Listening with One Ear

July 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

There was a time when God’s people were in captivity for a period of 70 years as chastening for their disobedience and idolatry. During that time, they formally fasted and wept in the fifth and seventh months of each year. These practices were done in obedience to God’s law, but they were done halfheartedly, and God was not deceived.

Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Zechariah 7:5-6

How often are we guilty of observing some type of religious routine without really doing it for the Lord? Have you ever read your Bible or done your devotions with only half of your mind engaged? Doing the assignment or reading the regularly scheduled passage without really listening for the voice of God to speak to you personally? How often do we sit through church sermons with one ear attuned to the preaching of God’s Word and the other ear tuned to other matters, drifting in and out of attentiveness as though we were attending a history lecture or a math lesson while waiting for the school bell to ring?

There is a real danger that, in our selfishness and laziness, we will miss out on what God wants us to know. His Work and His Spirit were not given for our amusement and they are not optional if we are to live victorious Christian lives. God has given us a great gift in being able to listen to His voice through the reading, preaching, and teaching of His Word. The consequences of listening casually without really hearing can be dire.

But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts: But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

Zechariah 7:11-14

A man with only one ear engaged when God is speaking may not necessarily hear half as MUCH as the man with two ears, but the problem is that he only hears half as WELL.

Advertisements

The Servant King and Servant Judge

July 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Mark, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Jesus Christ was the greatest servant of all time, but He is also the greatest King. A worldly king receives honor by making his people suffer, but the Servant King suffers FOR His own people. Jesus allowed a public demonstration in His honor knowing it would bring about His suffering and death.

And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

March 11:1-6

At first glance, this looks like a God-condoned car-jacking! Can you imagine just walking up to a stranger’s car (or this case, his donkey), and driving it (leading it) away – and when the owner says, “Hey, what are you doing?” you tell him, “Jesus told me to do it!” Actually, this wasn’t a theft because the owners actually gave their consent based on the Disciples’ explanation.

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed [them] in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Mark 11:7-9

“Hosanna” meant “save now.” The crowd meant it politically and militarily, but Jesus was fulfilling it prophetically and soteriologically. The culmination of His eternal plan of redemption was going into action NOW.

Jesus was also a Judge, and now He acted as the Servant Judge.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

Mark 11:15

He cleansed the Temple, which had become a den of thieves and a place for the religious leaders to hide and conceal what they were really doing. Jesus served in judgment by cleansing the place where “undesirable” people were supposed to worship – poor people and Gentiles – because these people were being exploited and kept from drawing nearer to God by the religious leaders. Is the local church that you belong to in line for this sort of judgment? Is it a house of merchandise or a house of prayer? Has it become a place to exploit people, or is it a place for people to meet and worship God?

Adiaphora and Analyzing Ambiguous Activities

July 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Adiaphora is a word used in Christian theology to describe activities about which it would be questionable for Christians to participate, even if such activities are not explicitly condemned or forbidden in Scripture. The word had a connotation in its original Greek and Latin contexts of things about which it “makes no difference.” It should be noted that, when it comes to a Christian’s conscience, and the the principles and precepts about which the Bible speaks, Scripture is not as silent on as many behaviors as most people think. And while there are certainly things which are what we would call “morally neutral,” especially things having to do with purely personal preferences and tastes (such as whether a church building should have chairs or pews, and whether a man’s hair should be parted on the side, in the middle, or at all), there are other matters (whether a Christian should get a tattoo or buy a raffle ticket) about which we should think (and pray!) carefully, and do an exhaustive study on what the Bible might or might not have to say about them, before making a decision. One danger when dealing with adiaphora is that we fall into the trap of legalism, condemning things which are permissible under our Christian liberty, but another danger is that we seek to justify behavior that we happen to like in our flesh on the basis that it is not spelled out word-for-word as sinful in the Bible.

We looked last time at some important considerations in this regard in I Corinthians Chapter 10. Now we will continue with some specific steps that can be utilized in analyzing whether we, as Christians, should participate in ambiguous activities.

1. Will this activity capture my heart or mind, or create a physical addiction?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Corinthians 6:12

2. Will my participation in this activity cause someone else to stumble, or will it build someone else up?

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I Corinthians 8:13

3. Will it make ME stumble, or will it build up MY testimony or fellowship with God?

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

I Corinthians 10:23

4. Will this activity bring glory to God, no matter how much I enjoy it?

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthian 10:31

5. Will this activity help or hinder my evangelistic efforts?

Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

I Corinthians 10:33

Does “Everyone” Include Satan?

July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Question: We were telling our children that God loves everyone, but then they asked, “Does God love the devil?” What should I tell them?

Answer: First of all, you are correct in telling them that God loves everyone “in the world” (John 3:16). Of course, we also need to let our children know that God loves in greater ways than we do, and that God is so much greater than, and different from us, that it is possible for Him to harmonize His will and His feelings in ways that are not possible for us. In other words, God’s feelings are perfectly controlled, and are more holy than ours, so it is possible for Him to love His enemies (Romans 5:8) and hate His enemies (Psalm 5:5, 11:5) at the same time.

When it comes to the devil (and the angels for that matter), the Bible does not give us specific information on God’s “feelings” about them. He created them, and the angels obey Him, which must please Him, and He is love (I John 4:8), so it is possible that He loves them, but the Bible never really emphasizes that, as far as I know. Satan and his demons, on the other hand, disobeyed Him, and He cast them out, and He has not devised a plan of redemption for them the way that He has for us fallen human beings, so it is probably reasonable to say that God does not love them in the same way that He loves us (if He loves them at all).

What I would emphasize to children is that the devil made a horrible choice in trying to make himself equal to God (Isaiah 14:12-14) and he paid for it. Still, he does not want to be forgiven. He hated God first without a cause, and that will never change. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, committed the same sin: disobedience and self-idolatry (and, sadly, we still do it too, every day). But the fact that God was still willing to die for us, and forgive us, shows how great His love for us truly is. Meanwhile, no matter what His feelings toward Satan are, because He loves us, He will one day imprison Satan forever and ever in order to protect us from him (Revelation 20:3-10).

Moving toward the Immovable

July 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

We use the word “move” not only to describe a physical action involving going from one area to another, but also to describe something that stirs an emotional reaction in us. “That song was beautiful. It really moved me.” Or, “I was moved to tears at the sight of my newborn daughter.” In the Bible, however, the word “moved” is sometimes combined with a negative prefix to describe something which can not be shaken loose, or something that is unassailable or someone that is unchangeable in his convictions or determination. The Kingdom of God is an especially pertinent example.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Hebrews 12:28

No kingdom will ever supplant or replace the Kingdom of God. He shall reign and rule forever. Those of us who – in Christ alone – are subjects and heirs of this Kingdom have access to the grace of God, and, therefore, the power to likewise be unmovable in our service to God.

However, we must remember that a King Who rules a Kingdom which can not be moved is a mighty and awe-inspiringly powerful King, so our service to Him must never be cavalier or casual. He is worthy to be loved, yes, but He is also infinitely worthy to be reverenced and feared.

For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:29

Moses moved toward the bush which burned with fire but was NOT consumed. We have the amazing opportunity to move toward the fire which WILL consume all those who would pass it by in indifference or unfaithfulness. Even as we are moved with terror at His blazing majesty, we are invited to move nearer and nearer. This is a King in Whom safety is found not by fleeing away, but by drawing closer and closer in the grace of His Holy Prince, Jesus.

What about Those Who Haven’t Heard?

July 14, 2017 at 9:36 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Question: If there’s an isolated community/tribe that has little to no contact with the outside world, and have never heard of the Lord, how are they judged on Judgment Day?

Answer: Let’s start by thinking about the reason for God’s judgment in general. For what is He judging anyone and everyone? As noted in the Children’s Bible Catechism, specifically questions 6,7, and 8, and the Bible verses that answer them, people are judged for sinning against God.

So how can people be guilty of sinning against a God about Whom they’ve never heard, and by breaking laws they did not know existed? The answer is found in Romans Chapter 1, starting in Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

Everyone in the world knows that there is a God. They may not know His name, but His external creation and their own inner consciences reveal that He exists and that some things are “right” and some things are “wrong.” Sinful people have access to this truth, but “hold it unrighteousness,” which means they try to suppress it or hold it down by pretending it isn’t really there.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Romans 1:19

This attempt to suppress whatever revelation of truth that a person has received is, in itself, also a sin, which means that no one has a valid “excuse” for rejecting God and His revelation of Himself and His “wrath” against sin:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 1:20

Those of us who live in America often think of rejecting Christ as the sin which would condemn us on Judgment Day, and it would definitely be one of the sins (probably the worst) for which we would be judged. But rejecting Christ is not the only sin which will merit judgment on Judgment Day. Those who die apart from Christ will also be judged for lying and stealing and immoral thoughts and immoral actions and covetousness and idolatry and many, many more sins. Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone does these things, but Romans 1 tells us that the people who do them KNOW that they are wrong even if they don’t have immediate access to a Bible or the name of Jesus.

One reason why it is so important to try to get missionaries and the Gospel to remote people groups – from the Inuit people in the Arctic, to villages in Togo, West Africa, and everywhere else – is so that they can hear the Truth that Christ is their only hope for forgiveness. A heart that has been “darkened” (Romans 1:21) needs special “illumination” from the Word of God.

Blind Beggar Boldly Beats Bandwagoners

July 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In Mark Chapter 10 we have been identifying some paradoxical ideas that Jesus used in His teaching:

1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

3. The first shall be last.
4. Servants shall be rulers.

A fifth paradox found in Chapter 10 is: Beggars shall be rich.

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mark 10:46-48

When you read about “Blind Bartimaeus” there is a tendency to cheer for him that way you would for the underdog in a sports movie like Rocky or Rudy, except in Bartimaeus’s case even the crowd was against him. Yet, despite all the odds, he wouldn’t give up.

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

Mark 10:49

Of course, once he did attract Jesus’s favorable attention, the crowd DID start to cheer for him. People are fickle – God is faithful.

All five of these paradoxes help to show how Jesus the Servant was paradoxically the greatest King of all, and that He truly deserves OUR service.

Know Your Limits

July 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Having used the example of foregoing the right to be paid for ministry in I Corinthians Chapter 9, the Apostle Paul then returned to the question concerning eating meat offered to idols and attending feasts or services in idolatrous temples.

There is an emphasis on the word “all” in I Corinthians 10.

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

I Corinthians 10:1

The statement, “I would not that ye should be ignorant” is similar to the the expression, “Know ye not..?” that is so common throughout I Corinthians, and here it expresses the same idea. The Holy Spirit through Paul was referencing the narrative account of Exodus, where God’s people had passed through the parted Red Sea, and were guided by the cloud-by-day/pillar-of-fire-by-night. These were very obvious reminders of the presence of God with them.

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

I Corinthians 10:2

They not only had immediate reminders of God’s presence, but they had his mediated reminder in the person of the mediator Moses.

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

I Corinthians 10:3

For the Israelites in the wilderness, their “spiritual meat” was manna. It was spiritual in the sense that it came supernaturally, but also in that it was a spiritual reminder of God and His Spirit.

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

I Corinthians 10:4

There is much confusion among the commentators about this verse, with some thinking that an actual rock followed the Israelites around, but I think the better view is that the verse is teaching that the pre-incarnate Christ was with them spiritually, and that He was their provider of living water as well as physical water.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

I Corinthians 10:5

This verse deviates from the pattern by saying “many” instead of “all,” but we know that all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of that generation that left Egypt were overthrown in the wilderness. Being a “Know” is really about being a believer, but belief is something that is unsafe to take for granted. We need to demonstrate our knowledge and belief with action.

The Old Testament stories are true historical events, but they were also designed by God as types and learning tools. There are a number of things that we need to learn from the wilderness wandering of our spiritual forbears:

1. Be careful about lusting.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

I Corinthians 10:6

We were made by God to have strong desires, but our tendency is to forget that God gave us those desires to yearn for Him and to glorify Him. Instead, we usurp them and aim them at that which is evil.

2. Remember that you must not become involved again with idolatry.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

I Corinthians 10:7

This is a reference to Exodus 32. All the Know-Nots are idolators in some sense, and our own hearts, apart from Christ, are idol factories.

Nor does idolatry tend to remain dormant in hearts. Just as true worship of God expresses itself in outward actions, so false worship of anything other than God tends to express itself in manifestations of sinful behavior.

3. Do not fornicate.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

I Corinthians 10:8

This is a reference to Numbers 25. The people joined themselves to Baal, the worship of which involved the prostitution of virgins. The temple of Venus in Corinth was also a place where fornication was deemed a method of worship.

4. Do not tempt Christ.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

I Corinthians 10:9

This is a reference to Numbers 21. The idea of tempting Christ, in the context, only makes sense if He is truly God (which He is), and it is something that we are prone to do when we hear His Word but fail to obey it. I hope that you find reading the Bible and listening to sound Biblical preaching and teaching enjoyable, but you also need to know that it is dangerous.

5. Do not get involved in murmuring (grumbling and complaining).

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

I Corinthians 10:10

This is a reference to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 14. Murmuring is a danger for overconfident Knows. We must not be overconfident in our “Know-Ness.”

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

I Corinthians 10:11-12

These things weren’t just recorded for our knowledge. They were recorded to keep us from being overconfident. Temptation will always be present, but there is always a way to escape.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Fellowship with the Lord is safe and it keeps us safe.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

I Corinthians 10:16-17

The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is an important time of memorializing our fellowship with Him. If you are married, you still have fellowship with your spouse when you are doing other things, and even when you are physically apart from each other, but the relationship will suffer if you do not spend concentrated periods of time and attentiveness together.

What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

I Corinthians 10:19

Meat sold in the market was okay for the Corinthian Christians to purchase and eat, even knowing the possibility that it had originally been used in some type of pagan ceremony. Likewise, they were not required to give their pagan hosts the third degree about where the food had come from if they were invited over for a meal.

However, it was still very important that they flee from any actual idolatry, because the worship of some idols is demonic.

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

I Corinthians 10:20-21

Idolatry is still idolatry, even when it is more particularly classified as syncretism, as was illustrated by the case of the golden calf.

Paul had taken great care to answer the Corinthians’ question about how they should deal with their dietary choices as they related to their consciences. He came to the conclusion that they were under no obligation to inquire too closely concerning the questionable source of hospitality offered by others, but when the thing offered is important to others, it must become important to us. So, if the host considers the meal idolatrous worship, then the Christians must not partake, or, if others perceive that you are participating in idolatry, it would be better not to participate.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

I Corinthians 10:23-28

Lift up Your Eyes

July 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It is easy for us to get into the habit of using our eyes – even our spiritual eyes – to focus only on the things in our immediate surroundings, or things lying directly in our paths, and to forget to look at the big picture. An even worse habit, though, is to become so inwardly focused that we see ourselves as the center of the universe, and begin to think that everything and everyone with whom we come into contact is there for our use, amusement, or service.

The sovereign Lord, however, the Designer of our eyes, our surroundings, and our circumstances, wants us to be on the lookout not only for what affects us personally, but for what is going on outside our immediate sphere of influence, and especially for what HE is doing for His Own Glory and the accomplishment of His Divine purposes.

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s people had become so self-centered, and so distracted by idols and worldly (and sinful!) pursuits, that, by the time God’s judgment had come into view, it was too late – and even then they had to be shaken by God’s specific instruction to look up and see it!

Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

Jeremiah 13:20

When our eyes become satisfied with mundane and frivolous things – things that pale in comparison with the great and beautiful things that God originally designed them to behold and rejoice over – then we will find ourselves depressed and downcast. For the flock of God in Jeremiah’s day, judgment came via invaders from the north. By the time they became visible it was too late. In our day, we must keep our focus on Jesus, His Word, His people, and His work, so that the lifting up of our eyes will bring visions of victory rather than defeat, destruction, and captivity.


Entries and comments feeds.