Moving toward the Immovable

July 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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We use the word “move” not only to describe a physical action involving going from one area to another, but also to describe something that stirs an emotional reaction in us. “That song was beautiful. It really moved me.” Or, “I was moved to tears at the sight of my newborn daughter.” In the Bible, however, the word “moved” is sometimes combined with a negative prefix to describe something which can not be shaken loose, or something that is unassailable or someone that is unchangeable in his convictions or determination. The Kingdom of God is an especially pertinent example.

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

Hebrews 12:28

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

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

For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:29

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

A Body of Idolatry

June 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. If we take this literally, and I think we should, then it will remind us that all our limbs and sensory organs are to be dedicated to serving and glorifying God. If we ignore this command we run the risk of living like idolaters.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Psalm 115:4-7

A material idol, designed to act as, or represent, a false god, has a mouth that can’t talk, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, hands that can’t pick up anything, feet that can’t walk, and a throat with no sound. And then comes the kicker:

They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

Psalm 115:8

These idols are made by the very people who are worshiping them! How can they be so self-deluded?! Imagine praying for deliverance to a little figure that needed you to even carve it into existence. Can people really believe that a god would be dependent upon its own “creator?”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Logic, apart from the wisdom that comes only from the True and Living God, is not our strong suit. In fact, if we do not keep our hearts diligently focused on God, we will quickly fail into delusion and all sorts of idolatry.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Then, pretty soon, we will usurp the use of the mouths that God has given us, and start speaking disrespectfully, rebelliously, and deceitfully.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Next we’ll stop looking for God’s beauty in His creation, and we’ll studiously avoid looking for people who are genuinely needy or who make us feel uncomfortable, and we’ll instead use God’s gift of vision for peeking at forbidden and ugly-but-seductive things.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Before we know it, our idolatrous feet will follow our idolatrous eyes and hearts right off of God’s safe path and into the world’s bramble of unfulfillment, heartache, addiction, danger, and desolation.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:26-27

We are poor identifiers of our own idolatry. Most of us think that our common sense would kick in somewhere around the time we started placing offerings into the hands (hands that we ourselves had fashioned!) of idols that could not hold the very things we were trying to give them. But, no, here we are, hopefully knowing somewhere deep down that we – and all of the complex creation around us – were made by Someone infinitely greater than us, yet still trying to give our time, talents, and treasure to man-made idols, such as political parties, houses, cars, electronic devices, investment portfolios, clothes, and entertainment. What a contradictory race of creatures we are, to desire to be “blessed,” but to want to dictate, design, and direct our own trivial blessings, while our Supreme Maker and true source of all true blessings, is relegated to the sidelines of our lives and largely ignored.

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:11-16

A Mother’s Day Prayer

May 12, 2017 at 9:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Lord, thank you for mothers. Help us to honor their sacrifice and willingness to serve You in the calling You’ve given them (Leviticus 19:3). Please grant them special measures of grace as they fulfill a role that is so often discounted, discredited, and disparaged in our culture (I Timothy 5:14). Help them to see that the intelligence and determination you’ve blessed them with would be more than sufficient for heading up a corporation or organizing a movement or building an enterprise (Proverbs 31:13-31), but then help them also to recognize that You have called them to a mission field of even greater importance (Proverbs 1:8): a husband, home, and children for the mothers who are married; and children and a church family for those moms who are single. Help them to see the great value and importance that You have assigned to them personally as women and mothers, and to see the eternal significance of the tasks with which You’ve entrusted them (I Timothy 2:15). May they have the joy of seeing their children becoming disciples of Jesus (Proverbs 6:20), and the deep satisfaction of knowing that their children walk in light and truth and never in darkness and deceit (III John v.4). Lord, may those of us who are men seek to serve and love and encourage and support the mothers in our lives – our wives, our own mothers and grandmothers, and the single mothers in our church family. We see Your glory in them, and we praise You for Your love. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Don’t Teach Finesse

May 1, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Previously I discussed the dangers of teaching the Bible to children the way we would teach fables, and of the danger of teaching them that the Bible is merely a sounding board for our feelings. Now we will see that we must also beware of the temptation to teach obedience to God as though it was part of a reward system, or a quid pro quo bargaining chip.

This is an especially dangerous teaching method because of the way even adults, through the so-called “health and wealth gospel” or the “Word of Faith” movement, have been seduced into this way of thinking: “I’ll obey You, God, but I need You give me something in return” (good health and money being the two favorites). We see this train of thought subtly insinuated in promises to get blessings for giving, for ministry, even for faithfulness.

The problem is not really in teaching that God blesses, and even honors, faithfulness. The problem is in slapping our definition of “blessing” onto God’s greater and higher definition of blessing. Children who are taught that God is just aching to give them what their flesh craves are susceptible to developing a mentality of “gaming the system” – of trying to bribe or outsmart God.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

I Timothy 6:6-10

A love of money or any material thing (which amounts to the sin of greed) will bring sorrow instead of joy into the hearts of your children. Let’s teach our children that knowing and serving God is a blessing unto itself, and that even poverty and suffering may be counted as true blessings under His promises.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.

Luke 6:20-21

A One-Question Quiz for Boys

April 28, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

It’s one of the greatest Q&As of all time, packed into one clear and vital verse.

Q. How will a young man clean up his act and live right?
A. By purposefully and vigilantly moving through life with the Bible as his guide.

The psalmist asks and then answers his own question without hesitation, but are you and I convinced of this solution? I hope we are, because a wrong response has dire consequences: Psalm 34:16; Ephesians 5:3-6.

We sometimes use the colloquialism, “young men,” when we refer to boys – even those who are fairly far from the age (or maturity) of true manhood, and Bible does the same thing here, translating it from the Hebrew na’ar. Boys do not come into this world with clean hearts, and they do not start their journeys through life on clean paths. No, they start off with dirty, sinful, corrupt, and foolish hearts, bent toward heeding the world’s beckoning call to travel down its own dark, dangerous, deceitful, and disobedient alleys. Thus, the question in the first part of the verse presupposes that a young man’s “way” has need of purification (cleansing).

Thankfully, the Lord God Who reigns over this sin-sick world has provided a ready-made and easily-obtainable means for such cleansing. This antidote is not, however, a one-time vaccination or smoothly coated pill, quickly ingested and then forgotten. No, it is a remedy that requires young men to “take heed” – to look and listen carefully.

The Word of God is to be kept ever before their eyes. It is to be ingested through reading, and through attendance on teaching and preaching by trained and ordained men of God. Its principles and precepts are to be applied thoughtfully and rigorously as sign posts, warning lights, fuel for the journey, and dutiful directions at every twist and turn, every high-speed straightaway, and every providential detour along life’s course.

Don’t Teach Feelings

April 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Last time, I discussed the problem of teaching Bible stories to children as though they are fables. Now we will see another concern that surfaces in many children’s Bible lessons: the emphasis on feelings.

Bible lessons are not therapy sessions. They are not really supposed to be opportunities for children to explore their emotions or feelings. Often, a children’s Bible lesson will have an “application” section so that the teacher can ask the child, “How do you think Jonah felt when was about to be thrown overboard? How do you think Jesus feels when you disobey?” And so forth.

Our feelings are not trustworthy, and it is better that our children understand, at a very early age, that the Bible is a book of absolute truth, not a sounding board for our opinions or feelings.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

A child should not be encouraged to see himself as the hero in every Bible story. Quite the opposite: he should be encouraged to see himself as the SINNER in every Bible story. Our feelings (just like our wills and our intellects) are fallen. That are bent toward self-glorification, self-justification, and self-interpretation. The hard thing about teaching children is not building up their self-esteem. The hard thing is replacing it (not tearing it down) with esteem for God. Our job as parents, or as children’s Bible teachers, is to utterly convince them that He is absolutely supreme. This task will face its toughest obstacle not in convincing them that He is supreme over the weather, the government, their earthly heroes, us, or even death and the grave. It will be convincing them that He is absolutely supreme over THEM.

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

Proverbs 28:26

“Just trust your heart,” says Walt Disney. “Follow your heart,” says Cinderella or the little mermaid. “Listen to your heart,” says OprahNO! Trusting and following your heart will make you a fool and may cut you off from God’s help. In grace, you will fail quickly, but in His judgment He may let you have your own way, and you do not want to have your own way over God’s way. Walk wisely and you will figure life out on your own? No. Walk wisely and you will learn from experience? No. Walk wisely and you will be what? DELIVERED, which means rescued by someone more loving, more powerful, more wise, more SUPREME than you.

Let’s teach children Bible truth, not feelings. Then their God-given feelings will focus on Him – where they belong.

The Blessings and Hazards of Companionship

April 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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“Don’t cave in to peer pressure.”
“Don’t run with the wrong crowd.”
“Be a leader, not a follower.”
“If your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Such are some of the worldly cautions about carefully and wisely choosing your friends. The Bible says it like this:

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20

The Lord tells us to “walk with” wise men. This is obviously not a reference to the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is a reference to those with whom we spend time on a daily basis, and with whom we form bonds of friendship. We are to join ourselves to friends who are “wise,” and those who are truly wise are those who follow the teachings of God found in the Bible.

The flip side of this advice to walk with wise men is the warning to avoid the companionship of fools. Fools are those who refuse to acknowledge God.

The consequences of ignoring Proverbs 13:20 are dire. Those who fall in with a company of fools are not promised a period of trial-and-error, or even a second chance. The outcome of making a wrong decision about our friends is “destruction,” and destruction, in the Bible, is a thing that may come suddenly, without warning. Destruction speaks of finality and utter obliteration. It is a serious warning.

For those of us with junior high or high school aged children, we need to be especially careful of modern Christendom’s “youth group” or “teen ministry” mentality, which says that children (characterized in the Bible as “simple” or “foolish”) need to find their primary sense of belonging with others of their own age. The children which God has entrusted to our care need to “walk with” and learn from men and women of “wisdom:” those who have reached a level of Christian maturity that causes them to base their attitudes and actions on Scriptural principles and precepts.

Don’t Teach Fables

April 5, 2017 at 11:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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The are various ways to teach Bible stories (which are true, factual, historical events) to children, and various techniques that can be used. This is not going to be a lesson about how to use sock puppets, or how to talk in a funny voice to keep kids’ attention, or how to string out a story over several weeks with carefully designed “cliffhangers,” so they will want to come back each week to find out what happens next. There are people who are far better at those things than I am.

No, this is about the actual teaching of Scripture. Teaching means that you are focusing on what they are actually learning, not just making sure they are having fun or being entertained. Nor am I talking about showing off Bible knowledge, or giving out prizes for participation or accomplishment. I’m talking about actually finding out what God wants us to know about a particular Bible story: Why did God put this in there and command us to read and study it?

Therefore, the first thing to keep in mind when teaching Bible stories to children is: Don’t teach fables. Bible stories are not fables. They are not fairy tales, and their purpose is not always to teach a “moral lesson,” although we usually can glean moral lessons from them.

The problem with avoiding the fable-teaching method in children’s Bible studies is that you will be hard-pressed to find a children’s curriculum or lesson book that DOESN’T use this method. Take the story of Jonah for example.

“Jonah was told by God to go where? Nineveh. But he didn’t want to go there, did he? No. Where did he go instead? To Joppa and then to Tarshish. And when he boarded the ship for Tarshish, what happened? A big storm that resulted in him getting thrown overboard. What do we learn from this? That if you disobey God something bad will happen to you.”

That’s true – as far as it goes – but remember, there are people disobeying God all over the place like crazy, and they seem to be doing fine. Several of them hold the highest government offices in our land! The story of Jonah is not like the boy who cried wolf – he did something bad so he ended up facing the consequences.

Try this instead: “What happened to Jonah when he was thrown overboard? Did he drown? No, God sent a big fish to swallow him up. That’s terrifying, but it turned out to be better than drowning, because he lived in the fish’s belly for how long? Three days… hey, wait a minute… hmmm, that reminds me of someone else who was supposed to be dead, and went down somewhere for three days.”

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Matthew 12:38-41

It turns out that the Holy Spirit, when describing what happened to Jonah, was not really primarily teaching a lesson about the consequences of disobeying God, or even about how God can comfort you when you are scared and alone, or even about how God controls His creation (weather and animals). No, what He was primarily teaching is that we all have disobeyed God, and we deserve to be thrown into the sea to die, and we have absolutely no ability to save ourselves, but God can save us, because He Himself went down into the grave (the “belly of the earth”) and rose again in His Own power. Furthermore, just like Jonah’s testimony of coming back from the dead was the sign that supported his preaching, for us, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our “proof” that everything that Jesus said about our sin and His salvation is true.

We don’t want our kids to think of a cartoon man and a cartoon whale, and definitely not a cucumber swimming around with a talking tomato.

We want them to think of a real man and a real fish that God used to get people ready to recognize Jesus – the Christ – Who would one day fulfill what Jonah and the whale typified: sin, death, burial, resurrection, and Gospel preaching!

The Most Important Children’s Ministry Tool

April 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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There is a whole industry out their geared toward the production of material for sale to churches, under the heading, “children’s ministry.” From coloring books, to puzzles, to visual aids, to movies, to action figures, to entire programs with point systems set up to award patches, trophies, candy, and prizes for attaining participation and memorization goals, there is no shortage of items available for those who would like organize, institute, or carry on with, a “children’s program” at his or her church.

The Holy Spirit, however, reminds us that the most important “material” needed in the evangelism, instruction, and training of children is found between the covers of God’s Holy Word: the Bible.

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

If you are a Christian parent, then I suppose there may be some value in having a shelf filled with work books, color-in-the-lines representations of Noah’s Ark, and attendance awards, or a wall covered with certificates of merit for knowing all the hand motions to “I’m in the Lord’s Army, yes sir!” but do not neglect the most valuable teaching and learning tool ever invented for the edification of little (or future) disciples of Jesus: the Scriptures.

Even the Children

March 20, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Psalm 148 is a psalm which commands us to praise the Lord.

Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

Psalm 148:1

In fact, it commands all of creation, the whole universe, to praise the Lord.

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.

Psalm 148:3-5

Kings and rulers, “ordinary people,” men and women, the young and old, all types of people are commanded to praise the Lord. This makes sense, but it is not limited to those with any sort of advanced understanding of how they are to worship. No one is exempt, regardless of maturity level or even sentient intelligence, for that matter. We would do well to remember this in our corporate worship services. There can be a temptation for those of a more advanced understanding to seek to eliminate the distraction of those who might not worship with the same mindset, decorum, or sophistication. However, it is clear that the Bible would not have us give in to this temptation. If even the seas, mountains, birds, and cattle can praise the Lord, how much more should we encourage our children to worship alongside us!

Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

Psalm 148:12

Why should the Lord be praised by so inclusive a throng? Because:

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

Psalm 148:13

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