When and How to Speak Up

October 20, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 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 about 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

Post-Flood Church Services

August 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, The Flood | 3 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 | 1 Comment
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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 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 | 1 Comment
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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 | 1 Comment
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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 – emphatcially 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 Uncategorized | 3 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.

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 1)

November 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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The Bible has much to say about friends, and friendship is encouraged in Scripture, but choosing the wrong friend can be dangerous.

But Amnon had a friend, whose name [was] Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab [was] a very subtil man.

II Samuel 13:3 (emphasis added)

Christians are supposed to have friends and we are supposed to be friends. Did you know there is a difference between being friends with someone and being a friend to someone?

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

II Corinthians 6:14

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James 4:4

As Christians, we are not supposed to get involved in the sinful activities of non-Christians, which means you really shouldn’t be friends with non-Christians, but you definitely should be a friend to all sorts of non-Christians. Therefore, we serve and love them, but we shouldn’t compromise our stand for Jesus, and we should make sure they know that our loyalty to Christ comes before our loyalty to them. So, if a lost person falls down, you help him up – that’s being a friend to him; but if he fell down because he was doing something wrong, you don’t start doing it too, because that would make you friends with him.

Let’s look at what it takes to be friends with another Christian.

F.orgiving

One of the most important things to remember about being a Christian is that you are a forgiven sinner. You can’t be a Christian without acknowledging your sinfulness. Therefore, when two Christians are friends, that means two sinners have become friends. And sinners sometimes sin against each other. Friends make mistakes, they hurt each other’s feelings, they say the wrong thing, they let each other down sometimes. But if they are truly friends they respond to the sin of their friend the way that Jesus responds to our sins.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

If your friend is a Christian, then that means God punished Jesus on the Cross for what your friend has done wrong to you. Would it be right for you to punish your friend for something for which God has already punished Jesus? No. Be a good friend. Be forgiving. Be gracious. Be merciful.

R.esponsive

Being a good friend doesn’t mean you always do what your friend wants you to do, but it does mean that you respond when your friend has a real need.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Luke 11:5-8

A good friend listens; he doesn’t just wait for his turn to talk. Even though listening is important, “doing” is usually the most significant part of service in Christian friendship, but not just “doing something.” They key is in doing what’s right for your friend in each situation – which means listening closely when your friend has something to say. Anybody can talk; it takes skill and patience to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth – some of us need to take the hint.

I.nsightful

A good friend is someone who gives good advice. That means he evaluates what’s going on, and then finds out what the Bible has to say about something before he just blurts out whatever comes to mind.

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so [doth] the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Things that smell good are attractive – and they make people happy. The insight of a friend is the same way. “Hearty counsel” means insight or advice that turns out to be right. A good friend will pray about it, seek God’s will about it, look in the Bible, talk to someone wise about it, then carefully give good counsel. A bad friend says let’s just do the first thing that seems right, or let’s just do what everyone else does in this situation.

You can probably tell by now that I’m using an acrostic – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. – to list some qualifications of Christian friendship. Next time, we will look at the E.N.D.S.

Don’t Grieve the Holy Spirit

April 25, 2013 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

Redemption occurs when a person is brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. It may also refer to the physical redemption of the body from the slavery of death which will one day happen to all born-again believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. Redemption is a work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is God. God is three Persons in one – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, because He is sometimes incorrectly thought of as a force or a mystical power. If you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, then you have been indwelled with the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to travel to Florida or Texas or Canada to some “outpouring” event to find Him or to chase Him down.

The guaranteed indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for true New Testament Christians is different from the way the Spirit was sometimes given to people in the Old Testament.

And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.

Numbers 11:25 (emphasis added)

And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

Numbers 11:29 (emphasis added)

The Holy Spirit has many functions. He teaches us the Word. The Bible doesn’t make sense to a person who is not truly a Christian in the same way it does to a true Christian. All sorts of signals and programs are being broadcast through the room you are in right now, but you are not perceiving any of them unless you have the right kind of antenna or receiver. This is an illustration of the way the Holy Spirit illumines Scripture for believers.

The Holy Spirit also convicts us of sin. This is for the purpose of bringing the non-Christian to the point where he realizes he needs a Savior, and for the purpose of aiding Christians in their sanctification.

The Holy Spirit also produces spiritual fruit in the lives of believers.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

The Holy Ghost is the Comforter, and He brings inward peace to believers. He does not cause Christians to thrash around and throw a fit, the way you will sometimes see people doing on religious television or in certain Pentecostal or Charismatic churches.

Another function of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to live for God, and to do the work of God.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:38-42 (emphasis added)

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:31 (emphasis added)

Ephesians 4:30 tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never leave a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation, but disobedience, fornication, hurting others who we are supposed to be loving and helping, entertaining sinful thoughts and desires – all these and more can and do grieve the Spirit. We would be far better off surrendering to Him and allowing Him to have His way as He leads us to follow Christ and to obey the Bible.

What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

The Lord’s Love Song

April 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Thank you, Lord, for loving us. For teaching us that love is more than just a feeling or an emotion. It’s an action – an opportunity to obey You and to show what we believe by how we treat each other. In Christ’s name. Amen.

The Holy Spirit used the human instrument, King Solomon, to write the book of the Bible we know as Song of Solomon. There is much debate, disagreement, and doubt about its true meaning. Some feel that it is a poem which is a metaphor for God’s love for Israel and/or Christ’s love for His church. Others believe that it is a song written by Solomon to a Shulamite woman. Perhaps it is simply an ode to the love between a husband and a wife. I will confess that I happen to think that it is all three of those and much more.

Certainly, much of its language is symbolic, but some of it is surprisingly straightforward. One funny incident that comes to mind concerning the Song of Solomon happened early in my marriage when my wife and I were students in a Sunday School class of young married couples. We were using one of our church’s classrooms for a fellowship activity on a Friday evening. Our teacher planned a game similar to Pictionary, with the husbands on one team and the wives on the other. The ladies would choose a Bible verse and give it to one of the husbands, who would have to “draw the verse” on the chalkboard without using words or numbers, while the other men had to guess the Scripture reference. At one point, the ladies chose Song of Solomon 8:8. Maybe you can imagine the hilarity that ensued as one highly embarrassed husband had to draw this verse in front of the whole group!

The romantic language of pastoral Hebrew culture in King Solomon’s day can seem humorous to us. When is the last time you compared your spouse’s teeth to sheep?

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Song of Solomon 4:2

When you read Song of Solomon, it is important to remember that there are different voices or different characters speaking different parts, often within the same passages. Let’s briefly examine three main ideas from the book.

1. The importance of expressing love verbally

It is a good thing to tell your spouse, “I love you.” When I was first married, I was told by several older gentlemen that the most important phrase I would need to use in order to have a long and happy marriage was, “Yes, dear,” but I have found, “I love you,” to be more edifying, assuring, and helpful. However, even the phrase, “I love you,” tends to show a limited imagination after a while. Song of Solomon reminds us to be creative and imaginative in our verbal expression of love for our spouses.

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.

Song of Solomon 1:15

Compliments need to be true expressions of love, not flattery. It’s one thing to say that my wife has “beautiful” eyes (she does!), but doves’ eyes are more than attractive – they promote a feeling of peace. Tell your spouse you like the way he or she looks, but also tell him or her that you appreciate the work he or she does for the Lord.

Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.

Song of Solomon 1:16

This might be referring to the place where the couple first met. It is important to “make memories” with your spouse, and then later to spend time reminiscing about those experiences.

Love is demonstrated more by action than words, but the Bible teaches us that it definitely needs to be expressed verbally as well. You’ve probably heard the old saw about the man who boasted concerning his wife, “I told her I loved her 25 year ago. If I change my mind I’ll let her know!” That won’t cut it if we’re trying to accurately represent the love of Christ. If you love the Lord in your heart, He certainly knows it. But He also wants us to verbalize it.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:9-10 (emphasis added)

2. Physical love (sexual intimacy) is for the marriage relationship exclusively.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

Song of Solomon 2:7

That verse sounds to me like a kind and loving wife’s admonition to her friends to “keep it down!” To let her hubby “sleep in.” But the majority of Bible commentators believe that the “daughters of Jerusalem” are the young women who are not yet married. The bride in the Song is telling them to wait until marriage to become sexually active. That certainly lines up with the rest of Scripture. God’s plan for physical intimacy is that it be limited to the marriage bed. God ordained from the beginning that a husband and wife would be “one flesh” – that they would be joined together by God in a marriage relationship first – and then physical intimacy would come afterward. Fornication and adultery are condemned throughout Scripture. Take some time and pray for the children and the young unmarried people that you know – that they would remain sexually pure. Sometimes we are mighty prayer warriors when it comes to their salvation, but we are guilty of a sneaking suspicion that there is no way that they will actually be able to wait until marriage in a world where virtually “everyone does it.”

Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 6:1-3

These women of the chorus wanted to go down with the bride to spend time with her husband, but she said, “No, he is mine, and I am his.” The marriage relationship is an exclusive relationship. It is a gift from God, and it is to be guarded. If you are reading this and you are married, respect it. If you are reading this and you are not in a marriage, respect everyone else’s!

Lack of trust is generally a negative thing among spouses, but “jealousy” is not always bad. Remember, in the prophets (such as Hosea, Isaiah, and Ezekiel), those who belonged to God, and then “cheated” on Him, were called adulterers, harlots, and whores.

3. The endurance of love

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

A “seal” in the Bible represents something that’s permanent.

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

Ephesians 4:30

Monarchs in antiquity wore “signet rings” which were supposed to make an indelible impression. I hope you see your wedding ring as symbol of permanent love and faithfulness. Aren’t you glad that God’s love isn’t as fickle as ours? God says when you commit to love someone – your wife, your husband, your friend, even your neighbor – make up your mind to show that love even when the person isn’t acting lovely, and even when you don’t feel like showing love. “Contemned” in Song of Solomon 8:7 means “held in contempt.” When you place things in a relative perspective, I hope you are placing the highest value on the people you love rather than “things.” All the wealth in the world would be despised if it was offered in exchange for your salvation. A truly saved person wouldn’t break off his relationship with God, through Christ, for any amount of money in the world, even if such a thing were possible.

Thank You, Lord, for those in our lives that we love – and those that love us. Thank You that you are a God of love – that You are love personified. Help our love to leave the stage of feeling and emotion, but to become active. Help us to be people that show love – and make us conscious of opportunities to show love to others. In the Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Narrative)

January 11, 2013 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 6 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Man Who Fell Out of Church

God’s people were being called outcasts.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

One of the promises God made to the people of Israel was that one day their “congregation” would be established: their organized meetings for worship, and the business of church government.

Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

Jeremiah 30:20

They were a people who had been punished, persecuted, and enslaved. They had become addicted to sin, and they had fallen out of the habit of going to church – of meeting together in a congregation. You may know someone right now who has gotten out of the habit of going to church, or you may be tottering on the edge of faithful church attendance yourself, about to fall out of church. You may have gone through a period in your life when you did in fact “fall out of church.”

In Acts Chapter 20 we find the true historical account of a meeting of the early church.

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:7

These events occurred a place called Troas. The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He was trying to make it there for the celebration of Pentecost, and it was a very important missionary journey. He was planning to depart on the “morrow” – the next day – and this was the last time he was going to see these friends – these fellow-servants of Jesus. There were things he had to tell them.

They met together on the first day of the week – “the Lord’s Day” – which was their custom, although certainly Sundays were not the only days they met, worshiped, or ministered.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Colossians 2:16

Acts 20:7 says they broke bread – which probably means they observed the Lord’s Supper – and had fellowship. Then the Apostle Paul preached until midnight. I have been in some long church services, but preaching until midnight..?! Paul knew he was going to be leaving, and he had a lot to say.

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

Acts 20:8-9

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/firespeakseutychus.jpg?w=291

A young man named Eutychus came to church to hear the Apostle Paul preach. They were meeting up on the third floor of a building, and he sat in the window, fell asleep, fell out of the window, and died! Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit put some stories in the Bible for a a little comic relief? Like Balaam’s talking donkey or Samson tying together the tails of 300 foxes, we can’t help but laugh even though something serious is happening. Even funnier is the meaning of Eutychus’s name: “Eutychus” meant “fortunate” or lucky.”

I have heard this passage of Scripture preached on before in church, and the theme was the folly of falling asleep in church, but I don’t think we should be too hard on Eutychus. First of all it was late. There is a good chance that Eutychus was a slave or a servant, and he would have been tired from working all day. That may even be the reason why this meeting took place at night – the first Christians were not able to skip work on Sundays like many of us can. Eutychus did make it to church. Additionally, if the weather was warm, it would have been very stuffy up there in the third loft. It’s not like they could turn on the A.C. Furthermore, verse 8 says there were many lights burning in the upper chamber, which would have produced fumes, and would have burned up much of the oxygen. Have you ever tried to stay awake and alert in an extremely stuffy room? This may be why Eutychus was sitting by the window, but, if so, it certainly backfired on him! So, for whatever reason, Eutychus ended up being “the man who fell out of church” – literally.

It is very important for Christians to attend church faithfully, and to be involved in church ministry activities. God doesn’t “need” me at church – but He knows I need to be there. The Church is the body of Christ. As Christians, we are the body and He is the head. It is incongruous for someone to love the Head, but hate the body. The Church is also the bride of Christ, and, likewise, it makes little sense to love a person, but hate that person’s spouse. When you become a Christian you become part of the capital “C” Church – the universal Church consisting of all born-again believers everywhere – but it is crucial for you to be a part of a local body of believers, too.

The main purpose of the local church is the edification of the saints.

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: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 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: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

The Lord uses the local church to help believers to grow and to get stronger. If you are trying to decide on a local church to join right now, pray about it. Search the Scriptures. Listen to the Holy Spirit. God wants you to be attending and serving somewhere.

Next time, we will look at some of the dangers and consequences of falling out of church.

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