’re playing with them. Or we’re fighting with them or over them. Or we’re bragging about them, and trying to show off, as if we earned them, or did anything to get them for ourselves.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

The spiritual gifts and talents given to us by God are not weapons to fight with. They are not toys to play with. They are not trophies to brag about. They are tools, and we ought to be using them, as humble workers, to build with.

https://i1.wp.com/cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/26/2679/7MZUD00Z/art-print/little-kids-sword-fighting-at-sunset.jpg

Breaching Reality

April 13, 2012 at 8:37 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Biblical Violence, BiblicalSwimming, Uncategorized | 17 Comments
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You may have seen this on television. It is one of my favorite images from nature documentary footage. In the frigid waters off the coast of South Africa a great white shark (by some estimates weighing close to one and a half tons) comes bursting up through the water’s surface, breaching explosively with its torpedo-shaped body, clenching a terrified fur seal tightly in its razor-sharp serrated teeth and powerful jaws!

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQlK6LJGUxJfSk1avZC78jPPDdh-vGb3MWUUVIUnHDpsjAKQ0yY

The voice-over narrator goes on to explain that this “sneak-attack” method of predation is used by sharks to overcome the agility and elusiveness of the much-smaller seals. The viewer is left to ponder this question: “How in the world did the seal not see that coming?”

The answer lies in the seals’ inability to see what needed to be seen, and to hear what needed to be heard. A seal-lover, anticipating the attack, could scream at these fur seals, and even wave his arms frantically as a warning of what is coming from below, but it would do no good. Christians who share the Gospel with unbelievers can sometimes feel a little of the same frustration. Lost sinners know that they are sinning. Why can’t they grasp the danger of God’s impending judgment and wrath? Like fur seals, they are suffering from a type of sensory deprivation.

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

II Corinthians 4:4

According to Scripture, the little “g” god of this world, Satan, has blinded – not the eyes, but the minds – of unbelievers. They are swimming obliviously through a sea of worldly conformity, and no amount of screaming, gesticulating, logical reasoning, pleading, or emotional manipulation is going to convince them to swim immediately to the safe harbor of God’s love. What hope is there, then?

There is the same hope that we ourselves (born-again Christians) have experienced:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 4:6

The only light bright enough to shine into the heart of a person whose mind has been blinded is the glorious light which God has placed in our own hearts, and which can shine like a spotlight on the crucified and resurrected face of Christ the Lord.

Some of us reading this were given our sight just in the nick of time to avoid – not a great white shark – but the place of the condemned before the Great White Throne of God’s judgment. Now, it’s our turn to aim the darkness-defeating, sight-giving light straight into the minds of the other seals. Their Satanic affliction is not a cause for frustration; it is an opportunity for God to get glory.

Preaching and Praying in Prosperity and Predicaments

April 11, 2012 at 11:32 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 4 Comments
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John 3:16 and Psalm 23 may be the most well-known passages of Scripture in the Bible. Even non-Christians are usually at least a little familiar with these verses. At most major sporting events, the reference of John 3:16, if not the actual text, can be seen on a sign or banner. Seldom do we see a movie or TV program depict a funeral without someone reading from Psalm 23. However, I wanted to point out just a couple of lessons from this Psalm that you might not have heard mentioned before.

First, notice the change in narrative mode. What I mean is, the first three verses of the Psalm are in “first person.” They are declarative statements about the Lord, and they sound very personal to the psalmist.

[A Psalm of David.] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3

We read, “I,” “me,” “my,” and “He.” These statements are from the point of view of the psalmist, and seem to be spoken to us. But, suddenly, in Verse 4, there is a change. The psalmist begins to address the Lord directly.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Psalm 23:4-5

Why the change? Why go from talking about the Lord to talking to the Lord? Perhaps this is a reflection of the change in scenery. In the first three verses the psalmist does not lack anything good. He has green pastures, still waters, a restored soul. We tend to talk about the Lord when things are going great. Sometimes, though, it takes a valley of shadowy death to make us talk to Him.

In church, we spend most of our time talking about God. We need to always try to remember to take some time in church, though, to talk to Him in prayer. One day born-again Christians will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In the meantime, we meet at His house in an assembled congregation at periodic times to worship Him, and to not only talk about, but to actually thank Him personally for, His goodness and mercy.

How Many Christians Really Know This?

April 9, 2012 at 11:36 am | Posted in Salvation | 56 Comments
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In order to be a Christian you have to believe the Gospel. In order to tell someone how to become a Christian you have to know the Gospel. (Mark 1:15) So – do you know it and believe it?

1. God is holy, just, and good, and He is also a judge Who judges righteously. (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 50:4,6; Acts 17:31)

2. You have told lies, stolen things, taken God’s Name in vain, looked at someone other than your spouse with lust – which Jesus equates with adultery of the heart – and broken many of God’s other commandments. (Exodus 20; Matthew 5:27-28). Most people don’t consider these sins to be all that serious because “everyone does them,” but they are deadly serious in God’s eyes. (Revelation 21:8; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Deuteronomy 5:11; Romans 3:10,23)

3. Because God is holy and just, and because you are a guilty sinner, God can not “just forgive” you. (Proverbs 17:15, Nahum 1:3)

4. However, because God is also merciful and gracious, He made a way to be both just and forgiving – and to deal with your sins in mercy AND truth. Despite the fact that you have sinned against Him, He loves you. (John 3:16, Romans 3:25, Psalm 85:10)

5. Here is what God did so that we could be forgiven for breaking His laws and sinning against Him: A little over 2000 years ago, God came into this world as a Man – Jesus of Nazareth. He was born of a virgin (Luke 1:26-32). He lived a perfect sinless life (John 8:46; Hebrews 4:14-15). And, although He never broke the law and never did anything wrong, the authorities brought false charges against Him (Matthew 26:3-4), subjected Him to a rigged and illegal trial (Matthew 26:59-66), beat Him savagely (Matthew 27:26-30, Isaiah 52:14), tortured Him and mocked Him (Matthew 26:67-68; 27:28-31), and nailed Him to a Cross, intending to kill Him (Matthew 27:32-37). On the Cross, He willingly laid down His life and died (John 10:17-18; Luke 23:46). His body was taken down and buried (Luke 23:50-53), but on the third day He was resurrected and rose from the grave (Luke 24:1-7; I Corinthians 15:1-4)

6. Jesus took on all the guilt of all His people’s sins on the Cross. He became sin for you, and took your place as the condemned while God the Father poured out His wrath and His righteous judgment against sin on His Own beloved Son. (I Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5, 10) Jesus also paid off your sin debt in full with His life’s blood (John 19:28-30; Colossians 2:13-14) and imputed His righteousness to your account so that you could be saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to Him (Ephesians 2:16; II Corinthians 5:21).

7. The Lord Jesus, in His Resurrection, demonstrated His victory over death, hell, the grave, Satan, and sin. He has ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:9) to sit at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8:34), and He has all authority (Matthew 28:18) to grant salvation and eternal life to all who repent, believe the Gospel, and call upon Him as Savior (Romans 10:9,13; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).

8. You have been invited and commanded to respond to the Gospel (Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19). I beg you to believe it and trust in Jesus.

Nothing New Under the Sun

April 4, 2012 at 9:45 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 57 Comments
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The common expression, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” is from the Bible.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

When God spoke the universe into existence, He created all the “matter” that exists today. Scientists have been able to discover that matter is made up of molecules. It’s kind of strange to think about, but these molecules have been around for a long time. The molecules that make up the water you drink today might be some of the same molecules that made up the water that Julius Caesar drank over 2000 years ago. Some of the cells in your body might be made up of some the same material that used to make up King Solomon’s body.

There is a joke about a group of scientists who came to God and said, “Well, God, we don’t need You any more – we can finally do what You can do. We can ‘create.’ We have invented a machine that can create anything we want. All we have to do is add dirt-”

“Hold on a minute,” said God. “Go get your own dirt.”

You are breathing air right now, and scientists have discovered a great deal about that air. They understand the elements that make it up and the way it behaves under certain circumstances. But no scientist provided the air you are breathing right now. You are breathing God’s air. He created it and He provides it, and He deserves the credit and the thanks for it. If He decides that your next breath is your last one, no scientist will be able to prevent that. There have been great advances in the field of cardiology, but your heart is not beating right now because a cardiologist created your heart or gave it the ability to pump blood. Your heart is beating under the power and supervision and control of God, and it had better be beating to His glory. He could stop it in an instant.

“Life is vanity” was the perspective of Solomon “under the sun.” “Vanity” is a key concept in Ecclesiastes. It is sometimes defined as “emptiness” or “vapor.” It is something that is insubstantial although it is still noticeable, like “wind.” In our day it is sometimes linked with the idea of arrogance or pride. We say that somebody who is “vain” is “stuck up,” or somebody who thinks she’s “all that,” with the implication being that she’s really nothing. There was a popular song by Carly Simon when I was a kid called “You’re So Vain” that exemplified this idea. Vanity can be something that causes a lot of consternation, but doesn’t amount to anything. One commentator on the Book of Ecclesiastes defined vanity as “what’s left after you pop a soap bubble.”

According to the “under the sun” viewpoint of King Solomon:

1. Life is vain because of its monotony. (Referring to the ordinary repetitiveness of life, not the board game where you collect $200 for passing “go.”)

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10

How many days in your life do you really remember in detail? Probably a small percentage. You probably remember your wedding day, the days your children were born, the day you hit a game-winning home run, but overall you only remember a small percentage of the days of your life, because so many of them are so much alike. Even fewer are the days of your life which stand out in the memory of other people. However, we do remember some “historical” dates – dates on which famous people did important things. This is one reason why man – even man “under the sun” – is different from the beasts. We have personal histories.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that, although we are part of a “life cycle,” the life cycle always ends in death. They say that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. [I would add two others: (1) If I leave my car windows down in a parking lot, it will rain before I get back; (2) If I change from a slow-moving lane of traffic into a faster-moving lane, the cars in front of me in that lane will immediately stop.]

The Lord Jesus miraculously broke into the “life cycle” of this planet – and into human history. He made it so that resurrection is possible. Life doesn’t have to end in death. You can be “born again.” Your life was put in motion with your first birth, but with a new birth you can start over – with a new destination.

According to Ecclesiastes, “under the sun:”

2. Life is vain because of the limits of wisdom.

Solomon was the wisest man in the world, but he could not equal God’s wisdom. In fact, Solomon’s wisdom was even God-given. The human race has been around for about 6000 years, and it is questionable whether we have really come up with any real solutions to any real problems – at least without a willingness to create even more problems. We desperately need God’s wisdom.

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