The Trouble with Treasure

June 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There is a sense in which great wealth is thought to bring a certain amount of worldly freedom. The rich man, not saddled down with the need to work, can travel. If he finds himself inconvenienced, he can purchase some modern contraption to make things easier. He may not feel the stress of wondering whether he will be able to eat or whether he will have a place to live. Or so goes the “common sense” wisdom of our age.

The Bible has a different view:

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Proverbs 15:16

“Better” can be a subjective description, but, when we see it in the Bible, we understand that what is being revealed is an objective, absolute, literal “better.” A person who has a righteous and blessed fear of the Lord will find His contentment, peace, and fulfillment in the Lord Himself, and not in earthly treasure, which, although it promises freedom, can in reality only provide a “limited freedom” (an oxymoron). Since the Lord Himself is of unlimited value and worth, we might say that “a little of the Lord” is far better than the “great” trouble that can accompany great treasure.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

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The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence

April 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
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What a great relief it must have been to hear that God would re-write His covenant laws on tables of stone. Moses obeyed God and took two blank slabs up Mt. Sinai. Then God descended and proclaimed His name and His attributes.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:5-7

Do you hear the ominous note in Verse 7? “By no means clear the guilty.” Can you sense the tension and paradox between that and “forgiving iniquity [our sinful condition] and transgression [intentional sin] and sin [the most general category encompassing everything worthy of judgment and death]?”

Moses did not argue or debate:

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Exodus 34:8

He worshiped. God is not a problem to be solved. He is a Person to be worshiped.

Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Exodus 34:12-16

He told them that, when they got to the promised land, they must destroy the wicked people of the land, or else the wicked people of the land would corrupt them.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

Exodus 34:27

Again, this must have been a huge relief for Moses – that God was renewing or reconfirming His covenant with the people and reassuring them that He would be with them.

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

Exodus 34:28-30

Moses’s face radiated in a way that was visible to those who saw him, but that he himself could not feel. This was a sort of foreshadowing of the great evidence of God’s presence with us in Christ. It makes us humble, yet it should impress and even convict others when God’s glory shines in our life. In Moses’s case, it was literally visible, though, and it terrified the people. They could not honestly question the fact of Moses’s appointment by God as their earthly leader while his face resembled a miniature version of the glory cloud of flashing stormy light they had previously seen on Mt. Sinai. He had to cover his face with a veil so that they could stand to be near him.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.

Exodus 34:33

The Beauty of Holiness

February 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I know I’ll probably get called old-fashioned or even legalistic, but I do think Christians ought to consider what type of clothing is appropriate for a church service at the local Christian church to which they belong. Obviously, we know that we place a high importance on what we wear to “special occasions” or to meet earthly dignitaries, so it only makes sense when we are going to formally “meet with God,” or, better, to corporately worship Him while meeting with His people.

Having said that, though, as we worship, we need to place an even greater consideration on how God Himself is “attired.”

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

Psalm 96:9

We tend to think of “beauty” as something which attracts us, and, certainly, the Lord God is the God of beauty, and beauty is itself one of His immutable attributes. However, notice that His beauty is a beauty of “holiness.” It is a singular beauty, a one-of-a-kind, a unique beauty. There is, truly, none like Him. Even as His beauty attracts us, it is so foreign to us – so alien – so severe – that it forces us to bow down as we worship. It forces us, if we are rightly considering His majesty, supremacy, and might, to tremble with a reverent fear.

Has something gone missing from your worship? Perhaps you have never, in a worship service, felt the fear of the Lord in the first place. Let me encourage you to recover a sense of awe in the holiness of God. Formal worship is not a time for relaxation and calm introspection. It is a time when we, by His grace, challenge ourselves to receive by faith the love of God Whose unmediated brilliance and beauty would obliterate those who would approach Him frivolously.

Beware the Fear that Falls

February 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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After Jesus was Resurrected He stayed on the earth for 40 days, then ascended into Heaven. Next came the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit appeard and indwelled the believers who waited in the upper room. This was the beginning of a new era, in which all who believed on Christ unto salvation would receive the Holy Spirit. It was also the beginning of the time during which the New Testament was written – as the same Spirit inspired Apostles and prophets to reveal God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

It was an exciting time, and new Christians were very enthusiastic about financially supporting the work of getting the Gospel message spread throughout the world. However, whenever there is opportunity for ministry, there is also opportunity for recognition, and the desire for recognition can be a dangerous thing.

A married couple named Ananias (the husband) and Sapphira (the wife), wanted to show that they were willing to sacrifice for the work of the ministry, so they sold some land they owned, and brought the money from the sale, laying it openly at the Apostles’ feet. This sounds spiritual and inspiring, but the problem was that Satan influenced them to lie about what they were doing. They pretended to turn over the total amount of money they received from the sale of the land, but they secretly kept a portion of it for themselves.

The result for both of them, beginning with Ananias, was disastrous. Peter found out the truth and rightfully accused him of lying to the Holy Ghost and to God.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

Acts 5:5

The Bible says that Ananias “fell,” and he did. He physically fell down dead. But his spiritual fall had come earlier, when he decided to try to deceive God and His people. In order to impress upon the early Christian believers how important it would be that the Gospel ministry be handled with honesty and forthrightness among them, the Holy Spirit caused “great fear” to come upon everyone who found out about Ananias’s fate.

We need to remember this principle as Christians even 2000 years later. A desire to exalt ourselves above our fellow Christians and to proudly make ourselves seem extraordinarily spiritual could very well result in a great (possibly embarrassing, possibly humiliating, possibly even deadly) fall. God is a loving Father, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and the Lord Jesus is a caring Shepherd and Friend, but the Triune God is not to be trifled with. A healthy fear and respect of His omniscience and power over life and death will remind us that our outward actions are never to be hypocritically severed from our inward motives.

Beware Falling Formations

November 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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In ancient times mountains were both landmarks and symbols of religious significance. Because of their majesty and immensity they were thought of as timeless. As monuments which extended toward the heavens, they were thought of as potential meeting-places between God and man. In fact, God did meet with Moses the Law-giver on Mount Sinai, and the people cowered in fear when they saw it smoking.

That incident was later used as imagery in the song of Deborah and Barak after the defeat of Jabin, the king of Canaan.

The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.

Judges 5:5

This is a good reminder to us when we think about the power and danger that may be exhibited when the Lord takes action. For some of us, it is easy to look at the “mountains” in our lives: our jobs, our families, our friends, our government, our intelligence, and our health, and to believe that these things will always be there for us – as constant as a mountain range on the horizon. However, there is nothing in our lives that will stand before the power of the Lord if He decides to move against it.

https://i1.wp.com/extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site36/2010/0309/20100309_014707_cd09rockslide2.jpg

Those who live at the foot of great mountains know the danger of rockslides, and those who worship at the feet of the Almighty God need to remember to reverence Him constantly.

Beware False Finger-Pointing

July 31, 2013 at 11:18 am | Posted in Exodus, The Fives | 1 Comment
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The Hebrews in Egypt had been enslaved and forced into strenuous labor. But their population – under the blessings of God – had increased exponentially. Pharoah’s motivation for keeping them so busy was probably twofold: (1) They were an extremely cheap but productive labor force, and Egypt’s building program was flourishing; (2) People who are exhausted from working tend to have little time to organize, or to even think about insurrection, escape, freedom, or reform. When Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh and informed him that God was demanding a three-day sojourn into the wilderness for sacrificing, feasting, and worshiping, Pharaoh’s response was hostile and accusatory:

And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.

Exodus 5:5

Pharaoh did not want the Hebrews to stop, slow down, or take a break. He laid the blame for an alleged decrease in production at the feet of Moses and Aaron. The fact is, however, that Moses and Aaron had orders from a higher authority.

And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.

Exodus 5:3

When we, as Christians, resolve to fear and obey God in this present world, we will face opposition, persecution, and undue blame. This can be uncomfortable to say the least. Few of us enjoy being blamed, condemned, or judged for stating – or living out – what we believe. When someone points the finger of blame at you for your faith, do not point your finger back at them (nor at some handy or hapless third party). Instead, point upward to God. The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom.

Not Afraid of the Dark

December 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Selected Psalms | 3 Comments
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Psalm 112 is a post-exilic Psalm. The Psalms are not, as a rule, “in order,” although there are some exceptions where one Psalm will refer to the next.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Psalm 111:10

Psalm 111 progressively tells us to remember Who we’re dealing with here, so Psalm 111:10 is an admonition, and the blessings of heeding that admonition – the blessings of obedience – are found in Psalm 112.

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

Psalm 112:1

Psalm 112 is also in the form of an acrostic. I have to admit that I am a fan of acrostics myself: S.W.I.M.D.O.C.T.O.R.N.E.I.G.H.B.O.R.A.D.V.I.C.E.P.A.T.C.H. A good acrostic is not merely clever. It is something that helps our memory. Each line in Psalm 112 begins with a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

Psalm 112 is also a good encouragement to have a Godly home. As you can imagine, the emphasis is on the man of the house. At first glance it looks like it is all about health, wealth, success, prosperity, and happiness. I’m surprised it’s not a big hit on TBN, but I suppose the view that “faith” means not having any problems would have to be rejected based on the following verses:

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Psalm 112:4-5 (emphasis added)

Darkness and discretion are two key realities – even for the “upright.” Being right with God is not about never going through trials and difficulties, but in them God in His grace and compassion sends us caution and vigilance so that we might glorify Him.

He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.

Psalm 112:7-8

Notice that this passage does not say that those who are favored by God will not hear any evil tidings. It says they will not be afraid of evil tidings. Note that it does not say that he will not be afraid because he doesn’t have any enemies. It says he will not be afraid because his heart is fixed, trusting the Lord. What’s your desire upon your earthly enemies? To see them destroyed? (Old Testament) Or to see them saved? (New Testament)

The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Psalm 112:10

If you’ve ever had your enemy gnash his teeth at you (or on you – like Stephen), that can be scary, but God says not to melt away – because ultimately He will see to it that they melt away. The wicked shall perish, so let’s pray that God makes the wicked righteous so they won’t have to perish. That’s what He did for me!

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

Psalm 112:1

We cultivate fear of the Lord, and defeat fear of problems, by getting to know the Lord more and more. We draw closer and closer. When I draw close to God, I bless my family and my generation.

His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.

Psalm 112:2

Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Psalm 112:3-5

When God blesses us financially, He blesses us to be a blessing to others. To use a simple plumbing analogy, we are more like the faucet than the bathtub. If you start thinking of yourself as a bathtub and start to pool up your own blessings, God might very well cut off the water supply.

Light Gives Safety

September 12, 2011 at 9:53 am | Posted in Biblical Light, Selected Psalms | 5 Comments
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It is a pretty well-accepted truth that most children are afraid of the dark. What’s more, this fear is not always as baseless as we like to claim. Darkness can provide cover for many dangerous things. Light gives safety because it informs us of what sort of environment we are in, and what sorts of things or creatures are occupying that environment with us. Light tells us what our true condition is.

[A Psalm of David.] The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1.

People are afraid of the dark because we fear the unknown. Knowing God brings light and security when we trust Him. If you know and fear God, you need not fear anything else. If you do not know and fear God, you should fear everything else.

Calling Witnesses (Part 1)

March 2, 2011 at 10:16 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation | 8 Comments
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One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

Deuteronomy 19:15

Lord, the testimony of Your Word is so plain, so clear. I pray that Your Spirit would make it even clearer as we read it. I pray that no one would be confused. I pray, Lord, that You would present us with the clear choice You always have: to reject You or trust You. To doubt or believe. To obey or rebel. I pray that even the rejecters, and the doubters, and the rebels would have a clear understanding, but, by Your power and Your divine will, I pray that all would repent, believe, trust, and obey. In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.

And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.

Mark 14:55-65

Witnesses can be unpredictable. Generally, the testimony of many is more convincing than the testimony of one. I have seen instances where a parade of witnesses – all expected to testify for someone – actually ended up testifying against that person. You might be reading this as someone who has heard the testimony of at least one witness who has testified before you of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone, at some time, has told you that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God; that He lived a perfect, sinless life; that He died on the Cross for the sins of the world; that He was buried; that on the third day He rose again from the dead; that He was seen by hundreds of witnesses – physically, bodily resurrected; that He ascended to Heaven; that He lives today, ready, willing, and able to save the souls of all who trust Him; that – even today – even RIGHT NOW – if you will repent of your sins, believe these things about Him are true, call upon Him to save you, and receive Him as your Savior – He will place His seal on your eternal soul, He will be your Lord and Savior, and you will one day go to Heaven, to be with Him forever.

Maybe you have heard these things from at least one witness, but yet you remain unconvinced. When I ask you if you know for sure that you will go to Heaven one day, your answer is:

“I hope so.”
“It depends.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Nobody can know that.”
“If others in my church are going, I’m with them, because I’ve done what they’ve done. If they’re going, I’m going too.”
“I’m trusting the fact that I’ve been baptized.”
“I’m trusting my own good deeds and good works.”
“I’m trusting Brother So-and-So or Sister So-and-So or Pastor or Minister or Father So-and-So – if they’re going, I’m going too – I’m at least as good as them.”

In case someone reading this remains unconvinced of the Truth, I intend to call a number of witnesses. I could call on many to testify for the Lord – to proclaim the wonderful change He has made in their lives. But instead I want to address those who may have heard those types of testimonies before yet remain unconvinced.

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Psalm 14:2-3

If you are not seeking God, what are you seeking instead?

For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.

Philippians 2:21, emphasis added

You want your own way instead of Jesus Christ’s way. Therefore, instead of calling witnesses for the Lord, I will call witnesses against you. These are not “hostile witnesses.” They are not testifying against you because they are mad at you. They love you. In fact, they are in a great state of anxiety over the condition of your soul. They long to see you saved. But make no mistake – while you refuse to surrender to Christ their testimony is “against” you.

FIRST WITNESSES: TRUE CHRISTIANS

When I ask them about what it is like to be a true Christian, you will observe something remarkable: They know about their future rather than wonder about their future. If you are a child of disobedience, you may have slandered these witnesses. You may have called them a “bunch of hypocrites.” You may have heard them say they were Christians, but then you saw them commit a sin, and it made you doubt their authenticity. Or you may have ridiculed these witnesses: “Here comes Billy Bible. Here comes Holy Roller Susie.” You may may have even persecuted these witnesses: “Get out of here with that religious talk.” Maybe these witnesses are the types of people who offend you because they appeared to be “too Holy” – too much interested in talking about God. But let’s get the roles straight: You are the rebel; they are obedient. Rebellion pays tribute to obedience in the form of insults, mocking, and threats.

In their testimony you will notice both a surety and a fear. Not a fear of you, but a fear for you. They have a fear of the horror of your sin and the price you must pay for your sin if you will not trust Christ. For if you die without Christ, your future is almost indescribable – and indescribably horrifying.

We don’t say much about hell these days, but the Bible is clear.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

II Corinthians 5:11

These witnesses have a fear not only for your future, but also a fear of their God. That fear is a blessed fear. It is the fear of a son’s fervent desire to please his father. These witnesses – because they do fear God – do not fear anything else. On the witness stand they testify lovingly toward you, and they tell you that if you do not fear God, you must fear everything else.

Would you cross-examine these witnesses? Would you ask them, “Why should I trade fear of death, fear of eternity, fear of hell, for fear of your God?”

They will easily answer with irrefutable truth. They will say, by God’s power, my fear of Him has given me a peace that defies your ability to understand.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7, emphasis added

They will say, “I know I have a Master, and that makes me a servant, but who would not want to serve a Master Who has died for His servants, and who wants better things for them than they want for themselves?”

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28; 30

These witnesses have established a strong case against the unconverted, but I have many more witnesses to follow, which I will continue calling next time.

Wholly Holy

April 7, 2009 at 11:13 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration | 17 Comments
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When we speak of the “holiness” of God, we often focus on the idea of “cleanliness” and “freedom from defiling sin.” This is sometimes referred to as “living a holy life.” However, this is only part of the meaning of the complex idea of what the Bible means when it says that God is “holy.”

The word “holy” was originally derived from a root word which had a connotation of “cutting” (setting apart) and “culling” (removal from). This helps give a fuller understanding of God’s holiness. Not only is He perfect and completely free from sin, but He is utterly unique. Our Creator is not like any of His creations. Man is created in God’s image, but we are just that: an image.

In Leviticus Chapter 22 God calls priests from among His people to be set apart – in special cleansing rites, in devotion to Him, and in abstinence from unclean activities.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD. Say unto them, Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or hath a running issue; he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoso toucheth any thing that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goeth from him…

Leviticus 22:1-4

Christians today are “royal priests.” (I Peter 2:9) Are you motivated by love for God to keep yourself from uncleanness, from the defilement caused by breaking His law? Do you have a righteous fear of the Lord, recognizing His complete uniqueness, majesty, power, and perfection? Our God is not the “Man Upstairs” or our “Co-Pilot.” He is the all-powerful, omniscient King of glory.


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