Character and Integrity

May 31, 2016 at 10:21 am | Posted in character and integrity | 1 Comment
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Three days ago (May 28, 2016) The Deep End surpassed its old record for number of views in one day by a huge number. I suspect this had to do with Memorial Day weekend, and the post entitled “What Will You be Remembering this Memorial Day?” and the category Biblical Remembering, which seemed to be the source of most of the activity. In honor of the occasion, I wanted to recap another popular category.

Several years ago, there was an upheaval in the youth ministry department (an all-too-common occurrence in my experience) at the local church where I attended and served. Being suddenly without a youth leader, the pastor asked if I could fill in on Wednesday nights teaching the youth group (consisting of junior high and high school students). Youth group ministry is my least favorite ministry in church. I would prefer if kids attended “big church” with their parents or other adults, but I have been consistently overruled in this area. Also, most of the kids who attended this particular church came on their own, without parents or guardians, or were dropped off by adults who didn’t stay for the service themselves.

So I agreed to help out for a six-week period until a new youth leader could be found. The week before I started, youth group attendance had been around 12 – 15. By the time the six weeks was over, we had a high attendance of 29 and were averaging around 25. How did I get the class to grow numerically? By wacky games? Pizza parties? Showing videos? Acting silly? Growing weird facial hair, wearing skinny jeans, moussing up my hair, and getting into hip-hop? Nope. What I did was pray a lot about it and call all the kids’ parents who brought them on Sunday mornings but not Wednesday nights, and challenged them to bring them on Wednesday nights. I’m about as personable and friendly as a stinky mop, and my phone manners are awkward and clumsy. So, obviously, the Lord is the One Who increased the attendance, not me, but I’m grateful He allowed me to have a part in it.

The series of lessons I taught during those six weeks focused on the character and integrity of various people in the Bible. There seemed to be a change in behavior and some spiritual growth among the kids during that time, but only the Lord knows if it was real or lasting. I pray that it was. Below are links to the lessons:

Part One (introduction and definitions of character and integrity; illustration: Nerf football vs. NFL football) *
Part Two (David; illustration: Zip-lock bag vs. bird cage)
Part Three (Mary)
Part Four (Daniel; illustration: steel ball vs. Play-Doh)
Part Five (Jephthah’s daughter)
Part Six (Jesus; illustration: a straight wall vs. a crooked wall)

* most-viewed post in series

What Lack I Yet?

May 26, 2016 at 9:18 am | Posted in Mark, Matthew | 3 Comments
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During Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, among the people with whom He spent most of His time, it would have been a noteworthy occasion to meet a man who was both young, rich, and, to some extent, sincere. In fact, Matthew 19 records such an occasion.

When the young man inquired about what He needed to do to receive eternal salvation, Jesus began to list some of the commandments of the Law. The young man professed that he had kept these commandments, and then asked this question:

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

Matthew 19:20

As we study this passage in greater detail we see that Scripture does not support the application often given this verse by ministers today. Upon encountering someone who appears to “have it all” in society, modern evangelicals will say something like this: “Sir, I see that you have a beautiful family, a good marriage, a huge house, an expensive car, and a great job. You only ‘lack’ one thing: Jesus. If you will just add Jesus to your life, you will then be complete.”

This sounds spiritual and practical, but it is not what is taught in Scripture. Christ Jesus is not just an accessory or an accoutrement to be added to one’s list of possessions. The decision to follow Christ, and to receive Him as Savior, is a decision which stems from a Holy Ghost-revealed understanding that Christ is all that matters, and that if confessing Him costs everything else, then the price is not too high.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:35-36

A Closer Race with Thee

May 23, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 12 starts of with a “wherefore,” which – similar to a “therefore” – reminds us to take into consideration what we’ve just learned.

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

Hebrews 12:1

The witnesses are the heroes of the faith from Chapter 11, and they are not “witnesses” in the sense of being spectators. They are witnesses in the sense that their testimonies, and what we know about them from the Bible, witness to us. Their testimonies let us know that, if they did it, we can do it, too.

If the Christian life is a race, we need training for the race – and the training is ongoing as we run at different levels, drawing nearer and nearer to God:

One, we look at those who have finished the race – and won the race – before (the cloud of witnesses, patriarchs of the faith).

Two, we consider what kind of shape we’re in to start. Are we weighted down? Weights are useful for training, but no one would run the actual race with his weights. A batter in the on-deck circle does his practice swings with a weighted donut around the barrel of the bat, but he makes sure to take it off before stepping up to the plate. In the Christian race we lay aside “every weight” – even so-called “harmless” things. Remember, the question for the mature believer who is drawing closer and closer to God is not, “What’s wrong with that?” but “What’s right with that?”

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:4

We lay aside every weight and “sins that easily beset us.” We know we can’t draw nigh while we’re all weighted down – especially with sin.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Hebrews 12:14

We are not going to come into the presence of God – as confident believers who know better – without some degree of holiness. We cannot have total and complete holiness, for this is impossible for flesh and blood, but we must have some holiness. God said, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” and He wouldn’t have told us to do it if it was impossible.

Three, we look at the One Who truly did it.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Hebrews 12:2-3

We have to draw close to “consider.” Christ is our best example for running the race. He didn’t use His powers to coast through His earthly life. Like Job, he was tempted, but to a far greater extent. He exercised faith – built up in prayer – used with the Word of God as a sharp weapon. Christ is not only our example, He is our enabler. He gives us the patience (really, endurance) and the strength to run the race.

John Piper: S.W.I.M. to be Married

May 19, 2016 at 10:15 am | Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment
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Marriage is an unfathomable ocean of God-given meaning, not a backyard swimming pool for lounging in as long as we feel like it.

John Piper

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33

Unveiled Glory and Unguarded Giving

May 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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God’s people in Canaan would not just be different for the sake of being different. Having different laws, different clothes, different habits and customs, different worship, and being monotheistic, they would stand out as being a people who worshiped an unseen God rather than visible idols. They would also be a people with a God Whose reputation was mighty.

And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.

Exodus 34:10

The Lord reinstituted the covenant they had broken. His people would have the comfort and joy and privilege of seeing Him do things that were unlike anything that had been seen before, but the pagans would see, too, and it would be evidence that the God worshiped by the Israelites was the real God. It would also be evidence to show that those who worshiped Him would be blessed.

I previously discussed Moses’s glowing face, and the veil which he wore to shield it from the people so they could come near him.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.

Exodus 34:33

The other reason for this veil was that it would serve for an illustration in the New Testament

But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

II Corinthians 3:7

“The ministration of death” means that death comes upon all who sin, and the Law was given to show us our sin. It was written and engraved on stones, and it was glorious. It revealed the nature of God, but the Law’s glory had a built-in expiration date. It faded away, just as eventually the light of Moses’s countenance began to fade after his encounters with God.

How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

II Corinthians 3:8

The stone-engraved law was glorious, but the ministry of the Holy Spirit Himself is greater.

For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

II Corinthians 3:9

The Law showed the problem, but it didn’t offer a solution. It condemned for lack of righteousness, but it could not reproduce its own righteousness in fallen human beings.

For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

II Corinthians 3:10

So great is the glory of Christ-imputed righteousness that it makes the brilliant glory of the Law seem dim.

For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

II Corinthians 3:11

This glory was always there, but it is now more fully given.

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

II Corinthians 3:12

A veil over a person’s face obscures his words when he speaks.

And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

II Corinthians 3:13

The people could see their need for righteousness, but the Savior Who would abolish the Law through its fulfillment was shadowy – not yet fully visible.

But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

II Corinthians 3:14

Most of the Jewish people in the Apostle Paul’s day still wanted the veil of Moses in place. If the better-than-Moses wouldn’t wear a veil, they wanted it over their own eyes instead of His face.

But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

II Corinthians 3:15-16

Jesus will – and He must if we are to see truth – come rip away the veil for those who admit their sin and their need for the Savior and call upon Him.

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

II Corinthians 3:17-18

The change from Law to Gospel was glorious. It was a change from lesser to greater glory, but there are higher gradations (“from glory to glory”) yet to come in your sanctification, if you are in Christ Jesus.

In Exodus 35 there is a repetition of the commandments and instructions concerning construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings that had been stated before, and the account of their fulfillment.

And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass,

Exodus 35:4-5

And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the LORD.

Exodus 35:20-22

The people had given their possessions willingly to be used in their idolatry, but now they gave even more willingly in true worship. Their preparation for worship was in itself an act of worship. Think of what you spend willingly on, and think about what it would be like to spend just as joyfully on the work of the Lord. Let’s pray that we don’t have to drink our defiled possessions and suffer a plague or some severe chastening before we recognize the peace of joyful giving.

The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses. And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;

Exodus 35:29-31

Two Thrones

May 16, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 3 Comments
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Years ago I read a quote that I really liked, and I jotted it down: “God has two thrones – one in the highest Heaven, and one in the humblest heart.” The problem is that I forgot to write down who said it, or where I read it. My best guess is that it is somewhere in a collection of volumes I have – compiled by Warren Wiersbe – of famous sermons by famous preachers on different topics. However, I haven’t been able to relocate it, so I can’t be certain of giving credit to who said it, although I have seen it attributed “on the internet” (a dubious source at best!) to D.L. Moody.

In any event, I think of that quote often. First, I think about the amazing and fearful idea that the almighty, sovereign Creator and Lord of the universe would deign to take up residence on the petty little throne of my insignificant and obscure heart. What a simultaneously humbling and encouraging thought! And what a stark and convicting reminder of how often and how treacherously I am guilty of trying to weasel my way back onto that throne after I have supposedly ceded it completely to its rightful Owner and King!

God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

Psalm 47:8

Second, I think of just how high the throne of the highest Heaven must be, and just how mighty must a King have to be Who would ascend to this throne. A well-known (and increasingly criticized and even ridiculed) evangelical plea says that we need to “ask Jesus into our hearts.” Regardless of the theological accuracy of the wording, the idea is astounding, for this Jesus on Whom we must call for our eternal salvation did Himself once ascend to the throne of the highest Heaven – as God, yes – but also truly as a man. Being an immutable being, if He has indeed “come into” my heart, and is indeed seated on the throne there, He must rule with the same authority invested in His Father’s throne on high. How dare I, mere creature, guilty of abominable and despicable treason, taint the holiness of His throne room or the air around the righteousness of His scepter with vanity or sin? What an exhortation to love, fear, obey, and live for Jesus!

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Hebrews 1:8

Double Vision, Divided Vision, and Darkened Vision

May 11, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Matthew | 1 Comment
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It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted on The Deep End. The reason for this is that I recently had eye surgery, and the recovery period – in which I’ve been gradually regaining enough vision to be able to read and type comfortably again – has taken longer than I thought it would. I must praise the Lord and thank Him for being with me during the surgery, and for the healing and results He has given me by His power. I have, by His grace, been learning not to take His marvelous gift of eyesight for granted. If the Lord decides to take away my eyesight or allow it to be taken away at this point in my life, I would have no reason to complain. I have seen enough wonderful things so far in my life – things that I never deserved to see – that I would (hopefully, again, by His grace) be forever grateful.

I have also been meditating on passages of Scripture dealing with eyesight, such as:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Matthew 6:22

During the past few years, as I have struggled with bouts of double (and triple!) vision, I can certainly attest that I much prefer “single vision.” Just as God has given us the gift of light, and the gift of amazingly complex biological organs and anatomical processes that allow that light to place accurate images of our surrounding reality into our brains, so has He given us the opportunity to be “single” rather than “divided” in our devotion to Him. If I am “double minded,” I will be unstable in all my ways. If I have “double vision,” letting the false and vain things of this world blur together with the things of God and His Kingdom, then my body will begin to fill up with the evil deeds of darkness, and I will stumble about, alternately frightened, confused, and depressed, dishonoring God and veering toward danger and destruction.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:23

May the Lord help me, with the gift of eyesight He has given me, to fill my mind and body with thoughts and deeds of glorious light. May He help me to be united in vision and purpose, seeking to do His will, and to reflect His life-giving light in a dark and blinded world.


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