Tyler Never Actually Learned How to S.W.I.M.

September 30, 2019 at 11:46 am | Posted in Quotes, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Did God Have to Go Down and See?

September 27, 2019 at 10:24 am | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: My question is about Genesis 18:20-21: “And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” If God knows everything, and if He is omnipresent, why did He have to “go down and see” Sodom and Gomorrah?

Answer: First of all, we need to determine if these verses are setting forth a clear precept about the nature of God. Since Genesis 18 is a section of the Bible that is written in the genre of historical narrative, rather than a sermon on the attributes of God, we must balance it against other Bible verses, especially those that speak directly about the question of what God knows in a general way.

For example, Job 37:16 says, “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” Not only is the Book of Job considered wisdom literature, but here God Himself is addressing the question of His own knowledge directly. To be perfect in knowledge is to be complete – to lack no knowledge whatsoever.

Another example is Psalm 139:1-4: “O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.” Psalm 139 is specifically about how God knows all our thoughts, “ways,” behavior, actions, and even our words before we say them.

So, if we apply this to Sodom, God knew more than the general condition of Sodom. He knew everything that each individual was doing and thinking and saying – and why they were doing it! Psalm 147 is perhaps the most explicit precept concerning God’s omniscience: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5). This means that God possessed all knowledge about Sodom from all eternity, but it also begs the question: Why is He making it sound in Genesis 18 like He’s not omniscient?

The answer is that God often uses anthropomorphism to describe His actions: anthropos = man; morph = form. Anthropomorphism means “man-form.” It is when the Bible describes God as a character in the narrative using human terms that help us understand His point of view. In Genesis 18 it helps us to understand how seriously God took the sin of Sodom, and how much He immanently (not just transcendently) cares about the events of this world. It also records God’s way of letting Abraham understand His thinking, since these statements are part of an actual dialogue between the Lord and Abraham.

Another reason for the statement that God would “go down to see” Sodom and Gomorrah is to let us know that this was a type of Theophany (or perhaps even Christophany): an instance where God appeared to humans in bodily form. God wanted to have a personal visit with Abraham, who was called “the friend of God.” This establishes the trust the God had placed in Abraham’s faithfulness, which will be a key later in the Genesis narrative to understanding the Lord’s testing of him with Isaac.

The Sabbath, Sickness, and Self-Serving Status

September 25, 2019 at 10:18 am | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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On several occassions Jesus performed some good deed on the Sabbath in a way that offended the Pharisees:
1. He cast out a demon and healed someone from a fever.
2. He plucked wheat and healed a man with a paralyzed hand.
3. He cast a demon out of a crippled woman.
4. He healed a lame man.
5. He healed a man who had been blind from birth.

Jesus was not, on these occasions, engaged in commerce. He was not making a profit, nor skipping church to play softball. He was healing sick people. Even the Pharisees would rescue their farm animals on the Sabbath. We have to be careful not to treat our pets better than people.

And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;

Luke 14:7-8

Following Jesus is not about getting recognition or status, and seeking status or recognition under the false pretense of serving Jesus is likely to end in humiliation.

And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

Luke 14:9-10

Following Jesus is about serving others, and, even though it can result in recognition and even honor, self-seeking is antithetcal to worship.

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 14:11

The Door and the Good Shepherd

September 23, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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John 10 focuses on the imagery of shepherding – literal shepherding, involving shepherds, sheep, and sheepfolds.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

John 10:1

Back then sheep were brought into an enclosed area at the end of each day. They could be inspected for injuries or illness or parasites. They could be counted. This area kept them safe at night, from wolves and from thieves.

But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

John 10:2-3

The porter would only allow true shepherds into the sheepfold, but, even once inside, the shepherd would call his own sheep out from the other shepherds’ sheep, and his own sheep would recognize his voice. They would not follow another shepherd.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

John 10:4-5

This was a parable that Jesus taught, keeping in mind that He had just healed a man who was subsequently kicked out of the Temple by his former religious “shepherds.”

This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

John 10:6-9

This is the third of seven widely recognized “I AM” statement in John. Previously He had said, “I AM the Bread of Life” and “I AM the Light of the World.” Now He told them “I AM the Door.” He is the way by which His true sheep leave whatever worldly shepherd or system has been pretending to care for them and come to Him as their true Shepherd. He then leads them into a new “sheepfold,” His Church, and continues to lead them “in and out,” as He leads them into church to be nourished and equipped to serve, and to be cared for when they are sick or hurt, then leads them back out to serve Him in the world. They learn to recognize His voice and follow Him wherever He leads. He is the only “door” by which His sheep can get into Heaven.

The fourth “I AM” statement follows right after the third:

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:11

Jesus is the ultimate paragon for what it means to truly be a shepherd. Unlike an earthly shepherd, He not only cared for, protected, nourished, cleaned, and faced danger for, His sheep, but He lay down His life for His sheep. He is a Shepherd that can not be truly emulated, but, just as the Old Testament prophecies foretold the necessity of the water-spirit birth, and the meeting of God and man in a greater Tabernacle/Temple, and the need for bread that did not merely sustain, but gave eternal life, and the need for living water that did not merely quench thirst, but became a well springing up into eternal life, so the evil shepherds of God’s people are contrasted with a “good” and great Shepherd who is WORTHY to be emulated by all who would care for God’s people spiritually.

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:1-16

Gleaned Grapes and Scrapped Silver

September 20, 2019 at 10:15 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Jeremiah the prophet once warned God’s people:

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

Jeremiah 6:14

Jeremiah was downright angry because false prophets had given the people a false sense of security and a false view of God by telling them that God was okay with their sin, as long as they lived in a nation where there was a good church, and as long as people kept up the appearance of loyalty to His Covenant. But God would show them what He really thought of their hypocrisy (Jeremiah 7:20).

As Christians, we must – with God’s help and by His mercy and grace – get serious about obeying Him. If we are trusting our standing with God to our geographical location (the “Christian” South), or to our “conservative” culture or government, or even to the fact that we “belong” to a church, then we are in grave danger. God knows what we like to do, how we think, what we say, and the ways we act on Monday through Saturday, not just for a couple of hours on Sunday.

There is a message of thoroughness throughout Jeremiah Chapter 6 that hearkens back to Chapter 5 where Jeremiah went to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem looking for one righteous man. Now God was saying that the invading enemy will be just as thorough when executing punishment.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.

Jeremiah 6:9

These invaders would not make a cursory sweep through the land, wreaking havoc in a general way. No, they would go back – just like a vineyard worker would go back over the grapevines, with a basket, meticulously making sure each and every grape was plucked off. One righteous person could have spared the nation, but no unrighteous person would be spared.

Jeremiah was deeply troubled at this, but he also understood that God was right in doing it. As a prophet, he faithfully conveyed God’s Word, but, as a human being – as a Godly man – he was torn between sympathy for the people, and frustration over their stubbornness. He was torn between a desire to see God’s mercy and a thirst to see God’s righteous vengeance. Jeremiah was not some unfeeling megaphone, merely amplifying God’s message to crowds of people without understanding what he was communicating. He was deeply compassionate, but he was also moved with a passion – a zeal – for the holiness of God.

To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.

Jeremiah 6:10

Not only were their hearts figuratively uncircumcised, but their ears were figuratively covered with flesh, so that it was like they were deaf to the truth. Jeremiah must have thought something like, “If I preach repentance, what’s the point? It’s not like anyone will heed the warning. Once they hear that I am preaching a message from the Lord, they shut down. They have prejudged His righteous commands and revelations as irrelevant, unpleasant, and distasteful.”

Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.

Jeremiah 6:11

Jeremiah was resolved to preach God’s Word, however, because now he more fully understood the Lord’s anger. He was commissioned not only to build, but to “throw down,” too. Every category and age group would get the same message: “You will get what have you have earned.”

The invading enemy would be thorough grape-gatherers, and now the Lord assigned Jeremiah to be a thorough metallurgist.

I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.

Jeremiah 6:27

He would prove that these people were corrupt through and through – all the way to the the heart.

They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.

Jeremiah 6:28

The idea is that a metallurgist would place silver ore into a pot, and begin a process of purifying the silver, getting rid of less valuable metals like brass and iron.

The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.

Jeremiah 6:29

Jeremiah would make the fire hot, and mix in lead to attract the cotmaninants, but it would not work, because all of the wickedness had permeated these people. Any would-be silver could not be distilled out.

Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.

Jeremiah 6:30

They were all dross. The purifying was pointless. It was time for the whole batch to be discarded. Human beings can be given over to a reprobate mind. There is an urgency in getting to our friends before they become so enmeshed in sin and wickedness and worldliness that it is too late.

A Wonderful and Horrible Thing

September 18, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah had failed to find anyone righteous in Jerusalem that could serve as reason for God to stay His hand of judgment (although one day Jesus would fulfill this foreshadowing type – by being the One Who was truly righteous, and the One Who would accomplish both God’s justice AND mercy), so God made it clear that the ominous “invader from the north” would come, and that the destruction and devastation would be horrible.

Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the LORD: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.

Jeremiah 5:15

This refers to the language of the Babylonians.

Their quiver is as an open sepulcher, they are all mighty men.

Jeremiah 5:16

The quivers where the Babylonian archers kept their arrows were compared to graves that were gaping wide and were never filled up with the bodies of those they would kill in battle.

And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds: they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees: they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword.

Jeremiah 5:17 (emphasis added)

“Trustedst” is translated from the Hebrew batach, which somewhat fittingly sounds like “buttock” since it has a connotation of something on which people can “fall back” for safety. Today, we have a tendency to trust in the same things they did: our food supply, our savings, our transportation systems, our national and personal defenses. Too often the Lord seems merely speculative to us when it comes to our safety, but the reality is that He’s the most trustworthy thing in existence, and there are consequences to placing our trust elsewhere. He’s not content to be one of many alternative candidates for our trust.

They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.

Jeremiah 5:28

Their whole society was corrupt.

Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

Jeremiah 5:29

The Lord would pay them a “visit,” but this would not be a visit for a spot of tea or a polite chat. This would be a visit of vengeance.

Jeremiah 5:30 says, “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;”. How could something be simultaneously wonderful AND horrible? Was the prophet suffering from a bout of schizophrenia? Did the people of Judah get a secret kick out of haunted-house style scares? It is important to read the verse not just from our own point of view, but to try to read it from God’s point of view and the other nations’ point of view. From our point of view what God was going to do could not be wonderful, but from God’s point of view it was wonderful because He was working out a greater good. Furthermore, in modern English “wonderful” always has a pleasant connotation, but here it describes something to stop and wonder at in amazement. It was “wonderful” to God that the people would do such a “horrible thing,” but it was also a great “wonder” for the people to see God amazingly bring such astounding devastation on His own covenant people.

How to Handle Unexpected Hostility

September 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.

I Samuel 25:2

This man, who probably had two separate homes (one in Maon and one in Carmel), was extremely rich. Some wealthy people are generous – and some are mean and stingy. In the historical period described in I Samuel, if there was ever a time when it would be wise to approach a rich man to ask for a favor, it would be during the shearing time – a time of celebration and prosperity.

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.

I Samuel 25:3

What a contrast! This evil and rude and mean-spirited man had a beautiful and gracious wife. He was a fool, and she was known for wisdom. He was “churlish” – translated from a Hebrew word which brings to mind a mean dog that bites the hand that would feed it, and is a pun on the name “Caleb,” which in Hebrew sounds like the word for dog. How could a man like Nabal obtain a wife like Abigail? If you know me and my wife, you are probably thinking I should know the answer to that, since it describes me and her! The Bible doesn’t tells us, though. We are left to assume that Nabal changed after the wedding, or that it was an arranged marriage, without Abigail having had a say in the matter.

And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.

I Samuel 23:4

David and his men needed food and supplies. Not knowing Nabal’s temperament, David believed this would be a good time to call in the favor implicitly owed to him by Nabal, but instead of charging into the shearing party with 600 unruly soldiers, he exercised discretion and sent ahead ten young, inoffensive messengers.

And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name: And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.

I Samuel 25:5-8

There was an understanding that the good service done to Nabal’s shepherds in protecting them and his flocks, and in being very scrupulous not to take anything for themselves without permission, would be rewarded in a culture where the custom of hospitality toward strangers was of the utmost honor.

And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased. And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.

I Samuel 25:9-10

Verse 14 says that Nabal “railed” on them, which is translated from a Hebrew word that means to screech at someone in fury like a predatory bird swooping down on its prey. It is difficult to overstate how insulting this was toward David, especially after he had just had an opportunity to take Saul’s life, and had refused to do it.

Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? So David’s young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings.

I Samuel 25:11-12

David was a complex character. He was a man after God’s own heart, known for his passion and zeal for God, but passionate and zealous people often have a hard time controlling that passion and zeal. David was someone who rejoiced at good news with his whole heart – as many of the Psalms attest – but he was also someone who could react very violently at bad news – as many of the OTHER Psalms, along with some of David’s actions – attest. When he received word of Nabal’s insults and his refusal to pay what David felt he owed, he did not hesitate.

Sometimes it’s hard to read tone into Biblical dialogue, but it’s not at all hard to hear David’s attitude, and imagine him speaking through gritted teeth with flexed muscles and furrowed brow in this verse:

And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.

I Samuel 25:13

David angry at Nabal

While this was going on, one of Nabal’s servants had the foresight to see where things were heading, and, when David’s servants left to report back to David, this servant, acting on his own initiative, went and found Nabal’s wife, Abigail, and told her what kind of trouble Nabal had stirred up for himself.

Just as David acted decisively and without hesitation when told of Nabal’s offensiveness, Abigail acted just as quickly and decisively – but with a far different motive and intention. Whereas David had strapped on his sword, Abigail packed a picnic!

Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.

I Samuel 35:18

That sounds like a huge amount of food prepared in a short period of time. As she went forth, the Lord’s invisible hand (what we call His providence) was at work. He arranged it so that David, bearing down on Nabal’s estate, ran smack into Abigail at just the right moment.

And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.

I Samuel 25:23-25

A superficial reading makes it sound like she was being disloyal to her own husband, pointing out that his name was well-deserved, but in reality she was doing him a great service – albeit behind his back.

Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal. And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord. I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.

I Samuel 25:26-31

There is tremendous wisdom in this speech, and it is not flattery. It is truth: David would one day reign over Israel, and the act of vengeance he was on the verge of committing would have been a stain on his reputation that would have hindered his abililty to rule, as well as showing a lack of trust in the Lord to fight his battles for him.

And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.

I Samuel 25:32-3

We can take a few lessons from the account of Nabal, David, and Abigail:

1. Don’t assume that people are good-natured.

David took it for granted that his good service toward Nabal would be returned in kind. We don’t have to resort to gross pessimism, but we do need to remember the doctrine of man’s depravity, so that we are not caught off-guard when someone responds to our kindness with rudeness or hostility.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:10-11

2. When you encounter unexpected hostility, don’t respond with rash anger in return.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20

There are times when righteous indignation is the appropriate and even God-honoring response, but a cooling-off period in which we seek the Lord in prayer and Bible-consultation helps us to exercise wisdom.

3. Don’t let your mouth write a check your provision can’t cash.

Nabal talked very boldly and arrogantly and provocatively to David’s servants, but he was ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:28-33

4. Peacemakers enjoy God’s favor.

Abigail saved both both men from a tragic consequence – at least temporarily.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Making true peace involves sharing the truth, and it involves self-sacrifice. Abigail took a big risk intercepting David, but she needed to share the truth that ultimate vengeance belongs to God, not us. David’s change of mind turned out to be the right course of action, and Nabal did not escape God’s justice.

And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light. But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.

I Samuel 25:36-39

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Romans 12:19

Abigail’s actions remind us in a way of Jesus, Who rescued us from the wrath and the shame we deserved because of our hostility toward God and each other. If you have been rescued from the power of sin, and from even greater sin than you would have committed apart from God’s providence and intercession, then praise Him. If you are still in your sins,  seize this opportunity right now – as did David – to turn from your present course, and turn toward Jesus. Repent, trust Him, ask Him to take away your sin and guilt – and live.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings?

September 13, 2019 at 8:34 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: I don’t see the big deal about going to church on Wednesday nights, especially if it’s just a prayer meeting. I can pray at home. Why should I go listen to other people pray?

Answer: Well, attendance numbers indicate that the vast majority of Christians agrees with you, but there are many reasons why the members of a local church body should meet together when the church has a regular service, whether or not it’s a prayer meeting. Instead of addressing that, though, since your question is specifically about prayer, take a look at how church meetings took place in the Bible. If you read through the Book of Acts, you will see the Church of Jesus Christ, from its very inception, has been dedicated to the practice of corporate prayer (praying together as one body), and physically meeting together for this purpose. It is difficult to read very far in Acts without coming upon a passage of Scripture alluding to prayer. Just two examples:

And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where MANY WERE GATHERED TOGETHER PRAYING.

Acts 12:12

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and PRAYED WITH THEM ALL.

Acts 20:36

I capitalized the key words for emphasis, but you can also check out Acts 1:14, 3:1, 6:4, 12:5, and 16:13-16. If you pray by yourself or with your spouse and children at home, that is great, but, as Christians, we must have a deep concern with obeying the Bible, and with involving ourselves in church according to the Bible’s principles and precepts for what our responsibilities as Christian church members are. Remember, corporate prayer in a church meeting should not be one person praying aloud and everyone else listening in. It should be a group of people unified by the Holy Spirit, all praying mentally to the same Lord, even while one person is leading by speaking aloud. Don’t cut yourself, or your family, off from this crucial means of grace and growth in Christ-likeness. “Our” denotes plural – a group of people praying together – in “Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9).

When Kingdoms Collide

September 11, 2019 at 11:02 am | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:1-5

People like to ask why bad things happen to good people, or why innoncent people suffer, but the only time a truly good, innocent, and sinless person ever suffered was when Jesus Christ willingly suffered and lay down His life for the sins of His people.

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

Luke 13:6

This fig tree wasn’t doing what a fig tree is supposed to do: it wasn’t bearing fruit.

Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

Luke 13:7

Three years is a long time for a mature fig tree to go with no fruit. Its owner had been pretty patient.

And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

Luke 13:8

The vinedresser proposed giving it another chance, with the idea that growth could be stimulated with manure. Sometimes it takes messy circumstances to stimulate growth and the production of fruit.

And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

Luke 13:9

The Lord is patient, but He does not abide fruitlessness forever.

And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

Luke 13:10-11

Here was a woman (indicative of Luke’s typical interest in both women and illness) who had a condition which is called “a spirit of infirmity.”

And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

Luke 13:12-13

For the first time in 18 years this woman was able to stand up straight, walk properly, lift her arms, and look people in the eye. She glorified God, and imagine how happy the people in the synagogue must have been… but not the leader.

And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.

Luke 13:14

He was angry because he thought Jesus had made him look bad, challenged his authority, and questioned his teachings concerning the Sabbath.

The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

Luke 13:15

Jesus accused him of loving his animals more than people. The Sabbath was supposed to be a blessing, not a burden.

And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

Luke 13:16

The attitude of the religious leaders – even supposing that they HAD the power to heal the woman – would have been, “Wait, let’s not heal her on the Lord’s special day. Let her keep suffering so that it doesn’t interfere with our rule-keeping.”

And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Luke 13:17

No one could deny that what Jesus did was right. We can see this theme running through the end of Luke 12 and into 13: the idea of urgency; the need to discern the times; the motivation to get busy advancing the Kingdom. Disasters and suffering remind us to repent. Like a fig tree, we need to be bearing fruit before we are cut down. When God intervenes to stop suffering we should rejoice, not nit-pick. The people who look like they’re in charge of the Kingdom have corrupted it.

Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

Luke 13:18-19

The Devil has his agents hiding in places where the Kingdom of God is ministering in this world.

And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Luke 13:20-21

This world’s kingdom tries to mix with the Kingdom of God, so we have to be diligent and work hard. We must stay on the narrow way and not quit.

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Luke 13:23-24

Fight hard to know God and make Him known, and don’t let false religion or laziness or stress get in your way.

Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles

September 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Jesus’s statements in John Chapter 6 about eating His flesh and drinking His blood (vv. 51-57) are taken by some people to be literal rather than metaphorical. This leads them to the conclusion that what we call the “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion,” or what our Catholic friends call the “Eucharist” or “Mass,” should be considered a “sacrament” (something that infuses supernatural grace into the participants) or “sacerdotal” (something that requires a special blessing by a priest in order to be effective), and that the eating of bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine is an ex opere operato (literally, “by the working of the works”) experience, meaning that the ceremony itself carries its own spiritual power within it. The correct view of Jesus’s “I AM the Bread of Life” discourse is that He was using a metaphor rather than instituting a literal rite necessary for true salvation by a mixture of works and grace.

And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:65-66

Out of the 12 capital D Disciples, all 12 were chosen to literally “follow” Jesus, but only 11 would turn out to be truly given by God to the Son.

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

John 6:67-71

John Chapter 7 describes Jesus’s attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.

John 7:2

The Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular of the three yearly Jewish “pilgrimage” feasts. The other two were the feast of Passover (which celebrated the liberation from Egypt and the barley harvest) and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (which conincided with the wheat harvest). The Feast of Tabernacles was at the time of the grape and olive harvest, in the fall of the year. People would travel to Jerusalem or Judea and build little tabernacles out of twigs and sticks. (Obviously they were not afraid of the big bad wolfthe big bad wolf – just kidding.) The feast would last for seven days, on the last of which a big ceremony would take place featuring the lighting of a lampstand and the pouring out of water. You can imagine the significance in John’s Gospel of Jesus’s parallels as the light of the world and the living water, but Jesus’s earthly brothers didn’t care about this. They challenged Him to go there and take advantage of the opportunity to show His power and gain followers – not believing at that time in His Deity, but seeing Him as an opportunist with His own (apart from God the Father’s) agenda.

His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

John 7:3

Jesus’s response to them was very similar to what He told Mary at the wedding in Cana when she suggested that He solve the wine shortage problem with His power.

Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

John 7:6

Jesus may have been chiding them to a degree in suggesting that they cared not for God’s timing, and, as ordinary and inconsequential unbelievers, they could do what they wanted when they wanted. Jesus never denied His Deity – although He often kept it on the downlow – but when challenged directly in a non-dangerous setting He would draw a clear delineation between acting at the request of men as opposed to acting only in strict accord with God the Father’s will… even when what He intended to do did happen to coincide with what was being requested.

When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

John 7:9-10

What follows in most of the rest of John Chapter 7 is a pattern of Jesus teaching in the Temple during the feast, the opposition or anger or confusion that His teaching caused, and the narrative of the Jewish religious leaders trying to figure how to put a stop to it.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

John 7:19

They acted as though the held Moses and the Law “he” gave (God actually gave it through Moses) in high regard, yet they neither understood it, nor applied it consistently, nor believed its true purpose: pointing to the Savior Who now stood in their midst. The Law said “thou shalt not kill” and they were actively trying to kill the personal embodiment of the Law itself. They were mad that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and told Him to carry his mat, yet when a baby was scheduled to be circumcised (which was a law prior to Moses) fell on the Sabbath they did something more labor intensive than carrying a mat. Plus, the whole point of circumcision was to make the person a part of the Covenant family – to make him (ironically) wholly pure.

The people were starting to wonder, if Jesus was such a blasphemer, why didn’t the authorities go ahead and arrest him and put Him to death?

Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

John 7:25-26

Not only were they not arresting Him, but they didn’t even appear to be trying to shout Him down or shut Him up: “Is it possible they are not so sure He’s a blasphemer, and that He really might be Who He says He is?”

Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

John 7:27

But the counterargument was: “Nah, the Messiah is supposed to show up out of nowhere, or at least remain hidden until He announces His arrival in Jerusalem, but we know Jesus! He’s just the ordinary son of a carpenter and His pregnant-before-marriage wife… Pfft, from Nazareth, of all places, too!”

Ulimately the Pharisees did attempt to arrest Him.

The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

John 7:32

In response, Jesus messed with their heads, by telling them that He would go on the lam to a place where they could never find Him.

Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

John 7:33-34

This is classic Gospel-of-John irony. “Where would He be going that we can’t follow?” the Pharisees asked. Later He would tell His Disciples something similar, but then He would be talking about going to Heaven to prepare for their own reception. Here, though it escapes their comprehension, the Jewish leaders are being told that they can’t come where He is going because they are unbelievers and have no part with the God Who they were so proud of knowing in comparison to the gentiles/heathen.

Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

John 7:35

Jesus will receive only those who “believe on Him” and Who He really is.

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