Revealed Truth

December 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.

Matthew 15:39

In the Book of Matthew, it may seem at times like the King is in retreat, but He is really just engaged in spiritual battle, staying in sync with His Father’s timeline. While He is battling, He is also doing two other things – things that we need to be doing while we are battling: (1) helping the hurting, healing and feeding the sick and the hungry; (2) teaching others. All Christians should be continually learning and teaching (Titus 2).

By the beginning of Matthew Chapter 16 the King had revealed secrets about His Kingdom, and now He was ready to reveal secrets about His plan.

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 16:16

Here, Peter had spoken the plain truth.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

Jesus was the Christ, and that fact was not not just a pronouncement. It is a foundation. He would build on this foundation. He would build a church. When He conquers the kingdom of hell, His Church will be victorious with Him.

This is the first mention of the Church – the ekklesia – the called-out assembly. It is also the first open discussion about His death.

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Matthew 16:21

Lord, I pray that the light of Your truth would help us to grow, and that the heat of persecution would not cause us to wither and shrivel, but to grow, also. Help us to be the kind of Christians You want us to be. Help us to be the kind of friends, neighbors, spouses, church members, workers you want us to be. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

The Assurance of the Blood

December 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Eternity, Hebrews | 7 Comments
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Perhaps over the past year you have done some good works. Perhaps you have done God’s will. Perhaps you have even – dare we say it without sounding proud? – done some things which were not only PLEASING in the sight of the Lord, but which were WELLPLEASING to Him?

If so, we have Him and Him alone to thank for these accomplishments and blessings – since these types of deeds and activities would not be possible with anything less mighty, amazing, and all-sufficient than Resurrection power, perfectly good and great shepherding, and all-powerful blood which purchased and confirmed an everlasting covenant!

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Perhaps you feared God more over the past year than you ever had before. If so, and if this fear was a holy and reverent fear given to you by God in His grace, then it is very likely that He has also caused you to grow in knowledge and wisdom. These things, too, were and are secured by His blood-bought covenant!

And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.

Jeremiah 32:40

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Luke 22:20

Among the assurances that will keep you going as you face the trials, struggles, temptation, troubles, and battles that a new year will surely bring, I hope you will resolve to look to: (1) God’s own Word, preserved in the Holy Bible; (2) the seal of the Holy Spirit upon your soul; (3) the facts of the Crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. But don’t forget this one, too: The everlasting Covenant – wholly the act of the Triune God – found in the shed blood of the Savior.

One Crazy, Wonderful Day

December 21, 2015 at 10:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Today my wife and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. Since there are 24 hours in a day, I suppose we might think of our marriage so far as one long day, with each year representing an hour. If so, this has been one crazy day!

From the rush and panic of getting ready for a busy day, to the quick interlude of a lunch-hour break, to a long grueling afternoon of hard work, to the relief of a “happy hour,” to the excitement of a romantic evening on the town (or in the home!), to late-night discussions, arguments, tickle-fights, cuddling, and laughter, to the darkest, most frightening midnight hours of learning to trust and lean on each other for support and comfort, to a morning of new hope and joy, it has been a “day” given to us and arranged by God for our good and His glory.

I am thankful beyond expression for my wife. When I woke up this morning, by her side, I realized she is just as stunningly beautiful today as when we first met. She is my sister in Christ, my friend, my counselor, my partner, my helper, my passion, and the love of my life. When God (the same God Who had already given me eternal life and salvation in His Son, Jesus!) wanted to do something else really, really special and wonderful for me, He gave me Laura Hampton to be my wife. I thank Him and praise Him for her, and I ask Him, by His grace, mercy, and love, to bless us and keep us together all the days of our lives.

A Unique and Superior Priesthood

December 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 5 Comments
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We have seen before that Jesus Christ is a “priest forever” after the order of Melchizedek. In Hebrews Chapter 7 we can look more closely at Melchizedek.

Jesus is The Great High Priest, superior to Aaron in His ministry, in His position, and in the way He was ordained. He’s “after the order of” Melchizedek, and the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the priesthood of Aaron, or, in other words, the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek was both a priest AND a king.

To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

Hebrews 7:2

Aaron was a priest only. Kings were forbidden from tampering with the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek was the king of righteousness and the king of peace – together in one person. The ministry of the Law did not bring peace and righteousness together, but both of these qualities met together in the person of Christ.

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

Isaiah 32:17

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Romans 5:1

Without righteousness (justification; right-standing with God) there can be no peace. The superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over Aaron’s priesthood is shown by the meeting of righteousness and peace in one person, and by the fact that Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek.

Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

Hebrews 7:4

This was done by Abraham before the Law of Moses. Melchizedek was not an angel. He was not a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ (although he was a type and foreshadowing of Christ). He was a real man, who was really a priest and a king in a real city, but there are no Scriptural records of his ancestors or descendants, the way there are for the tribe of Levi (and for Aaron).

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

Hebrews 7:3

His priesthood is a picture of Christ’s priesthood.

And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

Hebrews 7:15-16

Jesus, the Son of God, is eternal. He has always existed, and He always will exist. He is immutable – the same, yesterday, today, and forever. As one songwriter said,
“He’s not the God who one time did,
He’s the God who does.
That’s why they call Him the Great I Am
And not the Great I Was.”

So, Melchizedek is greater than Aaron in that he combined righteousness and peace, and in that he is a picture of an unchanging eternal priest. He is also greater in that he received a tithe even of Abraham. The logic goes like this: (1) the Jewish people gave tithes to the priests (the sons of Levi); (2) Abraham was the father of the Jews (including the sons of Levi); (3) they were, in a sense, “in him” before they were born; (4) so, when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, it was like all his descendants, including Levi and Aaron, were doing it too; (5) Christ created Abraham, so we see that Christ is superior to Abraham. (Obviously, He is greater than Melchizedek, too.) Both Abraham and Melchizedek, in giving and receiving tithes, in giving and receiving blessings, were participating in something ordained by God, and Christ is God.

Hindsight is 20/20

December 14, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | 8 Comments
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“Hindsight” means looking back, or looking at something after the fact. Often we get into a difficult spot and look back and wish we had known what was going to happen, thinking that, if we had known, we would have done things differently. I experience this quite often when I find myself sitting in a traffic jam. “If only I had taken that exit I flew past five miles ago!”

The expression “Hindsight is 20/20” refers to the way that our foresight is often severely limited or blurry, although we seem to have perfect vision when it comes to evaluating our actions once we have already seen the consequences. Attributing 20/20 hindsight is our way of resigning ourselves to our current situation while forlornly wishing we could have seen the future.

God, unlike us, has “foresight” that’s better than 20/20. He always knows what to expect.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

Many times the enemies of God will experience hindsight, and, if you think it’s frustrating for you, as a child of God, when you wish that your foresight had been as accurate as your hindsight, imagine how it’s going to be for those who didn’t believe the Word of God.

Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.

Nahum 2:8

Nineveh repented under the preaching of Jonah, but after a while the Ninevites went back to their old ways, and when Nahum and the other prophets warned them, they prophesied that, when they were conquered, their commanders would order them to stand, but they would be like water draining out of a pool, and they would not “look back.” In other words their hindsight would be a reproach to them.

Spiritually speaking, we don’t have to wait for 20/20 hindsight to evaluate the outcome.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

When you get discouraged, when you don’t have peace, go ahead and cheat a little, and get out your hindsight ahead of time. We are in Christ, and He has overcome the world.

Sometimes we get a little discouraged because what we expect doesn’t happen. Even John the Baptist got a little discouraged. People heard him say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” but they forgot what had to happen to a lamb for it to take away sin.

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Luke 7:19

Did you ever wonder why God doesn’t let us see everything that’s going to happen? Some people think it would take all the fun out of life if there were no surprises, but the reality is that God, for the most part, wants us looking forward, not looking back. A famous quote, often used at the commencement of a new venture undertaken on the foundation of an old establishment, says, “Hats off to the past, coats off to the future.”

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:59-62

A farmer trying to plough straight rows and looking back would do a terrible job. When we say, “Let’s get moving,” generally speaking, we are looking forward. It’s hard to grow in Christian maturity if you’re always looking back. Remember Lot’s wife. (A husband once said, “Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. My wife looked back and turned into a mailbox.”) Looking back is a sign that we’re still yearning for the things of the world, the things of the flesh. We’re not supposed to fondly remember those things anymore. As Christians, we’re looking ahead because we’re following what we love. We’re following Jesus.

Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

II Timothy 4:10

I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;

The world behind me, the cross before me;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Attributed to S. Sundar Singh

Hindsight may be 20/20, but, as believers, we’re not worried about our hindsight. We’re too busy following… and looking back may lead to turning back.

The Personality of God

December 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 6 Comments
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Shortly after the exodus from Egypt the Israelites became panicky and dissatisfied, and reminded Moses that they had previously told him to leave them alone so they could go back and side with their slavemasters against the God Who wanted to set them free.

Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

Exodus 14:12

In Chapter 32, as Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, and God sees the people’s shameful idolatry around the golden calf, God tells Moses to leave HIM alone so that He can deal with them according to their sin.

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Exodus 32:10

This is pointed mockery by God, as He suggests allowing the people to do what their actions indicate that they really want: to deal with Him without an intercessor (in their case Moses, but also foreshadowing Christ’s role as Intercessor). However, God’s suggestion is also a thinly veiled invitation to Moses to decline to “leave God alone.” It is obvious that God is giving Moses the opportunity to stay and intercede on behalf of the people – which he does.

Moses’s beseeching and pleading by appealing to God’s past deeds, glory, promises, and Word were successful.

And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Exodus 32:14

Moses “changed God’s mind” in a sense, although God’s perfect will was still being sovereignly worked out in this apparent reversal. The Bible describes this scenario a number of times when various servants of His intercede in prayer in response to His stated intention to bring wrath and judgment. However, none of these scenarios ever describe what is known as “Open Theism.” Open Theism is a technical heresy intended to: (1) make God seem actively involved in human affairs, as opposed to fatalistically predetermining all events, and then passively watching them happen; and (2) justify God’s alleged failure to overrule evil in the world.

God does not need this help. He is immanent as well as transcendent, and the existence of evil in the world is not a “failure” on the part of God, although He does choose to allow it. Augustine argued that evil is not a “thing,” but simply the absence – in varying degrees – of good. An analogy is the sense in which darkness is not a “thing” in opposition to light, but rather the absence of light. In other words, Augustine posited that God is good and that evil is a privation of good.

That’s certainly one way to think of it, but another way to think of it is that God is a person, and not a force. This reminds us that, even if we must attribute responsibility to Him when evil happens, He still can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. He doesn’t just know the future – He also has already made choices about the future and is already there “eternally” in the “future.” In other words, there’s no real “future” to Him. Omniscience requires no surprises – no “new” or “acquired” information or knowledge – because “omni” means “all,” “everything,” not a “figuring out,” or deciding upon, possible alternatives.

The underlying motivation for Open Theism is a desire to say that we have pure free will – that we are not being “controlled” by God. What this ignores is that everyone is being controlled – under either system. You are either controlled by yourself or by one greater. If the “one greater” is God – the loving, gracious, merciful, true, and right God, Who is a real “person” – then why would we even want to suggest that we should be “free” from Him and beholden to our own choices?

The Ancient of Days

December 3, 2015 at 11:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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There are two competing schools of thought about old age:

1. We need to give great deference to the elderly. Those that have lived long lives have acquired, through the mere passage of time if nothing else, great experience and therefore wisdom. They should be listened to, and even respected and revered.

2. Old people are doddering and confused. Biological studies show that the human brain starts to break down and malfunction with the onset of senior citizenry. Furthermore, they are old-fashioned and out of step with modern ways. Besides, time does not automatically equal wisdom, and younger people tend to be brighter, with newer fresher ideas. Old folks ought to be pitied and treated kindly and condescendingly, but not looked to as major sources of wisdom.

The truth is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, but personally I tend to skew much more toward the former view than the latter. Also, the first school of thought is much closer to the Bible’s teachings concerning the elderly.

For example, King David’s treatment of Barzillai in II Samuel 19:331-19 is a positive example of respect shown toward the elderly, and the fifth Word of the Decalogue, by extension, commands us to honor those who make up the preceding generations of our families and nation.

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

Proverbs 16:31

The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.

Proverbs 20:29

One idea we need to be exceedingly clear about, however, is the reference to God Himself as the “Ancient of Days.”

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

Daniel 7:9

There is a sense in which the triune God is the “oldest” Being in all of existence. This is obvious, because He is the Creator of everything else, and nothing could exist before or apart from His sustaining and eternal power. In the case of God, we can make a clean break concerning our ideas of old age as a benefit or a detriment, because although God (as the saying goes) “has been around forever,” He is not getting any “older” or “aged” in the way we think of those terms, nor is it in anywise possible that any of His faculties, including His omniscience and wisdom, could ever be dulled or diminished in the slightest. It is especially important to remember these facts when we see God depicted as a white-bearded old man in popular Christian and religious art. Do not be deceived. God is the source of all wisdom, and He has gained none of this wisdom through experience, nor through the passage of time. He is as brilliant, smart, wise, knowledgeable, intelligent, timeless, eternal, and perfect now as He ever has been and ever will be. As one of my friends once told me, “Just because they call Him the Ancient of Days, it doesn’t mean He’s old.”

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