You the Man!

June 29, 2012 at 10:24 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Selected Psalms | 5 Comments
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Psalm 51 is a penitential psalm. It was written during a time of suffering. The suffering was a form of discipline used by God. The suffering in this case was the result of sin.

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

II Samuel 12:1-7

Nathan told David, “Thou art the man.” There is a popular expression in our day where one man will congratulate another man on some superficially impressive achievement by telling him, “You the man!” That’s not the way Nathan was using the expression. David was “the” man – and David was “a” man – with all that implies concerning the condition of human sinfulness. We are all “the man” in the sense that, like the first man, Adam, we have sinned against God and deserve divine punishment. But God has made one Way – and one Way only – to escape what we deserve. Does that sound bigoted or intolerant to you? To hear someone proclaim that Jesus is the only Way to God? Jesus Himself is the One Who said this. Or do you find it strange that God would make only one way when there are so many people in this world who might be more responsive to other ways? I can tell you that the amazing thing is not that God made only one way. The amazing thing is that He made any way at all!

Here is the beginning of David’s prayer of penitence and repentance:

[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51:1

When someone breaks down and admits that he has done wrong, we say that he “comes clean.” David’s prayer is not so much about what he did (explanation), but more about who he is (examination). When we sin, explanation about why we did it profits little. Examination of what our sin says about who we are may profit much.

David asked God to blot out his “transgressions.” We might think of “transgressions” as “going across” (trans) God’s boundaries with aggression. We have all done this. We have presumptuously crossed the boundaries marked out for us by God.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:2

Sin is “missing the mark” of God’s standard. We have all sinned and “come short” of the glory of God. You may have heard the illustration of the child who wants to ride a roller coaster at the state fair, but isn’t allowed to because her head doesn’t reach the line on the chart marked “height requirement.” None of us have come close to reaching the standard of God’s righteousness, which is moral perfection from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Transgression is crossing the wrong mark; sin is failing to meet the right mark.

“Iniquity” refers to the condition of being twisted, bent, or perverted. This is the totally depraved inherently sinful nature which we inherited from our earthly father, Adam, and from our spiritual father, Satan, prior to regeneration.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

If we are truly Christians, transgression, sin, and iniquity should make us feel dirty. Unsaved people, like pigs, don’t mind being dirty. In fact, they actually like it. It’s not that true Christians never get dirty with sin. We do – and far too often. But a mark of salvation is that you do not like being dirty, and that you want to get clean.

A word of warning, though: If you are a true Christian, be diligent about your confession and repentance when you sin. Each unconfessed sin is like a new layer of dirt, and each layer of dirt makes us more and more used to the dirt. How dirty I “feel” is not always a good indicator of how dirty I really am. The mirror of God’s Word (which is really what Nathan held up to David) is a better indicator of how dirty I really am.

Short S.W.I.M. with D.L. Moody

June 27, 2012 at 9:33 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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There are three kinds of faith in Christ: 1. Struggling faith, like a man in
deep water desperately swimming. 2. Clinging faith, like a man hanging to the
side of a boat. 3. Resting faith, like a man safely within the boat (and able
to reach out with a hand to help someone else get in).

D.L. Moody

Order in a Fallen World

June 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Ecclesiastes | 51 Comments
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God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). This does not mean, however, that God created Himself, for this would be an impossibility. God is self-existent and eternal. There has never been a time when God did not exist. Therefore, the statement, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes), is also true. God created everything out of “nothing,” in the sense that He did not find external matter outside of Himself which He then began to fashion and mold. No, He created everything that exists out of Himself, and in this sense He is “all in all.” (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:16-17)

King Solomon, in his wisdom, understood more about the eternal nature of God than most of us, but even he could not truly fathom its depths.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-17

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 Solomon moved from looking at the natural order of life and things in nature, and he began to look at man’s institutions to see if there is anything man has organized under the sun that is not vanity.

1. Government

God has ordained government for the purpose of making society more peaceful than it would otherwise be, especially in a sinful world. However, human beings have been given the “charge” or “stewardship” of earthly governments, so, naturally, earthly governments are corrupt.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Ecclesiastes 4:1

2. Economy

Solomon sees one man who is hard-working, but who has no time for anything but work.

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

This man is working just to keep up with the neighbors. He is motivated by envy.

Then Solomon sees another man who enjoys the pleasures of life, but is lazy and does not work.

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

This person is too lazy even to provide for himself! He’s like one of my old friends who used to say, “I just love hard work – I could watch it all day!”

Finally, Solomon finds a man who is more balanced.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

This man doesn’t have both hands full, but he’s not empty-handed either. The Bible teaches that a balanced life is important.

Then Solomon addressed the pros and cons of working alone versus working together

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It’s strange to me to think that we live a world with something like six and half billion people in it, and yet supposedly one the greatest mental health problems is loneliness. If you ever feel lonely, you can call my house and I’ll put you on speaker-phone. I have a wife and three (now four: updated October, 2013) daughters, and it’s hard to be lonely in the middle of constant talking! But, seriously, God has put something in us that cries out for companionship – for togetherness – for fellowship. Social workers and child abuse experts will tell you that newborn babies in a neglectfully dysfunctional environment, who are not held, and who are kept in cruel isolation for long periods of time, have the worst problems and mental disorders later in life – even more so than those who are sexually abused.

A summation of Solomon’s view on companionship in labor is that there is vanity in working for the wrong reasons, but it’s better to work hard than to be lazy, and that many hands make light work and lighter hearts.

3. Church

We would expect vanity and corruption in man-made institutions such as government and economy, but we should work hard to keep it out of our church congregations. There is no place for vanity in worship.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Keep thy foot = watch your step. Don’t take going to church lightly. When you get there, put more emphasis on listening to what God is saying to you, than on telling others what you want to say. We are guilty of “the sacrifice of fools” if we come to church and make an outward show of worship while we have unconfessed sin in our lives. It’s the sacrifice of fools because we are fools if we think we can deceive God.

… to obey is better than to sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I Samuel 15:22

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:2

This is a reminder to us to be reverent before God, and to take worshiping Him seriously.

Lord, I thank You that life is only emptiness and vanity from the perspective of “under the sun.” Please help us to keep our focus on things above (Colossians 3:2) – things that are good and edifying and Godly – and keep us from becoming preoccupied with the things of this world. Help us to put away our idols. If we can’t do it, Lord, tear them away. They’re only hurting us, anyway, by keeping us from You. In the Name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

Getting the Puffiness Out of Your Marriage

June 22, 2012 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 11 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

Vaunting myself is high-handed pride. The word “vaunting” is from the same origin as the word “vanity:” something which looks substantial, but is really lacking in substance. Vanity is emptiness masquerading as fullness. Vaunting is attempting to disguise this emptiness with loud boasting.

Being “puffed up” is filling myself with vanity, but it differs from “vaunting.” Vaunting involves trying to fool other people. When I am “puffed up” I am making no special attempt to fool anyone but myself. In other words, vaunting makes me feel good because it makes you think I’m something I’m not. Puffing up makes me feel good because it makes me think I’m something I’m not.

Here are some tests to see if you are vaunting yourself or puffing yourself up in your marriage:

Test One tests to see if you are vaunting yourself: Do you long for a lot of attention from your spouse?

It is not necessarily a bad thing to want attention from your spouse, but if these are some of your techniques for this attention-seeking, then you are guilty of vaunting yourself: You get attention from your spouse by being: (a) dramatic; (b) desperate; (c) demanding.

Test Two tests to see if you are puffed up: Are you envious or critical?

In the previous lessons I discussed envy. Envy secretly feels smug when your spouse is sad and it secretly sulks when your spouse is happy. A telling sign as to whether you are subconsciously falling into this pattern is that you are quick to put a damp cloth on your spouse’s success. I doubt that the children’s story of “The Three Little Pigs” was intended to have anything to do with Christian marriage, but I like to use the Big Bad Wolf to illustrate this point.

http://reinventingtheeventhorizon.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/big-bad-wolf-1011-big_bad_wolf_k949.gif

Remember, he both huffed and puffed. He huffed (vaunted himself) in order to scare the three little pigs. Then he puffed in order to reassure himself that he really was big and bad.

Test Three: Is it hard for you to admit you are wrong?

This question will tell you if you are thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Romans 12:3

Most people in my generation remember the television program “Happy Days.” One of the main characters, Fonzie, had a real problem with this. Occasionally (very occasionally) he would be forced to admit that he had made a mistake, and he would try to say, “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong.” Only, he would nearly turn apoplectic straining to get past the “s” in “sorry” or the “wr” in “wrong,” because it just isn’t cool to be wrong, and Fonzie was nothing if not cool (at least in the weltanschauung of “Happy Days”).

https://i2.wp.com/api.ning.com/files/6Pq9*17yGX0QsOhRN79hXW0m8d3HJE8XJxgVe96BgO2SVAWBCagV0RQJGEPzrteHezq3CLJn*yy4mXGh6Fno1A489xml9Wki/FonzieWrong.jpg

Here are some indicators that you may be suffering from “Fonzieitis,” and that would cause you to have to answer “yes” to Test Three:

a. When you realize you might be wrong and your spouse might be right, you “blame-shift” onto your spouse, asserting or implying that if you are wrong, it is his or her fault that you are wrong.
b. When confronted with the possibility of being wrong you try to change the subject.
c. You “rationalize” (make an excuse about how you were really “mistaken” and not really “wrong”).

There is an antidote to this manifestation of self-vaunting and puffiness: humility. Humility is not a feeling of worthlessness, but it is a real recognition of our true status in comparison: (1) to God; and (2) to God’s other creatures, including your spouse.

And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:

Genesis 18:27

I am not worthy on my own merit even to be able to communicate with God, and, just like everyone else He has made, I am nothing but animated dust. I should be quick to admit that I am wrong often and badly. This type of humility will help me to be able to pass Tests Four and Five.

Test Four: Do you feel entitled more than you feel grateful?

Test Five: Do you believe deep down that you are better than your spouse?

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 6:5

Humility is a right view of myself in relation to God and a right of myself in relation to others. It causes me to admit that I am a sinner – even that I come from a sinful race. I am a recipient of God’s grace just like my spouse. I am not “entitled” to anything from God, and I am not better than anyone else, including my spouse.

Next time we will take the next five tests to determine if your marriage is too “puffy.”

Give Good Advice: Vow to be Sincere with God

June 20, 2012 at 10:23 am | Posted in Biblical Advice, Selected Psalms | 9 Comments
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Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:4-5 (emphasis added)

Making a vow is a dangerous thing to do. It’s better not to vow a vow than to vow a vow and not keep it (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). But we are not forbidden from making vows, and the vow to be sincere with God may be the least dangerous of any vow – because you are committing to tell God what He already knows – and what you know He knows.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

Psalm 51:17-19 (emphasis added)

What are the sacrifices of righteousness? They are sacrifices that are acceptable to God only when you have come to Him with a broken and contrite heart. Good advice is to obey the Lord and serve the Lord, but we must also serve the Lord in such a way that we are not taking credit for adding something to Him or showing Him how “good” or “righteous” we think we are. Make a vow to God that you will be sincere by recognizing your own sinfulness and worthlessness apart from His Own righteousness that He imparted to you when you were broken and contrite.

A.void sin
D.elay taking rash action
V.ow to be sincere with God
I.
C.
E.

Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part Two)

June 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 6 Comments
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We noted King David’s many blessings in Part One. The Bible is not a book of fairy tales, myths, or legends. Its Author, the Holy Spirit, does not hide the sins, shortcomings, and ugly truths about its heroes. When David sinned with Bathsheba, there seems little doubt that his pride over his might, favor, and accomplishments played a part in his fall. However, when we go back and look carefully, we can see that this was perhaps not the chief cause of his downfall. David was actually being a good steward of these blessings God had given him.

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

Luke 16:10

When David was blessed in fighting, he gave God the glory (as recorded in many of the Psalms), and was obedient to fight God’s enemies. When David was blessed in his family he didn’t just indulge his sons; he gave them responsibilities. When David was blessed with fame, God knew he could trust David to give God the glory. When David was blessed with faithful friends, he listened to them, and obeyed God’s word. When David was blessed with feasting he didn’t become greedy or gluttonous; he became generous and giving.

So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

II Samuel 9:13

When David was blessed with fear he didn’t lord it over people; he sought ways to show kindness.

And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?

II Samuel 9:1

So, what else could have played a part in David’s lusting for Bathsheba and subsequent entrapment in sin? If you are a Christian, when you were saved, a great victory was achieved over Satan. Your salvation was a tough loss for Satan, and you may have been given a brief period of reprieve after that, but it didn’t take long for the Devil to get back up and come after you again. It might have been the next week, the next day, at school or at work. It might have been the next Sunday at church, or it might have been when you told your spouse or family or friends. It might even have been in the car on the way home from church! Pharaoh was forced to let God’s people out of Egypt, but he changed his mind and came after them before they even reached the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Jesus said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan” (Luke 4:8), but many of us are too nervous to have him back there where we can’t keep an eye on him. Thankfully, we don’t have to trust Satan. We have to trust the Lord Jesus.

David looked like he had on all his spiritual armor.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Ephesians 6:11

But there was a chink in David’s armor. The Devil is wily. He’s watching us closely. He’s looking for weakness. “Wiles” are tricky schemes, traps, snares, treachery by guile. That’s one reason why we must be very careful about placing a novice Christian in a position of leadership.

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

I Timothy 3:7

We must also try to be kind and meek and mild, and not contentious.

And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

II Timothy 2:26

Satan does not stop attacking Christians, even when they are not serving the Lord. He does not make deals with believers. He does not really expect to get true Christians to bow down and worship him. We’re already saved. He can’t take us to hell. He wants us to think about ourselves. One of his main temptations is to tell you to do what feels good. Do what’s easy. Look out for number one. No rules, he says. Just “rights.” Then, once you’re worshiping yourself instead of worshiping God, he has a very limited agenda. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

David had a weakness – a chink in his armor – and that’s all it takes: one “occasion” (Galatians 5:13; I Timothy 5:14). An “occasion” is a foothold. It is what happens when you allow the enemy to build a little encampment inside your walls of protection. Next time, we will try to identify the “occasion” that Satan used to trap David.

Are You Feeling Sheepish?

June 6, 2012 at 10:03 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 4 Comments
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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.

Psalm 23:4 (emphasis added)

Christians are like sheep, and the Lord is like our shepherd. His presence is comforting to us, but sheep must stay close to the shepherd. We must stay close to the Lord in the green pastures (times of freedom) and especially in the dark valleys (times of caution). Sheep can be preyed upon by wolves and lions. Wolves and lions do not fear sheep. They fear the shepherd. Stay close to the Shepherd at all times.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Psalm 23:5 (emphasis added)

In the presence of our Lord we are not only safe, but we may be bold – even when our enemies are also present. The dual presence of our Protector and our enemies is not cause for fear because our Protector is far stronger.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Psalm 23:5 (emphasis added)

Our Shepherd sanctifies us. He cleanses us, because, like sheep, we have a tendency to get very dirty. In Bible times, shepherds applied oil to their sheep to help keep insects and pests away.

It is somewhat embarrassing for us as human beings to see ourselves compared to helpless and unintelligent animals like sheep so often in Scripture, but we share many sheep-like characteristics:
-Sheep need reassuring. We need to be constantly reminding ourselves of God’s promises.
-Sheep get sick. We tend to get sick spiritually, finding ourselves repeating our mistakes, discouraged, unfocused.
-Sheep often need help from their shepherd when giving birth to their offspring. We are powerless to evangelize and disciple new believers without our Shepherd’s help.
-Sheep get tired and have to be made to lie down (Psalm 23:2). Our Shepherd often has to forcibly take away our distractions and place us into a place where we can be still, rest, and meditate on spiritual things.
-Sheep are responsive to their shepherd’s voice. We are guided, directed, and instructed by the Word of our Shepherd.

To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

John 10:3-5

Sheep do not see well.

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.

Psalm 23:4 (emphasis added)

A staff, as well as a rod, is needed. The shepherd’s “rod” is what we would think of as a “cudgel” or a “club.” The staff has a hook on the end. The rod is for clubbing attackers and the crook is for guiding, and for rescuing from dangerous places. In Bible times sheep would also pass under the staff each night for examination by the shepherd. We need to remember to ask the Lord to search our hearts each and every day.

Shepherding is hard work. It’s more than just lying around in a pasture playing a flute and writing poetry.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Psalm 23:5 (emphasis added)

It sounds like the Psalmist is changing his metaphor here. Why would sheep need a “table?” But the “table” might be a table rock – a safe, firm, flat place where the Shepherd can thoroughly examine the condition of the flock.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Psalm 23:5 (emphasis added)

Shepherds had large containers (or “cups”) for the sheep to drink from each night in the sheep-fold.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23:6 (emphasis added)

The Hebrew word translated as “follow” is radaph, which can mean “to pursue or chase after.” What a thrilling thought! If you are truly a Christian, God’s goodness and mercy will “hunt you down” all the days of your life!

D.L. Moody S.W.I.M. Quote

June 4, 2012 at 9:47 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Salvation is worth working for. It is worth a man’s going round the world on
his hands and knees, climbing its mountains, crossing its valleys, swimming
its rivers, going through all manner of hardship in order to attain it. But we
do not get it in that way. It is to him who believes.

D.L. Moody


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