Oceans of Devotions

August 10, 2012 at 10:45 am | Posted in Bible Studies | Leave a comment
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Yesterday – spurred by a tremendous month of July – The Deep End hit another one of those round-number milestones in number of views all-time. Thanks again to everyone who has visited. Thanks most of all to the Lord God Almighty for giving us such a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, insight, blessings, and spiritual Truth in the Holy Bible, and for giving me the opportunity to write about it.

The category called “Bible Studies” contains posts that come from times when I have been asked to fill in for a preacher or pastor who is sick or away on a mission trip, or to teach what are called “devotions” at couples’, men’s, or children’s events. Some of them come from funerals, prayer breakfasts, youth conferences, teacher-training seminars, Christian school chapel services, and all kinds of fellowship activities. Some of them come from my private devotional studies. They are about a diverse range of topics, hence the broad category heading. I hope and pray that you’ll find at least something useful in them.

1. Discipleship Lessons Promo
2. A Match Made in Heaven Part 1
3. A Match Made in Heaven Part 2
4. The “Great” that Doesn’t “Grate” – Part One
5. The “Great” that Doesn’t “Grate” – Part Two
6. The Great Trading-Post
7. What Is God Like?
8. Brain “Washing” Produces “Clean” Living (Part 1)
9. Brain “Washing” Produces “Clean” Living (Part 2)
10. Turning Up the Heat – Part 1
11. Turning Up the Heat – Part 2
12. Turning Up the Heat – Part 3
13. Careless Love – Part 1

14. Careless Love – Part 2 (Divine Rapid Heart Rate)
15. Careless Love – Part 3
16. T.K.O. Your Pastor (#1)
17. T.K.O. Your Pastor (#2)
18. The Solemn Ascension
19. Is It Wrong to Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 1)
20. Is It Wrong to Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 2)
21. The Lord’s Leftovers
22. The Last but Not the Least – Part 1
23. The Last but Not the Least – Part 2
24. The Last but Not the Least – Part 3
25. Dr. Law and Dr. Grace
26. Healing for Truly Broken Hearts
27. The Husband of One Wife – Part 1
28. The Husband of One Wife – Part 2
29. The Devil’s Math
30. Setting Up Your Own Place
31. Testing Your Testimony
32. The Bold Pair in the Enemy’s Lair (Part 1)
33. The Bold Pair in the Enemy’s Lair (Part 2)
34. Practical Intentional Evangelism
35. High and Mighty
36. Calling Witnesses (Part 1)
37. Calling Witnesses (Part 2)
38. Calling Witnesses (Part 3)
39. Faithful to Him and to Each Other
40. Leading Instead of Watching
41. The Hard Work of Encouragement
42. The Redeemer Is Prophesied
43. Christian Lifeguards
44. Leavenless Lump
45. How Tall Was Jesus? (*)
46. Do You Have Plans for Lunch?
47. What Are You Hungry For?
48. The Breathtaking Wonder of God
49. The Helmet of Salvation
50. Being At-TENT-ive to God
51. Home Is Where Your Lord Is
52. It’s Time to Grow Up
53. Biblical Men
54. Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part One)
55. Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part Two)
56. Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part Three)
57. Fathers and Daughters
58. Only Jesus
59. Snakes on a Plain (Part 1)
60. Snakes on a Plain (Part 2)
61. Snakes on a Plain (Part 3)
62. Servant Movers (Commitment)
63. Servant Movers (Character and Conduct)
64. The Lord’s Love Song
65. Don’t Grieve the Holy Spirit
66. Four-Dimensional Love (Part 1)
67. Four-Dimensional Love (Part 2)
68. From What Were You Saved? (A and B)
69. From What Were You Saved? (C)
70. Sharpening Your Focus
71. Preparation for the Battle
72. The Day of Distress
73. Getting Full (Part 1)
74. Getting Full (Part 2)
75. God Knows Something about Everything
76. How to Get High in Christian Ministry
77. How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 1
78. How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 2
79. How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 3
80. Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 1)
81. Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 2)
82. Put It On and Pack It On
83. Pass It On and Pour It On
84. Preparing to Hear from God: Ready
85. Preparing to Hear from God: Receptive
86. Preparing to Hear from God: Responsive
87. Remembering the Garlic
88. Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Revelatory)
89. Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Restrictive)
90. Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Reflective)
91. Your Vocation
92. Why We’re so Difficult
93. Where Is Jesus in the Bible? (lesson 1)
94. Where Is Jesus in the Bible? (lesson 2)
95. Clear Calls for Christians: Pure Upgrade
96. Clear Calls for Christians: Proper Unity
97. Clear Calls for Christians: Point Upward
98. From Garbage to Glory
99. A Prize-Winning Run (I Corinthians 9:24-26)
100. The Path of Sacrifice
101. Will God Do a New Thing in a New Year?
102. Our Great Needs (Psalm 35:10)
103. A Diet of Distinction (Part One) (Leviticus 11:1-8)
104. A Diet of Distinction (Part Two) (Leviticus 11:44)
105. A Diet of Distinction (Part 3) (Leviticus 11:3-7)
106. The Be Quietudes 
107. When and How to Speak Up

* most-read post in category

Fathers and Daughters

July 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Parenting | 9 Comments
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I have three daughters. My experience with boys is very limited, but from what I can tell there are some big differences between boys and girls. If you are reading this as a father of more than one daughter, you may be able to understand when I say that girls talk a LOT. Counting my wife, I live in a house with four girls and it is a place of NON-STOP talking. During one supper at my house there are probably more words said than I’ve said by myself in the last 25 years.

 

Another big difference is that girls seem to be a little more emotional than boys. It’s not that boys never cry. I mean, a typical boy might cry a little – if it’s something serious like a broken leg – but only after looking around to make sure no one is watching. But a girl can cry for an hour over losing a button off her dress. And if her big sister sticks her tongue out at her – look out. Your stock in Kleenex just went up thirty points.

Another difference is that girls tend to be more insecure than boys. Chances are, when you had a daughter, you had to learn to spend a lot of time saying things like, “It’s okay, there’s nothing bad in the attic,” or, “don’t worry if they laugh at your hair, I’ll sue everybody in that school.” It’s just a fact of life: Daughters need to be comforted by their fathers.

The Bible has some guidance for how fathers are supposed to love their daughters, and I’m glad Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say, “Train up a son in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 20:7 doesn’t say, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his sons are blessed after him.” It says, “his children are blessed after him.”

God has given us a great gift in our daughters, and they are fun, but they are not just for our enjoyment. We have a responsibility to do what Proverbs says and train them up in the way they should go.

Let me encourage you to make regular church attendance an important part of your daughter’s life. If your daughter sees that you make church a priority, she will do the same as she grows older, and the church is a great place for your daughter to experiment with different ways of serving the Lord, and find out which ways suit her best.

Training has to be more than just bringing our daughters to church, though. If we’re spending all our time serving at church ourselves, and just using the church to babysit for us while we do it, we’re making a big mistake. It is important for our daughters to know Bible stories, and the people in the Bible, and Bible verses, and it’s our responsibility as fathers to teach them those things. It’s not enough just to discuss these things at church. Train your daughters at home, too.

It’s hard to find time to spend with our family, period. We may as well admit it. Just earning money to pay for a home and food and clothes takes most of our time. But we have to somehow make the time, to make it a priority, or we’ll miss out on the best times of all. I’ve learned that – with daughters – the talking, the emotions, the insecurity, that’s where you’ll do most of your real training. If you can take the time to listen to all those “and I was like…and she was like… and then I was like…” in all that talking there is valuable information about what your daughter is really thinking. In all that crying and sighing and melodrama over “why do I have to get off the phone and clean my room,” there is something inside that big production that is a signal that will tell you what’s really on your daughter’s heart. Even in her insecurity there is a sign that she might be insecure because of something you’ve done to let her down.

But if we don’t have the patience or make the time to sit through all that and pay close attention, we’re not going to know what’s really on her mind, and in her heart, and what she needs you to do to help her. If we miss out on those things, we’re missing out on the best parts of having a daughter.

Before you can address anybody else’s insecurity, you’ve got to make sure that you are secure in your own heart. I would think that every decent father would want his daughter to be secure in the knowledge that she has a relationship with Jesus and that her place in Heaven is 100% guaranteed.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 3:15 (emphasis added)

There’s no way to have real security without faith in Jesus.

Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part Three)

July 5, 2012 at 10:05 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Selected Psalms, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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David appeared to be at the top of his game. Having been blessed greatly by God, David was exhibiting several signs of being a good steward of these blessings. But if Satan had been watching David, taking notes and looking for an opportunity to trap him with just the right temptation, then he would most certainly have noticed a major weakness. David had a weakness for lust, and a desire to have more and more wives.

Before the incident with Bathsheba, David had as many as seven wives: Ahinoam; Haggith; Abital; Eglah; Maacha; Abigail; Chileab. This was common practice in those days, but it was still sin against God (Matthew 19:8; Deuteronomy 17:17). So, when the devil planned an attack on David, he must have said, “Aha, he has a weakness for beautiful women.” And the snare was set.

Here are some lessons we can learn about avoiding Satanic traps:

1. When we’re blessed in fighting, we need to remember to ask for God’s protection and preparation. Prayer and spiritual warfare go hand in hand.

Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

Psalms 144:1

2. When we’re blessed with family, we need to watch out for those with whom they would associate. Your family members can be influenced by others outside of your family.

Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:

Psalms 144:11

3. When we’re blessed with faithful friends, we need to abide in God’s Word (not err from it).

The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

Psalm 119:110

4. When we’re blessed with fear, we shouldn’t have a fear of aviation.

Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.

Psalms 124:7

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18

5. When we have the blessing of God’s favor, we need to remember to be alert.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

I Peter 5:8

6. If we’re blessed with fame, we need to be awake and active.

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Romans 13:11-14

Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part Two)

June 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 6 Comments
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We noted King David’s many blessings in Part One. The Bible is not a book of fairy tales, myths, or legends. Its Author, the Holy Spirit, does not hide the sins, shortcomings, and ugly truths about its heroes. When David sinned with Bathsheba, there seems little doubt that his pride over his might, favor, and accomplishments played a part in his fall. However, when we go back and look carefully, we can see that this was perhaps not the chief cause of his downfall. David was actually being a good steward of these blessings God had given him.

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

Luke 16:10

When David was blessed in fighting, he gave God the glory (as recorded in many of the Psalms), and was obedient to fight God’s enemies. When David was blessed in his family he didn’t just indulge his sons; he gave them responsibilities. When David was blessed with fame, God knew he could trust David to give God the glory. When David was blessed with faithful friends, he listened to them, and obeyed God’s word. When David was blessed with feasting he didn’t become greedy or gluttonous; he became generous and giving.

So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

II Samuel 9:13

When David was blessed with fear he didn’t lord it over people; he sought ways to show kindness.

And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?

II Samuel 9:1

So, what else could have played a part in David’s lusting for Bathsheba and subsequent entrapment in sin? If you are a Christian, when you were saved, a great victory was achieved over Satan. Your salvation was a tough loss for Satan, and you may have been given a brief period of reprieve after that, but it didn’t take long for the Devil to get back up and come after you again. It might have been the next week, the next day, at school or at work. It might have been the next Sunday at church, or it might have been when you told your spouse or family or friends. It might even have been in the car on the way home from church! Pharaoh was forced to let God’s people out of Egypt, but he changed his mind and came after them before they even reached the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Jesus said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan” (Luke 4:8), but many of us are too nervous to have him back there where we can’t keep an eye on him. Thankfully, we don’t have to trust Satan. We have to trust the Lord Jesus.

David looked like he had on all his spiritual armor.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Ephesians 6:11

But there was a chink in David’s armor. The Devil is wily. He’s watching us closely. He’s looking for weakness. “Wiles” are tricky schemes, traps, snares, treachery by guile. That’s one reason why we must be very careful about placing a novice Christian in a position of leadership.

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

I Timothy 3:7

We must also try to be kind and meek and mild, and not contentious.

And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

II Timothy 2:26

Satan does not stop attacking Christians, even when they are not serving the Lord. He does not make deals with believers. He does not really expect to get true Christians to bow down and worship him. We’re already saved. He can’t take us to hell. He wants us to think about ourselves. One of his main temptations is to tell you to do what feels good. Do what’s easy. Look out for number one. No rules, he says. Just “rights.” Then, once you’re worshiping yourself instead of worshiping God, he has a very limited agenda. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

David had a weakness – a chink in his armor – and that’s all it takes: one “occasion” (Galatians 5:13; I Timothy 5:14). An “occasion” is a foothold. It is what happens when you allow the enemy to build a little encampment inside your walls of protection. Next time, we will try to identify the “occasion” that Satan used to trap David.

Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part One)

May 16, 2012 at 9:42 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 3 Comments
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The events in II Samuel Chapter 8 took place after the incident at Ziklag and after the death of Saul. After defending himself against numerous enemy attacks, David received a brief period of rest from God before he went on the offensive, counterattacking. David experienced:

I. Blessings in Fighting

At this point in David’s career he was not a leader who simply sent out men into battle. David was a leader who fought in person.

Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.

II Samuel 8:6

And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all they of Edom became David’s servants. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.

II Samuel 8:14

David’s accomplishments in battle – against the Philistines and against the Syrians – were so spectacular that God gave him:

II. The Blessing of Fame

And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.

II Samuel 8:13

God also gave David:

III. The Blessing of Fairness

And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.

II Samuel 8:15

And:

IV. The Blessing of Family

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief rulers.

II Samuel 8:18

Priests were there to make sure David had access to the Word of God. In this way, God gave David:

V. The Blessing of Faithful Friends

And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;

II Samuel 8:17

It is good to have friends who are loyal, but the best friends are friends who are men of faith.

God gave David:

VI. The Blessing of Fear

David feared God, and David’s enemies feared David. Most of the people he conquered became his servants.

And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought gifts.

II Samuel 8:2

God gave David:

VII. The Blessings of Forgiveness and Feasting

And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he.

II Samuel 9:1-2

Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons.

II Samuel 9:11

Mephibosheth was of the house of Saul, the man who had tried to kill David, yet David showed him forgiveness, kindness, and treated him like a member of his own family.

God gave David:

VIII. The Blessing of Favor

David was wealthy, healthy, handsome, talented, smart, strong, loved, respected, and trusted – all in II Samuel Chapter 9 – but only two chapters later, we see David fall into his greatest sin – the incident of his affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murderous cover-up. Was David so blessed by God that he became filled with pride and fell into sin? Or was there something else going on behind the scenes? Stay tuned for Part Two, in which we will delve deeper into what it means to be a good steward of our blessings.

Biblical Men

May 1, 2012 at 9:45 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 6 Comments
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Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost…

Acts 6:3-5

A while back I read a survey that said the typical U.S. church congregation is 61% female, and that women are also the force behind most lay organizations and volunteer activities, and that they make up the majority of church employees. This should be disturbing news for Christians. Women are certainly important to the work of the Church, but why are more men not stepping up? Of course, the modern-day church’s response to this has been (predictably) more pragmatic than Scriptural. Some people say that men don’t feel comfortable in church because there’s too much focus on the “love” of Christ, and not enough on the “Kingdom” of God. There’s too much emphasis, they say, on the “meekness” of Jesus, and not enough on the “military” symbols of advancing the Gospel. Too many floral arrangements and paisley carpet patterns; not enough mounted elks’ heads, swords, and battle hymns. One church I read about – in what has to be the lamest attempt I’ve ever heard of to attract men to church – decided to decorate the men’s room in NASCAR decor! Are these really the answers? It seems foolish to me to try to trick people with advertising gimmicks at the expense of preaching the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)

Acts Chapter 6 records for us a time when the Church was just getting up and running. Some of the Greek-speaking widows were thought to be getting better treatment than the Hebrew- (or Aramaic-) speaking widows. The Apostles were spending too much time “waiting tables,” and it was taking away from their time studying the Word, preaching, and praying. So, inspired by the Holy Ghost, they commanded that seven men be found. These were men, not women. They were looking for certain qualifications: men of honest report, men full of the Holy Ghost, and men of wisdom. The reason that more men are not serving in church is not that the church environment is too “feminine.” It’s because the men who call themselves Christians are not living honestly, are not Spirit-filled, and are not applying the Bible to their lives.

It’s Time to Grow Up

April 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | Posted in Bible Studies, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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During the months leading up to the birth of our first daughter, my wife and I had many long discussions about all the plans and goals we had for her life. We talked about education, development, character, spirituality, even sports. I wanted to be the best dad in the world. However, that first night home from the hospital was an eye-opener. All the visitors and well-wishers had left, we were exhausted (and when I say “we” I really mean my wife was exhausted), and we were ready for our first peaceful night as parents. Our daughter had different plans though. She didn’t want to nurse, she didn’t want to take a bottle, and she didn’t want a pacifier. Most of all she did not want to sleep. What she wanted to do apparently was cry all night (and when I say “cry” I mean scream at the top of her brand new lungs). To say that my wife and I were freaked out is putting it mildly. I tried to remain calm for her sake, but the truth is I spent most of the night pacing, praying, holding the baby, trying to sing soothing lullabies through gritted teeth, and (even though I’m embarrassed to admit it) even crying a little myself. I also drastically altered my main goal as a parent that night. My main goal no longer had to do with making sure I had a daughter who would graduate from college or excel at sports or have tons of friends. My new main goal changed to just making sure she stayed alive.

About 7 1/2 months later I considered myself successful. She was still alive – and it was easy to prove because she still cried almost all night every night – and throughout most of the day unless she was being intensely entertained and stimulated. Then she started walking, and I changed my main goal as a parent again. This time my new main goal was to keep her from busting her head open. That goal lasted until she was 18 months old, at which point she took a head first dive from her stroller onto a concrete sidewalk and busted her head open. Thankfully, God protected her and she survived with a few stitches and a very small scar. My friend, Pastor John Wilkerson, once told me that it’s far easier to have a baby than to raise a child. He was talking about the challenge of evangelizing the lost and then discipling new believers, but the thought really resonated with me.

Eventually most parents realize that one of their main goals is to help their children become “mature.” When the Lord used the Apostle Paul to found the church at Corinth, the new Christians there were like spiritual babies. They had been “born again” by trusting Christ, but they were not yet mature. They were what are sometimes called “carnal Christians.”

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

I Corinthians 3:1

Physical size is often an indicator of maturity in the natural sense. We can tell a baby from a grown-up partly because of how big he is. But that doesn’t work in the spiritual sense. A person can become a Christian as a young child or as a full-grown adult. However, there are other ways of distinguishing children from adults that do apply to Christian maturity.

DIET

New-born babies have a very limited diet: milk or baby formula – that’s about it. Grown-ups can eat “meatier” food. The spiritual version of food is the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures. Several kinds of food are used to illustrate the Word of God.

Honey:

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Bread:

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4

Meat:

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk:

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

I Peter 2:2

The Word of God nourishes Christians, and helps us grow, and we should be getting more mature in our understanding of the Word. We should not only be reading the Word, but heeding the Word.

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

I Corinthians 3:2

INTERACTION WITH OTHERS

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

I Corinthians 3:3

These kinds of statements are to be somewhat expected from immature children:
-“Would you stop touching me!”
-“She stuck her tongue out at me!”

But these kinds of statements are pathetic and unacceptable coming from grown-up Christian believers:
-“Somebody sat in my pew!”
-“The preacher had better not be too busy to call me back or I’ll find another church!”

Immature children frequently fuss and fight (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “strife”).

This is what you expect to hear from little kids:
-“I had it first!”
-“Sally got a cookie and I didn’t – that’s not fair!”

This is what we should not expect to hear from mature Christians:
-“I would tithe, too, if I had a good job like him!”
-“It’s easy for her to have faith – she’s never been through what I’m going through!”

Children tend to think they should have whatever the other children have (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “envying”).

We might think it’s somewhat cute to hear little kids saying:
-“I’m not going to be your best friend any more, I’m going to be Suzy’s best friend!”
-“Don’t let Jimmy join our club!”

But it’s not so cute to hear grown-ups saying:
-“We can’t invite Billy Bob to the retreat – he’s difficult to deal with.”
-“Oh sure, if I had a fancy car like so-and-so, maybe the preacher would like me, too.”

Children like to exclude some and include others as a way of being mean (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “divisions”). Two signs of maturity are what we eat, and how we act. Another sign of maturity is who we follow. Children tend to have “heroes.”

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I Corinthians 3:4

The baby Christians in Corinth were identifying themselves with Paul or Apollos or Peter or other church leaders, and they were making a sinful issue out of it.

Little boys brag: “My dad can beat up your dad.” But Christian men should not be dividing over which famous evangelist or TV preacher they follow. Mature believers look to Christ as our role model.

I Corinthians was written to church members who weren’t getting along. They were acting like little babies when, time-wise, they should have been growing up. These were people involved in ministry. They had talents and spiritual gifts, but they were ignoring the reason for these gifts. God gives us spiritual gifts to bring lost folks into the Kingdom, to do the work of bringing people to Jesus, to make disciples, to help others grow up, to build up the saints. Many times, though, like little bratty children, we’re misusing the gifts and talents which our loving God gave us. We’re playing with them. Or we’re fighting with them or over them. Or we’re bragging about them, and trying to show off, as if we earned them, or did anything to get them for ourselves.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

The spiritual gifts and talents given to us by God are not weapons to fight with. They are not toys to play with. They are not trophies to brag about. They are tools, and we ought to be using them, as humble workers, to build with.

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Home Is Where Your Lord Is

March 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Hebrews | 7 Comments
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Abraham “kept the faith” by tent-and-altar living – staying on the move and following God – not sitting still and summoning God to come to him.

Abraham also kept the faith by remembering what kind of traveler he was.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11:8-10

Lot was happy with the city which had foundations built by men, but Abraham believed for something better – a different kind of city. In the meantime, he was content to live in tabernacles (tents) and be a sojourner. “Sojourn” means to reside temporarily. Most of the people who check into hotels do not intend to “live” there – at least not permanently. They intend to “sojourn” there for a little while. The idea of “sojourning” also has a connotation of having needs provided on a day by day basis. Each day the sojourner receives just enough to get by on (a “per diem“). True Christian sojourners have to stay focused on the Provider. The incident with Elijah and the lady at Zarephath is a good illustration of this principle.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:13-16

Abraham was a sojourner, a stranger, and a pilgrim. He was not a vagabond. A sojourner is one who has a temporary home. A stranger is one who is away from home. A vagabond is one who does not have a home. But a pilgrim is one who is on his way home.

Abraham kept the faith by remembering what kind of traveler he was, and Abraham kept the faith by remembering where his home was.

Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:38-40 (emphasis added)

As New Covenant Christians, what “better thing” has God provided for us? The privilege of living on this side of the Cross. Old Testament saints looked forward by faith to the coming of the promised Messiah and Redeemer, but we have the proof of the fulfillment!

I don’t consider “my” house to really be mine. It is actually the Lord’s house (and arguably the mortgage company’s too!) that He’s allowing me live in. And I do like living in a house. But it’s not my permanent home. My permanent home is with the Lord Jesus in Heaven. One day I’ll go there and be with Him for ever and ever. Christians ought to always be a little uncomfortable in our daily lives – like people who are ready to go home. That’s one of the reasons we should so look forward to going to church each week. We have a biological family, but we find special comfort with our “true” family – our spiritual family in the Lord. We don’t “live” at church, but, each time, before we go back out, we need to remember that we are tent-dwellers who are at the beck and call of our Lord. One day my earthly home will be tried by fire. That’s why my sojourning here ought to be in fear – not fear of the world, but fear of God.

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

I Peter 1:17

If you are an observer of our political system, our court system, or our “pop” culture, you may wonder why the world acts so foolishly. I believe that it is partly due to a lack of fear of the Lord.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

The primary responsibility of Christians is not political activism. Politicians respond out of fear of man.

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

I Peter 2:11

When Christians stop acting like strangers in this world, and start acting like citizens of this world, we begin to pick up the customs of this world. When we forget to be pilgrims, and make ourselves at home, our flesh goes to war against the Holy Spirit.

When comedians impersonate the famous actor, John Wayne, they almost always drawl the word “pilgrim” as part of their routine. It’s my understanding that he actually only used the term in a couple of his many films, but he had a way of speaking to people as though he was superior to them. In the few western films of his I’ve seen, the characters he played were portrayed as superior – but he also seemed envious in a way of the people he was speaking down to. The one I remember best was called “The Searchers,” and in that movie all the characters either had a home or were headed home – except for Wayne’s character. He is portrayed at the beginning of the film as looking into the doorway of the home of a family he intends to help, and at the end, he looks through the doorway again, turns, and walks away into the distance.

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It’s like the other characters were all going to a home he could never go to. I doubt the filmmakers were intending to convey anything spiritual, but it is a reminder to me that it is foolish to invest too much into a home in this world – where it won’t last. I’m looking for a city in Heaven, and a home where the foundation can’t be cracked, the walls can’t be shaken down, and the roof can’t be burned up. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of placing way too much emphasis on our material comfort. We pray for material or financial blessings, and God is saying, “No way, that’ll just make you comfortable, make you lazy.” When we feel like strangers and pilgrims, we don’t get too attached to this world, and we can devote ourselves totally to going where the Lord wants us to go, and to doing what the Lord wants us to do.

If Abraham had been given some type of institutional form to fill out with a section that said “Residency:,” I don’t think he would have checked the box that said “Ur of the Chaldees.” I think he would have written in: “My home is with the Lord.”

Abraham kept the faith by:
1. Staying on the move, following God
2. Remembering what kind of a traveler he was
3. Remembering where his home was

Being At-TENT-ive to God

March 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 4 Comments
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Lord, there is so much in the Bible that You want us to know, and there is so much we do not yet know. I pray that You would teach us something new each and every day, and that You would reinforce our faith through the revelation of Your Word. In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

Genesis 12:1

So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Genesis 12:4

Abram was 75 years old when God called him. God can call you at any age. We must never try to take our spiritual phones off the hook. There’s no retiring from the service of God. Abram responded to the call of God in faith, but how did he “keep” his faith going?

Abram was extremely wealthy. He could have lived in a great home. But by faith he chose to live in a tent.

And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

Genesis 12:8

Abram was not your average tent-dweller.

And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

Genesis 13:5

And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

Genesis 13:8

Living among those who did not know the One True God, he wanted to have a good testimony. He reminded Lot that they were family, and families should not fight in front of strangers. If you are part of a local church assembly, there is something more important about your church than than the impressiveness of the facilities, the variety of the ministries, the skill of the musicians or singers, even the eloquence of the preaching. Do the people who make up your church know how to love people? Do the people who visit your church see you as family? If you can’t get along with each other, nobody is going to feel welcome coming into the midst. “For we be brethren,” Abram told Lot. The neighbors are watching.

Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

Genesis 13:18 (emphasis added)

Lot got tired of living in tents. He decided to move to the city – and it was the start of his downfall. Abram stayed ready to move at the command of God.

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

Genesis 18:1 (emphasis added)

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

Genesis 18:9 (emphasis added)

Abraham kept the faith by staying on the move for God. Next time, we will see two more ideas that helped him keep the faith.

The Helmet of Salvation

February 3, 2012 at 10:31 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 5 Comments
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If you have ever played or coached baseball or football – or even tee-ball or softball – then you know the importance of a helmet.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

I Thessalonians 5:8 (emphasis added)

For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.

Isaiah 59:17 (emphasis added)

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

Ephesians 6:17 (emphasis added)

The Bible does not tell us that we have permission to put on the helmet of salvation. It does not tell us to pray about the helmet of salvation. It does not tell us to consider the helmet of salvation. It does not tell us to plan to put on the helmet of salvation when we’re ready. No, the Bible tells us to TAKE the helmet of salvation. It’s an order, a command. It’s an imperative: take it.

In World War II some of the soldiers in Europe stopped fastening the chin straps on their helmets because they were afraid that their helmet could be struck so hard that when it flew off, the chin strap would decapitate them. It turns out that the practice of having an unfastened chin strap had started off as a joke. The more-seasoned soldiers would tell the newly arriving recruits to do this, thinking that it would be like telling a rookie mechanic to go fetch a left-handed screwdriver. But pretty soon even the experienced soldiers started believing the myth.

As Christians, engaged in spiritual warfare, it would be a tragic mistake for us – having received the helmet of salvation – to refuse to take it and wear it securely. Many Christians have believed their misinformed fellow soldiers – their brothers and sisters in Christ – and they think that Satan will overcome anything good that God is doing in our life, so it would be better to try to hide and wait out the battle so as not to excite Satan’s attention. On the other hand there are people who attribute every difficult circumstance that comes into their lives as as a sign that they must be doing God’s will – otherwise Satan wouldn’t be attacking them. This is one of the dangers of not having the helmet of salvation safely secured around our thought processes as we go into battle. If I started selling illegal drugs on the street corner, there is little doubt that I would soon have a great deal of trouble come into my life – but I could hardly take that as a sign that I was doing God’s will!

There are times when God allows Christians to experience trouble or tribulation as a chastening experience. Chastening is a sign that God loves you, but that He wants you to learn from your mistakes.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3:19

This is not a sign of approval, but of correction.

The helmet of salvation should give us security in battle, not fear. It guards our minds – the way we think. We need to be constantly thinking of the salvation granted to us by the Lord – not because we might slip up and lose it – but to remind us of the responsibility it entails.

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