Don’t Baal on God

April 3, 2020 at 9:04 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:5

Do you know someone who used to attend church faithfully, but doesn’t anymore? What are some of the reasons that you’ve heard as to why they walked away from church? Perhaps their feelings were hurt by the real or perceived bad behavior of a church member or leader. Perhaps they identified hypocrisy in the church. Maybe they felt like they “just weren’t getting anything out of it.” Maybe they got involved in other activities and didn’t have time. It could be that their underlying motivation for coming to church was that they believed it was good for their children, but then, one day, their kids got too old for youth group.

We tend to give people a pass on these issues: “Well, they got of church, but that doesn’t mean they left God.” The Bible sure doesn’t look at it that way. Jeremiah 2:5 is a scalding rebuke, and it’s in the form of a rhetorical question because no one could actually give a satisfactory answer to the question, “What iniquity did your fathers ever find in God Himself?” And, by extension, “What iniquity can YOU claim to have found in Him?”

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

There are no imperfections in God’s character, in His will, or in His Word, and there is no “dark side” to God’s nature. He is immutable, so He does not turn from evil, because He never has and never could or can turn TO evil. It is logically impossible for God to sin. Therefore, while you might find a universe of faults with any and every church member, pastor, teacher, or leader you encounter, God has demolished this is a reason for walking away from HIM – and therefore from walking away from His covenant people.

The idea in the use of the term “walking” is not really physical footsteps; it is the idea of “following after” someone or something, the way Jesus recruited disciples by saying “Follow Me.” He didn’t mean just going to the same location He was going to in Judea (although in His earthly ministry that would have been part of it). He meant following His teaching and example – obeying Him and worshiping Him with attention and emulation.

God had Jeremiah tell the leaders in Jerusalem that they and their fathers (their ancestors) had a long history of “following” – of walking after – “vanity,” a play on the Hebrew word for “vain” (habal) and the similar sounding word for the false god Baal (bahal). In other words, they “Baaled (bailed) on God,” who HAD helped them, and was the the only one who COULD help them, because the other god is not even real – he’s vanity. He’s emptiness masquerading as fullness.

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was always “full,” because His “meat” was to do the will of His Father – the will of God.

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 4:31-34

The surest way to become empty is to follow after emptiness. If we become silly, vain, ineffective, then we will only have ourselves to blame, because God Himself is an endless source of satisfaction, purpose, joy, meaning, and fulfillment in this life and the next.

A Blind Beggar and a Short Order Crook

March 19, 2020 at 11:02 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Luke | Leave a comment
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The Bible tells of two men who at first could not see Jesus – for different reasons. Was there a time when you wanted to see Jesus but could not? Do you remember what your reaction was the first time you did see Him?

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

Luke 18:35

Jericho was on the way to Jerusalem, which is where Jesus and His followers were going for Passover. This blind beggar had probably strategically placed himself in the path of religious people.

And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Luke 18:36-38

He used the Messianic title, pleading for mercy. He understood what the Disciples did not: that the One Who can “save” (sozo) – who could fulfill all the prophecies of the Messiah and truly deliver and heal blind people and cast out demons and make the lame to walk – was here, fulfilling the Scriptures. What an advertising campaign! Is this how you would choose to market your new business? Get some homeless blind guy to shout it out on the side of the highway? Or cause a disturbance somewhere, and when everybody gets mad at you, tell them all about it?

And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

Luke 18:39-42

The man got his sight because of his faith. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing. We walk by faith and not by sight, although a desire to see is a very good thing.

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

Luke 19:1-2

Zacchaeus was not only a crook, but a chief crook and a rich crook. We might also call him a “short” order crook.

And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

Luke 19:3-4

Climbing up in a tree was not very dignified behavior for a rich publican.

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

Luke 19:5

How would you feel about Jesus inviting Himself to your house?

And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

Luke 19:6

When you see Jesus, follow Him, talk about Him, and praise Him with others.

And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

Luke 19:7

These people were talking about Zacchaeus, referring to Him as a sinner. Nobody ever really accused Jesus of being a sinner; they accused Him of being the friend of sinners.

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus’s reaction was the opposite of the rich young ruler’s reaction.

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

Luke 19:9

The true sons of Abraham are those who are truly saved.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19:10

Ministers Must be Mild

February 27, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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In I Corinthians 4 the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to teach that Christian ministers must be managers. Paul went on, through the literary device of holy sarcasm, to show that ministers must also be meek. Then he got literal again.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

I Corinthians 4:14-15

It is as if Paul was saying, “Despite my harsh and mocking tone in the previous thoughts, I do – I really do – have a special love for you. And you, of all people, should know that I’m not out to shame you, trick you, or lead you astray.”

Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

I Corinthians 4:16

How would such a statement be received today? We are used to Christian leaders (at least orthodox Christian leaders!) emphasizing that only Christ Himself should be our role model, and that men, no matter how blameless or holy they may appear, are unworthy of imitation. However, what Paul says here (being infallible Scripture) is sound. Christian ministers do need to be striving to be able to say this honestly, first of all to our kids, and, for those of us called to servant leadership in a local church body, as leaders in our churches: “Follow me – as I follow Christ.”

For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

I Corinthians 4:17

Timothy was not Paul’s biological son, but his “spiritual son,” probably having been brought to Christ and personally discipled by him. Paul made a point of saying that Timothy had been “faithful in the Lord,” carrying on the theme of the primacy of faithfulness in ministry. Timothy would remind the Corinthian Christians that Paul was in Christ, and that, as such, he could be and should be followed. The Holy Spirit could inspire Paul to appeal to his own consistency without fear of contradiction.

Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

I Corinthians 4:18

This was a very pointed accusation – threatening even – as if Paul was saying, “You talk big when I am not around, but I’m coming to face you in person.”

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

I Corinthians 4:19

He alludes to God’s sovereignty (“if the Lord will“), and makes it clear that the Knows should be able to recognize the Know-Nots, as he proposes a showdown, almost Elijah-style, for any who would question the Lord’s power upon him.

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

I Corinthians 4:20

This means not in word ONLY, and, more specifically, not in professions only, but in the power of transforming Truth.

What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

I Corinthians 4:21

This is the practical equivalent of a dad warning rowdy children in the backseat of the car on a long trip, “Don’t make me come back there. I will pull this car over. I can get everyone an Icee or ice packs. Pucker or duck. Hugging or mugging.”

Hindsight is 20/20

December 14, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | 7 Comments
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“Hindsight” means looking back, or looking at something after the fact. Often we get into a difficult spot and look back and wish we had known what was going to happen, thinking that, if we had known, we would have done things differently. I experience this quite often when I find myself sitting in a traffic jam. “If only I had taken that exit I flew past five miles ago!”

The expression “Hindsight is 20/20” refers to the way that our foresight is often severely limited or blurry, although we seem to have perfect vision when it comes to evaluating our actions once we have already seen the consequences. Attributing 20/20 hindsight is our way of resigning ourselves to our current situation while forlornly wishing we could have seen the future.

God, unlike us, has “foresight” that’s better than 20/20. He always knows what to expect.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

Many times the enemies of God will experience hindsight, and, if you think it’s frustrating for you, as a child of God, when you wish that your foresight had been as accurate as your hindsight, imagine how it’s going to be for those who didn’t believe the Word of God.

Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back.

Nahum 2:8

Nineveh repented under the preaching of Jonah, but after a while the Ninevites went back to their old ways, and when Nahum and the other prophets warned them, they prophesied that, when they were conquered, their commanders would order them to stand, but they would be like water draining out of a pool, and they would not “look back.” In other words their hindsight would be a reproach to them.

Spiritually speaking, we don’t have to wait for 20/20 hindsight to evaluate the outcome.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

When you get discouraged, when you don’t have peace, go ahead and cheat a little, and get out your hindsight ahead of time. We are in Christ, and He has overcome the world.

Sometimes we get a little discouraged because what we expect doesn’t happen. Even John the Baptist got a little discouraged. People heard him say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” but they forgot what had to happen to a lamb for it to take away sin.

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Luke 7:19

Did you ever wonder why God doesn’t let us see everything that’s going to happen? Some people think it would take all the fun out of life if there were no surprises, but the reality is that God, for the most part, wants us looking forward, not looking back. A famous quote, often used at the commencement of a new venture undertaken on the foundation of an old establishment, says, “Hats off to the past, coats off to the future.”

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:59-62

A farmer trying to plough straight rows and looking back would do a terrible job. When we say, “Let’s get moving,” generally speaking, we are looking forward. It’s hard to grow in Christian maturity if you’re always looking back. Remember Lot’s wife. (A husband once said, “Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. My wife looked back and turned into a mailbox.”) Looking back is a sign that we’re still yearning for the things of the world, the things of the flesh. We’re not supposed to fondly remember those things anymore. As Christians, we’re looking ahead because we’re following what we love. We’re following Jesus.

Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

II Timothy 4:10

I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;

********************************
The world behind me, the cross before me;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Attributed to S. Sundar Singh

Hindsight may be 20/20, but, as believers, we’re not worried about our hindsight. We’re too busy following… and looking back may lead to turning back.

The Solemn Ascension

May 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 10 Comments
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Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:3-5

This is a good text to use if you ever have a “solemn assembly” service at your church. It is okay to be solemn in church, and solemnity is very much lacking in the demeanor of many modern Christians. Titus Chapter 2 says for the elder men to exhort the young men to be sober, and for the older women to exhort the younger women to be sober. Sober means solemn, serious, alert, vigilant – serious about getting sin out of your life. We all need to be serious about getting the sin cleaned out of our life. Even the Apostle Paul said he did not speak as one who had already attained or who was perfect (Philippians 3:12).

If you read the Bible long enough, you will meet yourself – your true self – and you will not like what you will see. You will hunger and thirst for righteousness – and a knowledge of God – and you will be blessed. But we must do more than just agree that the Bible is the Word of God. We must resolve that, if the Word says we are in sin, we will get out of sin – that’s repentance.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24:3

Who can ascend? Who can climb the hill of the Lord? The strong? The swift? The worldly wise? We must throw out our worldly ideas of what it means to “ascend” – to go up. Can the prestigious ascend? The famous? The wealthy? The influential? Since this hill is the Lord’s hill, and since He recognizes no strength in men because He created all men from dirt, who will ascend?

Will the ones who ascend be the weary ones? “No,” says the world, “you have to have your own energy to ascend.”

Will the ones who ascend be the contrite ones? “No,” says the world, “it takes boldness to climb a mountain.”

Will the ones who ascend be the broken ones? “No,” says the world, “there are no handicapped mountain-climbers.”

But what does God say?

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

James 4:10

God says no one will ascend His hill under his or her own power. The only ones who will ascend are the ones who get weary, but do not depend on their own strength.

The only ones who will ascend are the ones who have a Guide who will lead them over or around the streams and boulders of temptation.

The only ones who will ascend are those who have the right foot-gear – their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.

The only ones who will ascend are the ones who the Lord Himself will lift up.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24:3

And who will stand? Who will remain in the holy place? Who will draw near and stay near? Billy Sunday said, “Revivals may not last. Neither do baths, but it’s good to have one occasionally.” However, we want to ascend and stand – to stay there – to get right and stay right.

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

Psalm 24:4

We will stand and remain by having clean hands and pure hearts. This means more than following a set of rules and regulations. Jesus was hardest on the Pharisees because they claimed to love the Law – but wanted nothing to do with the Lawgiver.

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Hebrews 7:19

We are going to have to, by faith, follow after the Lord. We must realize that our hands are dirty, and we must trust Christ to clean them. The hands of sinners are stained and bloody. They are filthy and vile. But:

… while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

What makes our hands so unclean?

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

I Timothy 2:8

Wrath makes our hands unclean – so does doubting. When we have an unpleasant ministry job to do, we say we’re “getting our hands dirty” – but spiritually we are not defiled by unpleasant tasks of love. Jesus was not afraid to touch the unclean. In our flesh, we are quick to touch the attractive. Who doesn’t like to hold a cute baby? Or hug an attractive person? We are not so quick, however, to lift our hands when it’s time to take out the trash. Water can wash away physical uncleanness, but what can wash away sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

“Clean hands and pure hearts,” Psalm 24:4 says. But what washes the heart to make it pure? The Word of God. Christ gave Himself for the Church,

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:26

The heart that truly wants to know God will not lift itself up to vanity. Ultimately, vanity is idolatry. If vanity is anything that is spiritually empty, then 99.9% of what the average person does is lifting up his soul to vanity. What should we be doing with vanity? With emptiness? With anything that is what the Bible calls “imaginations” – anything without eternal worth?

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:5

We should be casting it down, not lifting ourselves up to it. Casting down means destroying. In the Old Testament, God wanted the Canaanites destroyed – even the women, children, livestock, altars, statues of false gods – everything. Why? Because they were like thorns or weeds or cancer. If they were only trimmed down, they would spread and grow back stronger. If we are going to have repentance – and revival – we are going to have to cast down imaginations, not just what the imaginations produce. We must seek the cause of our sinful behavior, and get the root out. We must cast out imaginations and worldly thinking. There is no revival without repentance. If you’ve ever been closer to God than you are right now, then you are backslidden. Here is the result of getting right with God:

He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:5


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