Marriage Should Not be Static

October 11, 2018 at 10:19 am | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last time, I looked at Isaiah 62:1-4 and developed the principle from Verse 1 that marriage should not be secret. Additionally, marriage should not be static.

And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

Isaiah 62:2

One day the Lord will give His people a new name. As Christians we are associated now with suffering and failure, unpopularity and persecution, but there there will come a day when non-Christians (described as “Gentiles” in Isaiah 62:2) – even the mightiest of them – will see the glory that our glorious God shares with us.

In marriage, wives get a new name when they get married. Husbands do not, except collectively. A married couple comes to be known as the “Smiths” or the “Joneses” or the “Wilsons.” For Christian married couples we should not be satisfied with a shared and commonly known “new” last name. We want to achieve even more names that reflect glory on the Lord of our marriages. We want to be the married couple about whom people say: “They go to church;” “They teach their children to pray; “They look so IN LOVE.”

When you refer to your spouse in the presence of other people, don’t fall into the worldly practice of speaking disparagingly about him or her, calling your husband, “my old man,” or calling your wife, “the old lady.”

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Your spouse may know you’re joking, but we’re talking about other people and their perceptions, and what they think of marriage in general and yours in particular. Don’t let the way you talk about your marriage become static. Avoid terms that are presumably supposed to be funny, but, in reality, reveal boredom, dissatisfaction, or exasperation about your spouse or your marriage. Don’t say rude things like “the old ball and chain” or “the battle axe.”

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

“Hearers” in that verse is plural, and being “edified” means being built up, not remaining static. Unkind words, and, worse, false unkind words, not only fail to minister grace to the one you are saying them ABOUT, or saying them TO, but to everyone else listening in, or to whom they are repeated.

You don’t want your spouse telling his or her friends bad things about you, but the best remedy for that is not to swear your spouse to silence. The best remedy is to give your spouse good things to say – to improve yourself, with God’s help, as a spouse, rather than merely trying to hush up the talk about your relationship.

Next time we will see that marriage should not be spurious.

The Just Suffering for the Unjust

September 26, 2018 at 9:45 am | Posted in I Peter | 5 Comments
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For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

I Peter 3:18

The “Spirit” here is capitalized in the King James Version, and several other, though not all, translations. The capitalization leads the reader to believe that the Spirit being referenced is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, but could Christ have had a “spirit” other than the Holy Spirit? Matthew 26:41, Romans 1:3-4, Luke 23:46, and James 2:26 would seem to indicate that Jesus, in His full humanity, did have a spirit, although I still believe that I Peter 3:18 is talking about the Holy Spirit.

The term “quickened” means “made alive,” although “resurrection” normally refers to a physical body.

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

I Peter 3:19

There has been much conjecture and dispute over the identity of these “spirits in prison.” I do not believe that they are lost sinners in hell. “Spirits” might mean some type of beings, but “souls” would be the way to refer to human beings.

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

I Peter 3:20

“Preached” in 3:19 is thought to be “proclamation” rather than “convincing” or “exhorting” as in “preaching the Gospel,” so it is possible that the spirits are fallen angels, perhaps the demons who influenced the “sons of God” into mating with the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6. Christ would not have “preached” salvation to lost sinners or to fallen angels, and the Bible does not say that Christ went to the place of everlasting torment we call hell, although many people mistakenly derive that idea from:

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

Acts 2:31

This verse is actually quoting David in Psalm 16:10, speaking of sheol, the realm of the dead.

Some commentators believe that Christ went to preach to the Old Testament saints in the afterlife (“Abraham’s Bosom”) between His death on the Cross and His Resurrection, but this is not likely. Most Scripture supports absence from the body as being present with the Lord for believers.

Unbelievers are separated from God after death, and their damnation is finally determined at that point, although they have not yet been finally judged and cast into the lake of fire.

To understand I Peter 3:20 it is crucial to look at the context.

For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

I Peter 3:17-18

The theme is “suffering.”

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.

Psalm 68:18

This verse is quoted in the New Testament also:

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:8

Christ made a public display of defeating Satan – a “triumph” is what the people in ancient Rome would have called it – but this public display is what we call the Crucifixion and the Ascension. It is not something that occurred during the the time when Jesus was in the grave – or wherever His Spirit was before His body was resurrected. I Peter 3:19 does say He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, but I think that is talking about His Spirit preaching through the obedience of Noah in the days of Noah. That is why Noah is brought up next.

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

I Peter 3:20

Elsewhere, the Holy Spirit had Peter call Noah a preacher of righteousness.

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

II Peter 2:4-5

The Holy Spirit – Christ’s Spirit – preached through the actions of Noah, preaching condemnation, but also righteousness, through Noah’s obedience.

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

I Peter 3:20-21

The same waters that condemned the world saved Noah, which is pictured in New Testament baptism. The same grave that tried to condemn Christ – and made it look like a victory for Satan – turned around and brought about Christ’s ultimate victory, as He used it to “preach” (“proclaim”) His authority and power over EVERYTHING having to do with sin: death, hell, the grave, principalities, powers, this world’s authorities, flesh, fallen angels, Satan.

Remember, we’re talking about suffering: the just suffering for the unjust. Christ could have beaten all His enemies without suffering, but He wanted to save the unjust: you and me.

The Determination, Demonstration, Distribution, and Designation of the Spiritual Gifts

October 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 8 Comments
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But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

I Corinthians 12:7

The spiritual gifts are demonstrated by their manifestation and display within the Body of Christ. This means that no Christian should feel left out or “giftless,” but it also means that you are depriving the Body of Christ of something that God wants it to have if you are neglecting to exercise your spiritual gift or gifts.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:8

The word of wisdom is the gift of being able to apply knowledge or truth to a situation and to discern a course of action. The word of knowledge was a gift of direct divine revelation. It was a truly supernatural gift, and arguably no longer available or needed since we have a closed cannon of Scripture.

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:9

Every true Christian has a gift of faith for salvation, but some Christians are able to believe the promises of God with a greater certainty, and to stand upon them in times of difficulty, hardship, or persecution in special ways. The gift of miraculous healing is not operational today in the way that it was during the time of the Apostles. If it were, then it should be put into practice at the nursing homes, pediatric cancer wards, and burn treatment centers, rather than only at the big event centers where money is being collected.

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

I Corinthians 12:10

The gift of miracles probably included healings, although it would have been more comprehensive. The gift of prophecy today would be a gift for the effective proclaiming of God’s Word, or what we could call preaching. The gift of discerning of spirits was an ability to spot false prophets and charlatans. The gift of divers kinds of tongues allowed certain believers to supernaturally speak in a language or languages not naturally known to the speaker. The gift of the interpretation of tongues was the ability to understand what was being said in other languages without prior knowledge.

These gifts do not comprise an exhaustive list, and they need to be discovered through practical service more than an analytical or a psychological test.

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

I Corinthians 12:11

The spiritual gifts are distributed among a body of believers according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

I Corinthians 12:12

The analogy of the human body is used to help us understand this distribution.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

I Corinthians 12:13-18

This reminds us that the Holy Spirit is also God, and perhaps God the Father has placed you into the part of the Body that He wants, and then the Holy Spirit determines which gift(s) you will need to function in that capacity. Just as there is diversity in a human body, there are a diversity of gifts in the Body of Christ, and certain members may need multiple gifts. A hand needs the gift of catching, but also the gifts of throwing, grasping and holding, and caressing. A person acting as the hand of the Body of Christ may not need a speaking gift, but he may need a discerning gift or a gift of mercy.

And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:19-21

The emphasis here is on the importance of working together. Otherwise, the gifts become things to brag about, or to fight with, rather than tools given for building.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.

I Corinthians 12:22-24

Everybody likes to look at pretty hair or an attractive face. We like to hear winsome words and see graceful movement. Nobody wants to see your pancreas, your lungs, or even your brain, but no one could reasonably assert that these “parts” are less important.

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

I Corinthians 12:25-26

A body at war with itself will die, or at least not function properly. It will limp along, and it will suffer. The body is an organism, not an organization, but an unorganized organism will die.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

Once again, the Holy Spirit stresses unity AND diversity.

What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts? How are they to be exercised? To what end?

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:28

The designation of the gifts is for the edification of the Church.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Therefore, it makes no sense to be bitter about someone else’s gift. If we do that, we are criticizing God, and, really, committing another form of idolatry – thinking we know better than Him.

Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

I Corinthians 12:29

The obvious answer to this is no.

Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

I Corinthians 12:30

Once again, the obvious answer is no, although this is very much overlooked by some Pentecostals and Charismatics who make speaking in tongues a test of salvation or a measuring stick for Holy Spirit-anointing.

Now another, even more important, factor is added to the equation of unity and diversity: maturity.

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

I Corinthians 12:31

Too many people assume that this means everyone should desire the more visible gifts, but the “best” gift for you is whichever gift(s) that God has chosen, in His perfect will, to give you. Covet what He wants you to have. He will give you the desire of your heart if your desire is to know and serve Him. The more excellent way is (as will be shown in I Corinthians Chapter 13) “charity” – agapeChristian love.

How the Knows are Gifted

August 31, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

I Corinthians 12:1

This, to me, is the unifying theme of I Corinthians: The Holy Spirit, through Paul, did not want the Corinthians Christians to be ignorant. He wanted them to be “Knows,” not “Know-Nots.” Their single most identifying negative mark, as a church, was their squabbling and factionalism. Their single most identifying positive mark was their richness in spiritual gifts.

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

I Corinthians 12:2

Here, “dumb” means unable to speak, rather than foolish. Formerly idol-worshipers – so deeply entrenched that they were still possibly weak in their consciences in this area – they had been miraculously delivered by divine revelation.

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I Corinthians 12:3

The Holy Spirit is identified as the Person of the Trinity that reveals to us that Jesus – despite His treatment as the vilest of criminals – is actually God incarnate.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:4

Among the Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the One Who delivers the spiritual gifts and determines who gets which ones. There is diversity AND unity.

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

I Corinthians 12:5

The gifts are given with the intent that they will be used to minister to the Lord Jesus. Again there is diversity AND unity.

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

I Corinthians 12:6

God the Father empowers the gifts so that His power is working in us as we use the gifts. Once again, we see the principle of diversity AND unity. The gifts are given by the living God in the Person of the Holy Spirit because of the victory and Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:3-8

When and How to Speak Up

October 20, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Knowing when to be quiet is an underappreciated Christian virtue. Teaching, preaching, counseling, audible prayer, even verbal praise – and especially evangelism – are the topics of frequent and numerous exhortations from the pulpit and from the Scriptures. However, the art of being quiet – perhaps even dividing our speech by as much as 50% from our accustomed habit – or at least making sure that our ears are working twice as hard as our tongue – is something that probably needs to be stressed more.

Still, this does does not mean that appropriate speaking is not also vitally important. So, in this lesson, I would like to identify some Bible principles that will help us know when – and how – to speak up.

And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Acts 8:34-35

Philip, not expecting this encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, could have been too surprised to speak. He could have held his peace and just assumed that, since the Holy Spirit had worked it out so that the Ethiopian was reading a scroll of Isaiah already, he would figure it out on his own. But he didn’t. He opened his mouth. He opened his mouth and preached. He opened his mouth and preached JESUS.

This leads us to the first principle about identifying the right time and way to speak up:

WHEN: When there is an opportunity
HOW: Christologically (about Jesus)

Isaiah Chapter 53 is about penal substitutionary atonement. You don’t need to know the words “penal substitionary atonement” to speak about the concept, but you definitely need to know the truths for which they stand. Speak up for Jesus. Speak up about Jesus. Speak up on the Person and work of Jesus.

Here is another occasion to speak up:

WHEN: When grace is needed
HOW: Seasoned with salt

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Colossians 4:6

Grace is needed wherever sin, failure, fault, pain, frustration, or hopelessness abound, because where sin abounds, grace does much more abound (Romans 5:20). However, for grace to be heard as grace (because it is being heard in a place of sin, frustration, hopelessness, or pain), it must first be seasoned, and it must be seasoned with salt.

Salt stings, but it cleanses. Salt flavors and it preserves. Salt creates thirst. Too little salt and your attempt at grace will be bland. Too much salt and your attempt at grace will taste terrible.

A third opportunity to properly speak up is:

WHEN: When it’s time to grow up
HOW: In love

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Ephesians 4:14

We have an obligation as part of a family of faith to help each other to grow spiritually. Only truth will help true growth. When my oldest daughter was about to enter junior high school, she decided that she wanted to be a cheerleader. We had enrolled her in gymnastics as a toddler, but, because she spent most of the classes practicing her speed-talking rather than her cartwheels, we decided the money could be better spent elsewhere. I love her dearly, but as she progressed through childhood, it became clear that physical agility and athleticism were not her strong points. To put it kindly, when she attempted any sort of athletic or rhythmic movement, she had the dexterity of a drunken hobo trying to serve tea in a rocking rowboat. So, as her parents, her mother and I had to speak the truth to her about her prospects of making the cheerleading team (not to mention the probability of embarrassment and injury). Hopefully, though, we did it in love.

As Christians, when it’s time to speak up in disagreement, we need to learn to disagree without being disagreeABLE. Love – true Christian love – must be without dissimulation, anyway (Romans 12:9).

Another time to speak up:

WHEN: When anger is warranted
HOW: Softly, after listening carefully

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

“Be slow to speak” is not the same as not speaking. Unrighteous anger can not always be ignored. At times it must be confronted, but fighting fire with fire only creates a bigger fire. When we have to confront anger with our speech, we need to try to defuse the bomb, not set it off.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Be quick to listen, and, when responding, use temperance: control your own temper.

Another instance of speaking up correctly:

WHEN: When people ask what you believe about God (and when people don’t ask)
HOW: With joy, enthusiasm, meekness, and fear

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

Psalm 107:2

Before you became a Christian, you were a prisoner. You were in bondage to sin, Satan, and death, and you had no hope of escape in or of yourself. Created by God to be His servant, you had been taken captive. However, there was a way that you could be set free – “redeemed” – bought back. You may have heard of the practice of “prisoner exchange.” One king or government will sometimes release many prisoners (or one very important prisoner) for the exchange of another king’s or government’s captive citizens. How many servants were you worth? Normally, if the king himself is taken captive, he is ransomed for a great price. But in your case the King Himself ransomed the unworthy servant, and He redeemed you with His own blood! He became your ransom! “He gave Himself a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). How can we NOT speak about this?

There is really never a wrong time to declare your redemption, but it is an especially good time when someone makes an inquiry.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

I Peter 3:15

Then you do it with joy and enthusiasm (because you can’t help it), and you do it with meekness and fear (beause it is not really “your” message). Remember, when someone asks you why you believe what you believe about Jesus, you are trying to win that person, not win an argument.

WHEN: When teaching or admonishment is needed
HOW: Wisely, spiritually, and with the Word of God

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16

The “Word of Christ” is more than just the red letters in your Bible. It is all of Scripture. We are supposed to allow it to “dwell” in us. Not just visit with us occasionally, but remain constantly. It needs to take up residence in our souls. It is impossible to have a high view of the supremacy of Christ and a low view of Scripture at the same time.

The Word of Christ is supposed to dwell in us richly, the way that rich food – filling food – nourishes us and satisfies us, but also “richly” in the sense of us mining the depths of the riches found in Scripture. We are to seek out the deepest meanings and principles in the Bible, and not be content with a “verse of the day” calendar entry.

Then we are to teach and admonish one another. Teaching is instruction and admonishing is correction when wrongdoing occurs. Because the family of God is diverse, we have different experiences and backgrounds from which we can learn from one another. Because the family of God is unified, we have a shared set of precepts and principles from which we can correct each other in love.

WHEN: When you want to do God’s will
HOW: Thankfully and submissively

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Ephesians 5:17-21

We want to know and to do God’s will in the general structure of our lives, and in dealing with specific questions concerning what God would have us to do when faced with problems or decisions. His Spirit does not lead us to act drunk. Drunks are loud, arrogant, and foolish. Spirit-led Christians are controlled, wise, and temperate.

All Christians should want to do God’s will. God’s will is worked in us in a general way as we teach and admonish one another. God’s specific will is worked in us as we experience the filling of the Holy Spirit, so we speak to one another when we see needs or opportunities for teaching or admonishing each other, but we speak to ourselves continually to make sure we are remembering to give thanks to the Lord and to submit to the Lord. In other words, we need to be speaking – really, preaching – the Gospel to our own souls. Our fear of the Lord is a natural reminder to submit ourselves to Him, and to keep ourselves submitted. Gratitude is naturally humbling and humility is naturally submissive. Talking to yourself is a sign of mental illness for the person who is not saved, but, for the Christian, speaking to yourself is communicating with the Holy Spirit Who fills us.

One more:

WHEN: As a regular part of everyday life
HOW: Diligently

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Deuteronomy 6:7

Communicating the truth of the Word of God from generation to generation requires both regularity and intentionality. Don’t compartmentalize your Christianity. There is no sacred/secular distinction in the Kingdom of God

In conclusion, there is life and death in the power of the tongue. We should use our tongue sparingly and judiciously, but there are times when, if we are to be faithful to Him Who called us, then use it we must.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Proverbs 18:21

betrayal through silence

Post-Flood Church Services

August 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, The Flood | 4 Comments
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It didn’t take long. The good feelings and perceived unity generated when people of various skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, and economic classes put their differences aside and came together to help each other survive and rebuild after a catastrophic flood, started eroding faster than the banks of the tributaries and bayous around the Amite River – beginning on the following Sunday morning.

It seems that some local churches, despite doing everything they could to help their church members (our first obligation) and neighbors, and despite devastation to their own buildings, managed to clean out enough debris, and to dry out the mold-producing moisture just enough, to have a worship service to thank the Lord for sparing us from what we truly deserved (greater damage and destruction) and to praise Him for Who He is.

Some of the complaints sounded like this:
“I can’t believe they are having a church service while people are hurting and need help!”
“People need their homes cleaned out, while these so-called ‘Christians’ are singing and praying!”
“Jesus would be helping people. He wouldn’t be attending church after a disaster!”

I will admit that the church I attend was one of the ones that did have a Sunday morning church service on the Sunday after the flood. We did not have one on the Sunday of the flood, because on that Sunday our church building was in the middle of a newly-formed lake roughly the size of our whole parish, and because our church building had several feet of water inside it! Before the flood waters had even finished rising our church members were out rescuing people and trying to help. Two of our pastors and our church secretary lost their homes and most of their possessions, along with about 75% of the residents in our parish, including many of our church members and families. Those of us who barely stayed dry began to provide shelter, food, and clothing, and began the time-consuming and costly process of debris removal and salvage for those without flood insurance. A huge percentage of the homes affected were in “non-flood” zones, and therefore did not have flood insurance. And, yes, many of us worked hard on our church building, too, since it is our ministry headquarters, and since we believe that, as good stewards of the property that God has given us to manage, we owe a duty to protect it so it can be used for future ministry – including the most important part of ministry: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also needed the property to be a staging area for the distribution of food, clothing, and other necessities.

That Sunday morning service was special. People with dire physical needs came and were helped. They also received comfort and were helped spiritually. For this we do not apologize.

Many of our church members went right back to work that same day, helping each other and others in our community. Anyone who would begrudge us ninety minutes of prayer, singing, preaching, and worship after one of the busiest and most traumatic weeks of our lives, has greatly misunderstood what the Bible teaches about the purpose of the Church.

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:10-12

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

As for this idea that, by trying to preserve our church building and by having a church service while others were working on their homes, we were doing what Jesus would not have done, let me remind you to be very careful playing the “WWJD” card that has become so fashionable in “Pop Christianity.” People tend to be very selective and biased in claiming to know what Jesus “would” do, when, in reality, we are far better off looking in the Bible and seeing what Jesus actually did do.

No offense, but the family who lost literally every worldly possession they had in the flood, but who live in 21st Century Livingston Parish, Louisiana, is still far better off than a Jewish family, under Roman occupation, in 1st Century Nazareth on their very best day. Yet:

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

Luke 2:43-36

He was “in the temple.” Not helping other families carry their belongings, not providing food and water. In the temple.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

Matthew 26:6-11

Jesus did not condemn those who gave their resources to be used in worshiping Him, even though there were always poor people who could be helped with material and physical needs.

People read about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and going about the countryside helping and miraculously feeding people, and they somehow get the idea that Jesus would be opposed to church attendance, but:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Matthew 4:23

Jesus did both. He attended worship services and He ministered throughout the land. Do you think there were people who were not hungry, who did not need help, while He was teaching and preaching? Of course there were! It is a peculiar brand of legalism which condemns Christians for focusing on church when a disaster strikes, but gives the critics a pass when things are normal. If you are tempted to criticize our church for having worship services during a flood recovery effort, you also need to be just as hard on yourself for preparing for a Spartan race or taking a family vacation while there are homeless people living under bridges in Baton Rouge and beggars on every street corner in New Orleans. Self-righteous hypocrisy can cut both ways, can’t it? I would not condemn those who skipped church that Sunday morning, under these exceptional circumstances, so they could bless people in need, but neither would I criticize those who assembled to worship.

Finally, as our pastor pointed out on that first Sunday morning after the flood, we do have something of a Biblical precedent. Noah, upon exiting the ark with his family and the surviving animals – before he began rebuilding and even before they began repopulating – made a point of stopping to worship:

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:18-21

This Is Going to Hurt Me More than It’s Going to Hurt You

June 14, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Hebrews | 3 Comments
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Chastening is sometimes referred to as punishment, but since it really has a goal of correction, rehabilitation, and restoration, it would probably be better thought of as discipline rather than punishment. Strictly speaking, a criminal sentenced to prison has not been chastened; he has been punished to pay a price for doing wrong regardless of whether he mends his ways. However, punishment may turn out to be chastening, depending on the response of the person being punished. Punishment has to do with the goal of the punisher, although it may be transformed into chastisement in the mind of the one being punished. Chastisement has to do with the goal of the chastiser and the response of the one being chastised. It is very important to understand this distinction. When I chastise my children, they can respond in one of two ways: (1) with bitterness and a determination not to be broken; or (2) with a contrite heart and willing obedience. Can there be joy in chastening? Not during – it’s grievous for both parties while it’s going on.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Hebrews 12:11

The oft-parodied parental expression from the parent about to administer a spanking to his child is, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you,” and, although the child would beg to differ, it is true that it does hurt a loving parent to chastise his child with corporal discipline. But think how much more it must hurt our loving God!

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

Grief is worse than sadness or mourning. Grief is a painful regret mixed with indignation and sorrow. It’s an amazing thing that I can grieve the Holy Spirit – I ought to strive not to do it – but, when I’m chastened, I must respond to it the right way, and grow and profit from it. If I don’t, I will be guilty of spurning the Word of God and making the chastening a root of bitterness. It’s bad enough to have a root of bitterness springing up between believers, but the devil wants a root of bitterness to spring up between me and God. When I am tending the garden of my heart, it’s not enough to love flowers – to love the spiritual fruit I should be bearing. I must also hate weeds, and be constantly digging up the roots of bitterness.

The Bible calls the tool that you use to discipline your children “the rod of correction.” We sometimes call it a “paddle,” and there is another spiritual (albeit embarrassing) lesson in the Bible about the “paddle.”

And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:

Deuteronomy 23:13

Most translations say “equipment” or “spade” or “implement,” but the King James Version calls it a “paddle.” The paddle in this verse is for burying – outside the camp – that which would defile and make unclean a camp of God’s people. That’s what we need to do with bitterness – deal with it – go outside the camp and bury it – not bring it in among the family of God.

In the Christian race, we are to look diligently.

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Hebrews 12:15

We are to look diligently for a root of bitterness, because such a root will hinder our relationship with God, and because, by it, many will be defiled. If we don’t look where we’re running, we might step in something and track it into the house of another believer, or worse, into the house of the Lord – the local church – and cause a big stink.

All Dressed up and Nowhere to Go

February 26, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | 2 Comments
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Most Christians, if they have been serious about their Bible study, are familiar with the armor of God. There is a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, a shield of faith, etc. There are also shoes:

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Ephesians 6:15

It sure sounds like we’re getting all dressed up and ready to go somewhere, but the Bible actually tells us that we’re getting dressed up not to go somewhere, but to stand.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

Ephesians 6:10-14

The Christian life is a walk.

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

Ephesians 4:1

It pleases God when we walk with Him.

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

Genesis 5:24

That’s what we must remember. We’re not walking to GET TO God. We’re walking WITH God – and growing as we walk. Enoch drew nigh unto God by walking with Him. As Christians, we need to be on the move, but we need to be more concerned with being WHO God wants us to be, than we are with being WHERE God wants us to be.

God’s Dispositive Will

June 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 8 Comments
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A third broad category of thought about the will of God is called the dispositive will, or the will of disposition. Your “disposition” is how you are inclined to feel about something. It does not necessarily dictate that you will act in accordance with your feelings, but it can certainly influence your actions. It can be helpful to think of it as God’s “emotive” will because we know that God does have emotions. His emotions are holy and perfectly controlled, but if we ascribe human emotions to Him for the purpose of being able to discuss His character and actions (and the Bible does this) it is called anthropopathism.

The Bible does not always let us in on God’s inclination or disposition about certain matters, but sometimes it does. For example:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

II Peter 3:9

What does this tell us about God? It does not reveal His decretive will because obviously many are going to perish despite the fact that He is not “willing” that any should perish.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

Nor is II Peter 3:9 dealing expressly with God’s preceptive will, because, although He does command everyone to be saved, this is talking about His desire rather than a command. What it is revealing is God’s dispositive will – His inclination or His feelings about those who reject Christ, regardless of how they wound up in that condition.

Another example of the Bible describing God’s will in dispositive terms is:

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

Ezekiel 18:23

This verse is speaking about earthly, temporal life, not eternal life, and it asks a rhetorical question, so the answer should be clear.

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33:11

The Lord could force the wicked to turn from their ways, and His disposition is inclined toward delighting in repentance, but He does not always do so. In fact, the punishment of the wicked conversely satisfies His justice, wrath, and holiness, but it gives Him no predispositional or emotional delight, and – emphatically and obviously – no sinful delight.

Here is another example:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:29-30

These verses express God’s will in the preceptive sense because they command us not to do certain things, but they also give us insight into the dispositive sense of His will because they tell us He can be grieved (a combination of sadness and anger). Am I really powerful enough to grieve the Spirit of God? My “power” is not really the issue, but my sin and rebellion certainly do affect our loving and caring God, and He responds with love and what seems in our finite human understanding to be a “hurt” response, although He keeps His promise to eternally seal us, despite our sin.

Neither the apparent conflicts between these operations of God’s will (preceptive, decretive, dispostive), nor the recognition of their complementarity, can be explained away by appeals to the “free will” of man, because God is still omniscient and omnipotent and omnipresent and omnibenevolent, which leads us to consideration of God’s secret, or hidden, will, which we will look at next time.

Your Vocation

June 2, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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If you work at a “secular” job (as opposed to a paid ministry position), let me offer you a suggestion: Consider thinking about your job as not just a job, not just an occupation, not just a position, or a career, or even a profession. Consider thinking of it as your “vocation.”

What do I mean by that? I mean that “vocation” is a word derived from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call,” and from which we get words like “vocal” and “vocabulary” and even “voice.” The idea is that, in a spiritual sense, as a Christian, you are to do what God has “called” you to do.

1. Your vocation is real.

The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle in Ephesians 4:1 and wrote: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called…” It is very important that you do not compartmentalize your spiritual convictions away from the rest of your life, including your job.

Most secular jobs are difficult. They involve situations where problems are encountered on a regular basis, and if they were problems with easy solutions, chances are, you and your job would not be necessary to deal with them. A recognition that your calling is from God will give you determination and purpose in dealing with problems. It will also remind you to seek God’s help in dealing with these problems.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

II Timothy 1:8-9 (emphasis added)

The first calling you ever received as a Christian was the calling to become a Christian, and it is no surprise to God that you are on the career path where you now find yourself. He has a gracious purpose in mind, just as much as if you had been called to some official religious office. In the Kingdom of God that you are a part of if you are truly a Christian, there is no “sacred” and “secular” for you! Your briefcase, your hardhat, your pens and calendar, your suit, coat, tie, or coveralls are sacred because they are used in your vocation.

2. Your vocation is relevant.

There is a great need for Christians in whatever field you are employed, but that need does not exist because the problems of this world have become too big for God, nor does he need your help sorting them out. However, He chooses to glorify Himself by expressing His attributes in a fallen world.

None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

Isaiah 59:4

The types of problems which Isaiah is describing are right in there with things like shedding innocent blood and oppression of the weak and poor, and all sorts of lying and deceitfulness – the things which God abhors and which provoke His wrath. Prophetically, Isaiah 59 speaks to the days in which we live just as much as it did to the people of Israel during Old Testament times. The entanglements and problems that you will see among your co-workers, customers, or clients are not the products of innocent happenstance. When you go to work, you are going into a dark, hostile environment, like it or not.

Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.

Isaiah 59:9

This is possibly what Jesus had in mind when He said that His followers were to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Our world does not need any more darkness. It needs salt and light, and I’m asking you to consider the possibility that God Himself has called you with a real divine calling to be that salt and that light in a place and at a time where it is very relevant and needed: on your job.

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