Hard-Headed

February 28, 2014 at 11:06 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 1 Comment
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My wife’s mother, who has been married to the same man for almost fifty years, gives this marriage advice: “If you want your marriage to work, you must be hard-headed about the right things.” Generally speaking, the expression “hard-headed” means stubborn. I think what she means, though, is that when times get tough in your marriage, you need to be downright stubborn about keeping the vows you made before God, and committing to stay together and work through the difficulties, no matter what.

I could not find the expression “hard-headed” in the Bible, but I did find a reference to hardening of the face.

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.

Proverbs 21:29

This kind of hardening is not good. It refers to stubbornness that ignores wisdom. It is the outward result of the inner hardening of the heart.

The hardening of the heart is a process, and a head is hardened by repeated stubbornness. The hardening of the heart involves both our own wills and God’s will, and a hard head is the result of God finally reinforcing what we want to think, anyway. The hardening of a man’s heart occurs when God gives him over to his own way. A hard-headed man can’t “change his ways,” because they’re his ways, not God’s ways. The hardening of a person’s heart negates that person’s warning system. It keeps him from seeing the danger in the direction he’s “heading” (no pun intended). A hard-headed person is sometimes called a dullard. He’s sleepy and lulled into a false sense of security. When someone is hard-headed, he is unable to see the danger which is abundantly clear to others. Don’t be hard-headed when it comes to sin and disobedience. The only thing hard about a believer’s head when it comes to sin should be his helmet.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:17

O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

Psalm 119:5

Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

Ecclesiastes 8:1

Catechism Question 2

February 26, 2014 at 11:21 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, Exodus | 3 Comments
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Question 1: Who made you?
Answer: God made me.
Prove it.

Genesis 1:27

Question 2: Who made everything else?
Answer: God made everything.
Prove it.

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:11

This is a good place to teach children that the “days” are literal days, and not “eras” or “epochs” or “ages” or million-year-long periods of time. It is also a good opportunity to remind them that God “rested,” not because He was tired, but in order to demonstrate the completion of the work of ex nihilo creation, and to establish a principle of spiritual rest and a pattern of physical rest for believers.

Other verses to consider:

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

Psalm 33:6-9

This would answer a question a child might have: “If God made everything, how did He do it?” Answer: “He did it by His Word.”

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11:3

Catechism Question 1

February 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 6 Comments
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A “catechism” is a teaching device typically in the form of a set of questions and answers. Catechisms have been popular in the history of the Christian Church for training believers in basic doctrine, and for articulating orthodox statements of faith. The Westminster Catechisms (the larger and the shorter) and the Heidelberg Catechism are two of the more well-known catechisms.

The word “catechism” is derived from the Greek words kata, meaning “down,” and ekheo, meaning “to sound.” So we might say that “to catechize” is to “sound down.” In other words, a teacher or instructor verbally questions the student or novice, and the response “echoes” back up with the correct doctrinal answer.

When I decided to formulate a catechism to use with my children I looked at several and came up with a short one, probably influenced the most by a “prove it” catechism for children attributed to Charles Spurgeon that I found online.

The Bible commands fathers to train children in Biblical instruction, and while I do not know of any specific commands to use catechesis as the required method, I do believe that the principle of “sounding down” (parents to children) in a methodical, formal, structured and consistent way is authorized by the Word of God:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

When we do it in our family, I ask the question to one of my daughters. She responds with the answer. I say “prove it,” and she proceeds to do so by reciting the correct Bible verse from memory. Starting today, I will be posting the 22 questions and answers to our family’s Bible catechism.

Question 1: Who made you?
Answer: God made me.
Prove it.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:27

This is also a good opportunity to explain to children what it means to be made “in the image of God.” To be an “image-bearer” of God does not necessarily mean that we are made in His physical likeness, because the Bible speaks of God as a spirit-being, Who is not confined to a physical body the way we are. However, God is a “person,” and therefore we, like Him, have wills and make choices and have consciousness and have a personality. This makes us unique among all of creation.

This is also a good time to go through the entire creation account of Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, and to consider this verse:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Beware Familial Fidelity

February 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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The Israelites who came back from Babylon to Jerusalem to try to repair their city and rebuild their homes experienced extreme hardship. Not only was their work attacked by outsiders, but, in some cases, they were even preyed upon by their own people. Between trying to buy food during a famine, paying their taxes, and the great expenditures they were contributing to the rebuilding process, some of them were having to mortgage their crops, their land, and even their children!

Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah, their faithful servant leader, was very angry when he heard about this, and rightly so. It was a classic example of the “us four and no more” mentality that – if we are not careful – will invade our Christian homes even today. I am not saying that we should not provide for our household or our blood relatives. A father who disregards his own family’s welfare is said to be worse than an infidel (I Timothy 5:8). What I am saying, though, is that Christian families who are blessed with resources ought to be quick and eager to provide for the needs of other Christian families that might be struggling. And we should never, under any circumstances, seek to take unfair advantage of, or profit from, another Christian’s struggles. Family loyalty can be a wonderful thing, but let us remember that we are, first and foremost, children of the family of God.

One Sin Lighter

February 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Posted in Micah | 2 Comments
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Micah Chapter 4 transitions from the destruction of Jerusalem in the near future, to the New Jerusalem in the distant future.

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.

Micah 4:4

The Lord promises a pleasant home, plenty to eat, and peace in the land. God will give us the desires of our hearts when our hearts desire what He desires.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Psalm 37:4

For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.

Micah 4:5

Knowing God and obeying God are blessings unto themselves. Jeremiah had told the people in Judah to surrender to Babylon to save the city and the temple, but they did not listen.

Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.

Micah 4:11-13

In the end times Israel will look weak and defenseless, but it will really be strong through God’s power in “the remnant.”

Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.

Micah 5:1

King Zedekiah would be captured while trying to escape and the Babylonians would humiliate him by striking him with a rod across the face.

Micah 5:2-5 is the prophecy found here in the New Testament:

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Matthew 2:5-6

Micah reveals that the Messiah would be: eternal; humble; rejected; and returning victoriously. The prophecy of the Messiah was to give comfort and to arouse responsibility, not to satisfy curiosity or cause complacency. We may say the same about the prophecies in the New Testament today concerning Jesus’s return.

And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

Micah 5:7-8

The people of God should be like lions: strong and bold. And like dew: refreshing and fruit-producing.

And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities. And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.

Micah 5:10-15

God warns, and then He purges. He wants to get good fruit from our lives. If we are a field, and are producing bad fruit – the wrong kind of fruit – no amount of pruning, weeding, fertilizing, watering, is going to help. We’ve got to be plowed up and re-planted. Christ will deliver you from some particular sin, but by trusting Him to do so, you place yourself totally in His hands, and He doesn’t just want you to be one sin lighter. He wants you to be perfect. If you trust the crop expert to get rid of the boll weevils, do not be surprised if he burns the whole crop and completely re-plants before He is done.

Outer Darkness and Inner Darkness

February 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.

Exodus 10:3

There was never any doubt about Pharaoh’s humility from Heaven’s perspective. It would come to pass. The question from Moses’s perspective was, “Would it be the easy way or the hard way?” The demand that they be allowed to “serve” was the same as a demand that they be allowed to “worship.”

Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field:

Exodus 10:4-5

This locust plague would be even worse than the plague of hail: these locusts would be animated. They affected the Egyptians only, and they exposed the false goddess Isis.

And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

Exodus 10:6-7

Pharaoh’s servants asked a pretty bold question to someone who was supposed to be a supreme ruler, but times were desperate. They saw what Pharaoh could not – or would not – see.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

Exodus 10:21-23

The plague of darkness affected the Egyptians only. It exposed the false god Re – the so-called sun god. This was the worst plague yet. It was total darkness – darkness that was palpable, debilitating, and depressing. It didn’t just affect the quality of life in Egypt – it put life at a standstill. Liberal scholars will claim that it was really an eclipse or a sandstorm, but this was truly a supernatural phenomenon, and it illustrated that a hardened heart is a darkened heart.

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Romans 1:21-25

Remembering the Garlic

February 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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Exodus 12:38 contains a seemingly minor detail at the climax of the plagues account that would have larger repercussions later on. In order to get the context, though, we will start here:

And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.

Exodus 12:30

This is the final plague/sign, commonly known as “the death of the firstborn.”

And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.

Exodus 12:31

The Lord had arranged a complete capitulation by Pharaoh, not a compromised or negotiated softening of his heart.

Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.

Exodus 13:32-34

The rules for observing the Passover feast would require the use of unleavened bread.

And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:

Exodus 12:35

These jewels and clothing were “borrowed” in the sense that the Egyptians gave them freely, not in the sense that they expected to get them back. God had arranged this “civilized plunder” of the Egyptians in order to make it clear that it was not the might of the Israelites that accomplished their deliverance; it was purely and completely the work of the Lord.

And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:36

These things were “lent” from the perspective of the Egyptians, again meaning that they did it freely and voluntarily, although, from God’s perspective, these were the “spoils” of the war He had waged (and won) against Pharaoh and the false Egyptian gods. If the Israelites were more mystified than victorious in their demeanor when they received these spoils, it was because God had done all the fighting, not them.

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

Exodus 12:37-38 (emphasis added)

This “mixed multitude” consisted of non-Jewish people who decided to leave Egypt along with the children of Israel for whatever reason. The term connotes the idea that these were some of the “rabble” or “riffraff” of Egyptian society. In other words, they were not the best and the brightest of Egypt. They may have included some escaping slaves or criminals – or maybe even people who were hoping to get back some of the stuff they had just given to the Israelites. They may have also been scared that the plagues would continue, and wanted to get out while the getting was good.

When you have a group of people who are truly following and fearing God, and another group of people mixed in who have an ulterior motive for being there, we might predict that a recipe for trouble is forming. Let’s see what happens when they turn up again in Scripture.

The Israelites didn’t have enough faith to go straight into the promised land, so they wound up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. God was feeding them with manna, which was “heavenly bread” that fell from the sky.

And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?

Numbers 11:4

A great number of Israelites had just been burned up for complaining and being ungrateful and blaspheming God. Now they are being influenced by these hangers-on – the mixed multitude.

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:

Numbers 11:5

Discontentment and a lack of faith can really play havoc with the memory. Cucumbers? What about the forced slave labor? Melons? What about the lack of freedom to worship? The onions? What about the beatings and torture and abuse? The garlic? What about when Pharaoh wanted to kill all the firstborn sons? Instead of rational analysis, and instead of looking on the bright side, they expressed ingratitude:

But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it. Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.

Numbers 11:6-10

Here’s three simple lessons we can take from this account:

1. We need to be careful about who we allow to influence us.

The mixed multitude were in the Israelite crowd, but they were not really God’s people. Not everybody who claims to be a Christian really is. Not everybody who comes to church comes to worship God. Jesus taught about the difference between wheat and tares.

2. Don’t fall for the lie that the world tastes better.

Our flesh has a short memory. The Word of God tells us what is truly good for us.

3. God provides what is best for us whether we recognize it or not.

Satan and this world’s system will always attempt to counterfeit things to meet what we perceive as our own “needs.” Only God can truly meet our needs.

S.W.I.M. in Deep Waters with John Aughey

February 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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God brings men into deep waters not to drown them, but to cleanse them.

John H. Aughey

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God… But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

Psalm 69:1-3; 13-16

Preparing to Hear from God: Responsive

February 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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The first two principles we noted in preparing to hear from God were R.eady and R.eceptive. We also need to be:

R.esponsive

Prepare to hear from God by pre-determining you are going to do what He says. Be responsive to God in two ways:

1. Be reactive.

Obey Him.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

A response is a reaction. It’s changing your behavior to line up with what God says, or taking some new action – even if you don’t feel like you want to do it – because God said to do it.

2. Be realistic.

You can hear from God and not understand it completely the first time. What do you do when you honestly wanted to hear from God and you think He was speaking to you, but you are confused? You keep asking and listening.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

Be realistic. Don’t pretend that you have understood God when you haven’t, and don’t let somebody tell you that this is what God told me to tell you without checking it out for yourself.

This is how important hearing from God is:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

If you say that you believe you are going to Heaven one day, could you open a Bible and show how you know that? People get saved by grace through faith – and that faith comes from hearing God’s Word.

Beware Fractious Frustraters

February 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Posted in The Fives | 2 Comments
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Haggai and Zechariah preached words of encouragement to the Jews that had returned from Babylon to try to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. This served to motivate them to work hard to finish, which in turn stirred up troubling opposition. A governor named Tatnai and his companions tried their best to frustrate the Jewish workers.

Why did their harassment fail to stop the work? It was because the Jewish leaders recognized they were being watched by Someone greater and more powerful than any earthly governor.

But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.

Ezra 5:5

God is omniscient and omnipresent, so there is really no place that anyone can go where He does not see. However, God’s children have a special sense of His eyes being upon them. The Latin term, coram Deo, meaning “before the face of God” is a shorthand way of expressing the idea that we should all live our lives as though God was observing us with keen interest – for He certainly is!

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