The Privilege of Patriotism

January 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Posted in The Family of Faith, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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There are both responsibilities and privileges that come with being a part of the family of faith. Last time we looked at the privilege of citizenship. Now we will see the responsibilities that come with the privilege of patriotism.

Patriotic citizens of an earthly nation are loyal to their nation; patriotic citizens of God’s nation and family are loyal to their King and to each other.

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Matthew 12:30

Patriotic citizens of an earthly nation are willing to work for the good of their nation; patriotic citizens of God’s nation and family are willing to sacrifice themselves for their King and each other. Patriotic citizens of an earthly nation “hope” that their leaders will do a good job so they can support them; patriotic citizens of God’s nation and family KNOW that their King will always do what is right and good.

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

Next time we will see the privilege of participation.

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

A Diet of Distinction (Part 3)

August 25, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In Part One, we considered God’s dietary laws under the Old Testament and their fulfillment/abolition under the New Testament. In Part Two I tried to expound upon some of the reasons for the Old Covenant prohibition against eating unclean animals, and to apply, not the letter of the Law, but the principles, to God’s people today. God’s people were/are to be:

A. Clean Cut, meaning they were to be separate from their pagan neighbors in their devotion to the One True God, and in how they lived their daily lives, including what they ate. (Leviticus 11:44; II Corinthians 6:14-18). They were/are to be:

1. Distinct in calling and conduct (I Corinthians 10:31)
2. Distinct in conscience (Psalm 139:7-12)
3. Distinct in creeds (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
4. Distinct in communication (Colossians 3:8; Proverbs 14:9)

Now we will see that God’s people were/are to have a:

B. Clean Consistency

When it came to quadrupeds, the clean animals were animals that met two criteria:

Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.

Leviticus 11:3

They had to have both: a cloven hoof and a multi-chambered stomach. Some animals had one or the other, and these would be unclean. For example, the camel:

Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

Leviticus 11:4

This is a picture of some Christians. They “chew the cud.” They enjoy chewing over the Word of God. They love to learn Scripture and Bible doctrine. But there is a problem with their “hooves” – their feet – the way they walk. It doesn’t match up to what they are learning. They are hearers but not doers.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

They are ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

II Timothy 3:4-7

For in truth doctrine is never divorced from duty. We study Scripture in order to know God, and when we meet God, He tells us to “go.”

There is an opposite example, too, though: the pig.

And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

Leviticus 11:7

He appears to be okay in his walk, but he’s not really clean. Some church people are like this, too. They appear to be walking with God, but they don’t want to be equipped. They don’t want to invest the time or the patience to hear what is truly pleasing to God. They think they will stay busy and please God their own way. Don’t get too busy – or think you’re too advanced – to humble yourself under the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God.

A true pig has a pig-like nature. He can never stop wallowing on his own filth. He needs to be changed from a pig to a man by the miraculous power of God.

Stop Hating Homosexuals

July 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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If you are doing one of the following, there is no denying it, you hate gay people:

-using a rainbow to show your support of gay mirage
-hashtagging #LoveWins to show your support of gay mirage
-teaching your kids that it’s okay, or even a good thing, to be a homosexual
-openly celebrating a court decision announced in a legal opinion that was so illogical, absurd, poorly written, and blatantly hypocritical that it would have earned an F-minus on any of my law school exams, and would have probably lead to expulsion on the grounds of general incompetence and stupdity

So, if you are rainbowing, love-wins-ing, or celebrating homosexual sin and the attempt to change the meaning of the word “marriage,” just stop it. You are being mean and hateful. And if you are inclined at this point to call me a “bigot,” a “bad person,” or (my favorite) a “buffoon,” then you are being intolerant and judgmental, and you need to stop that, too.

Because the most hateful thing you can do to a group of people who are proud of their sin is to encourage them to sin more. The absolute worst, diabolical, evil thing you can do to homosexuals is to hide the truth from them, when the lies they are pretending to believe are destroying them.

If you really want to love homosexuals, tell them the truth about sin:

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Jude v. 7

When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

Psalm 92:7

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

James 1:15

People don’t like the truth when it makes them unpopular or when it makes them feel bad, but telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do. A toddler might be having a fine old time with a container of rat poison, and might wail like a banshee when you take it away. It certainly won’t seem loving or kind or tolerant. But it will save his life. A warning sign in the middle of the highway that says “Bridge Out Ahead” is certainly inconvenient. It might add hours to your trip and make you mad and frustrated, but, when you pause to think of the consequences of ignoring it, you should be very grateful someone took the time to put it there. The U.S. court that everyone calls “supreme” has already proven itself to be an instrument of death and destruction. They have authorized the brutal murders of millions of babies everyday, as long as they are murdered just inside of, instead of just outside of, their mothers’ wombs. Now they have turned their callous hatred toward homosexuals by giving them a legal covering for their deadly and destructive behavior. It’s an old tactic. Adam and Eve tried to do it with fig leaves, but God wasn’t fooled. He killed an animal and covered their shame so that they would always remember that they needed the Truth of a bloody sacrifice to pay for their sins. This was a type of Jesus Christ Who Himself is the perfect reality of that bloody sacrifice. It you really want to love homosexuals, exhort and command them to repent and surrender to Jesus.

Catechism Question 8

June 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 2 Comments
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Question 8: What is the punishment for sin?
Answer: The punishment for sin is death.
Prove it.

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezekiel 18:4

If this is true (and it is!) then why don’t we die the very first time we sin? God in His grace and mercy does not immediately kill everyone who sins, although that would be just.

How can the sinner’s punishment be eternal if death is the end? Just as the gift of God for those who trust in Christ is eternal life, so the punishment for sinners who die apart from Christ is eternal death, which means the soul consciously existing in torment forever, experiencing the eternal wrath of God.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

God has woven into the curse of sin a natural progression toward death, although He is free to intervene in the process and rescue sinners.

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

James 1:15

Preparing to Hear from God: Responsive

February 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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The first two principles we noted in preparing to hear from God were R.eady and R.eceptive. We also need to be:

R.esponsive

Prepare to hear from God by pre-determining you are going to do what He says. Be responsive to God in two ways:

1. Be reactive.

Obey Him.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

A response is a reaction. It’s changing your behavior to line up with what God says, or taking some new action – even if you don’t feel like you want to do it – because God said to do it.

2. Be realistic.

You can hear from God and not understand it completely the first time. What do you do when you honestly wanted to hear from God and you think He was speaking to you, but you are confused? You keep asking and listening.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

Be realistic. Don’t pretend that you have understood God when you haven’t, and don’t let somebody tell you that this is what God told me to tell you without checking it out for yourself.

This is how important hearing from God is:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

If you say that you believe you are going to Heaven one day, could you open a Bible and show how you know that? People get saved by grace through faith – and that faith comes from hearing God’s Word.

How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 2

November 8, 2013 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Last time I addressed the misconception that the Bible is boring. Here are three types of excitement in the Bible:

1. The danger in it

In many places the Holy Spirit employees a style of writing which we might describe as a “cliffhanger.” In other words, a narrative will build up to a moment of suspense, then there will be a pause in the action before it is resolved. In Genesis 22, for example, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac – and at the last instant tells him to stop. Then He provides a ram (which itself is another cliffhanger that does not get resolved until the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament.) The end of Genesis Chapter 2 is another example. The Bible makes an ominous statement about Adam and Eve being naked and not ashamed… right before the serpent shows up in Chapter 3.

There is another danger in the Bible, though, too: a danger for us. For when we read it, we can obey it or reject it.

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Hebrews 3:15

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

There are great blessings in reading your Bible – if you practice what you read. But there is great danger in reading it and then ignoring its commands.

2. The mystery in it

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him:

Ephesians 1:9-10 (emphasis added)

Bible mysteries are really not mysterious in the way we normally think of that term, because, if you read it, they are revealed. It is obvious there is a Creator just from looking at everything around us, and we can learn much about Him just by observing His creation, but to really know Him – and to be partakers of the mystery of His Gospel and His will – even for our own lives – we must dig into the Bible.

3. The fascination in it

The Bible is a page-turner, and not just because of its suspenseful passages, but because it is so intensely interesting – in a supernatural way. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God to make us want to understand it and to want more and more of it.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

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

Proverbs 16:24

Honey is not something you eat quickly. You chew slowly and savor it.

Next time I will give some practical tips for getting more out of your Bible-reading.

This Is Not a Negotiation

July 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Exodus | 10 Comments
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During the time when Moses was trying to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go because of the plagues, Pharaoh sometimes treated the discussions like a game of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Given the absolute holiness of God, we should know the absurdity of a pagan king trying to bargain or negotiate with Him. Only those who have some privileged standing before Him – and even that would had to have been granted by Him – may petition God to relent and have mercy. Pharaoh clearly did not get what manner of God with which he was dealing.

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Exodus 5:1

Pharaoh was doing two things here. First, he was negotiating: “I’m a god. If your God is going to make demands on me, he’s going to have to show me He’s a real God first.” Two, he was giving voice to the response that people still have today: “Maybe He’s Lord to you, but he’s nothing to me.” This is the voice of the relativist who obeys absolutes in everything but moral matters.

And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

Exodus 5:6-9

Pharaoh sounded like the obnoxiously pretentious and self-important restaurant manager who tells his employees, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean,” when he said, “If you’ve got time to worship, you’ve got time to work.” In other words, he was saying, “Let’s see how serious your God is about this ‘let my people go’ thing [wink, wink] – if He’s real.”

And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Exodus 7:13-14

Do these verses contradict James 1:17? “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.” Let’s think of it this way: Did God make Pharaoh’s heart hard? Yes. Disobedience to God is evil and sin. Did God create fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart? No. He withdrew His gracious restraint and allowed Pharaoh’s own evil to have full reign. We need to be careful – that could happen to us too if we decide to barter and compromise with God. God’s greatest judgment against a person may be to let him have his own way.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:

Exodus 8:1-2

The Egyptians had their own god who was supposed to be in charge of the frogs, so this was a direct assault on their belief system.

And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

Exodus 8:3-7

Obviously, their frog deity was no match for the true God.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.

Exodus 8:8

Pharaoh’s ploy was to say, “Okay, fine, tell your God that I’ll give in a little to get rid of these frogs.”

And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?

Exodus 8:9

Moses allowed Pharaoh a little input here: Did he want the frogs gone completely or just back in the river?

And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.

Exodus 8:10

It is curious that Pharaoh wanted the frog-removal held off for another day. Did he want a little more time to see if they might go away on their own? Was he hoping his own magicians or priests might finally come through? I doubt he was going to miss the frogs when they were gone! Maybe he was suffering from extreme hardness of heart and was torn between caving in to Moses’s God and maybe offending or angering his own frog-god.

And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:11-15

We must remember to avoid the pattern of Pharaoh here. May we never make a promise to God to get Him to fix our problem, and then back out on the promise when He comes through.

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.

Exodus 8:25

Pharaoh said they could worship, but they had to stay in Egypt while they did it.

And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?

Exodus 8:26

Moses did not accept the offered compromise. God had called His people to come out from among the heathen and be separate. They were not going to be worshiping just another god in the pantheon of Egyptian gods. They were going to worship the One True God.

And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.

Exodus 8:28

But Pharaoh still did not get it. He still thought it was a negotiation. He tells them they can go worship, “but don’t go too far.”

And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

Exodus 10:7

Pharaoh’s servants saw what Pharaoh could not – or would not – see. “This Moses is kicking our behinds. Let these people go before this powerful and terrible God of theirs wipes us off the face of the Earth!”

And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go?

Exodus 10:8

Pharaoh still wanted to talk logistics.

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD.

Exodus 10:9

Moses said, “We’re taking the whole shooting match. The God we serve is Lord over our wives, our children, our animals, our possessions. He means business in case you haven’t noticed!”

And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Exodus 10:10-11

Pharaoh would only go so far, though. He makes it a “men only” affair. He wanted to keep the wives and kids to make sure the men came back. As Christian men, let us not leave our wives and children out of worship, but let us neither allow our wives or children to be the leaders in worship. In most churches today, Moses would have quite a struggle, trying to get the men off their Egyptian couches, out of their Egyptian fishing boats or duck blinds. They would say, “Do I have to go worship? Can’t my wife do that?”

And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.

Exodus 10:24

Pharaoh was forced to relent and propose allowing the entire family to go, but not the property.

And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

Exodus 10:25-27

As Christians our souls and our bodies have been purchased by God. Our material possessions are not to be prized in the same way, but neither are they to be disregarded completely. All ground is holy ground for Christians. There is no asterisk in I Corinthians 10:31 that says everything is for God’s glory except for how we manage our possessions.

And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?

Exodus 14:5

In Pharaoh’s twisted way of thinking it occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have let his whole labor force go because of some frogs and locusts and the death of all the firstborn.

And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

Exodus 14:6-8

Now that’s a hard heart! There is no room for compromise when the Lord has spoken. Pharaoh’s behavior seems strange, but beware. When you only see the visible it’s easy to convince yourself that the consequences of disobeying God were only coincidental. God is not a compromiser when it comes to sin.

Under the Sun vs. Over the Sun

April 1, 2013 at 10:59 am | Posted in Biblical farming, Ecclesiastes | 8 Comments
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The Book of Ecclesiastes takes a hard look at life “under the sun:” life from a mortal, earthly, finite perspective. This viewpoint may be contrasted with life “over the sun:” life from an eternal, Heavenly, infinite perspective.

Under the sun, life is monotonous; over the sun, it’s adventurous. Under the sun, wisdom is vain; over the sun, wisdom is extremely useful. Under the sun, wealth is futile; over the sun, wealth opens up great opportunities. Under the sun, death is certain; over the sun, death provides great motivation. The Christian life can be compared to a puzzle, a battle, a challenge, a race, a treasure hunt, or a pilgrimage. None of these are monotonous or boring. They are the stuff of true adventure.

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 11 Solomon sees life as an investment.

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

Specifically, he compares it to a business or farming venture.

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Ecclesiastes 11:3-6

Farming is a noble vocation. Farmers can take satisfaction in hard work and just trust God for the results. But being a shipping merchant and a farmer both require risk, faith in God, and patience.

Then Solomon goes on to recognize that “youth” is a special time in life.

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

Ecclesiastes 11:7-9

God could create each new person fully grown, the way He did with Adam and Eve, but He has chosen to make life a progression, and that progression is one of His special gifts.

Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 11:10

Youth is for enjoyment, but it also for preparation for adulthood. I don’t like the term “teenager,” because it is a modern marketing invention based upon a false evolutionary model of “adolescence.” In the Bible there are “children,” then there are “men” and “women.” There is no special “in-between” category. However, as we think about the pre-adult years, we recognize that they can be a time of joy or a time of misery. If you are a young adult, enjoy the energy and the freedom you have before your body begins to deteriorate and the responsibilities of life begin to drain you. The Christian life is not geared toward earthly retirement. Our “retirement” will be in Heaven, and even that will be full of activity. The unique thing about “youth” is that it is a time of life that, once past, does not come back again.

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

Ecclesiastes 12:3

The “keepers of the house” are your arms and legs. The “bowing” is indicative of bent knees and stooped shoulders. “Grinders” are teeth. “Windows” are eyes.

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Ecclesiastes 12:4

“The doors shall be shut” means that you keep your mouth closed because you’ve lost your teeth. “The sound of grinding is low” because you can no longer chew your food. “Rising up at the voice of the bird” is in recognition of the trouble that elderly people have sleeping. “The daughters of music brought low” means that your voice has started to quaver.

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

The fear “of that which is high” means the fear that elderly people have of falling down. The “flourishing almond tree” is white hair. The burdened “grasshopper” is a picture of dragging yourself along at the end of summer. The “desire” which shall fail is the loss of some of the concupiscible desires (sex and appetite). The “long home” is eternity.

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Ecclesiastes 12:6

Several images are given of things which are as fragile as an elderly person’s life.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-12

With age you learn that, even though life is unpredictable, there is wisdom in order. The best way to learn from life is the same way we should learn from the Bible: humbly.

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. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:19-21 (emphasis added)

The Trap of Leaving Our Limits

February 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 8 Comments
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People are not saved from the penalty of sin by obeying laws or keeping rules. However, Christians (those who have already been saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ) should love God’s laws and should seek to avoid the traps that come with living as though God has not given us laws to obey. In this series of lessons, we will identify several traps of “lawless living” by looking at the account of Samson in the Book of Judges.

Samson’s death occurred when he pulled down a Philistine temple with himself and thousands of Philistines inside. Samson, who was empowered by the Holy Spirit, had the strength to make the most stable structures unstable, but, in a twist of irony, he himself was one of the most unstable men in the whole Bible. According to Scripture, the source of instability in a man is double-mindedness.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

Those who have the singleness of mind that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit need not be so double-minded. A single-minded Christian will respect God-ordained boundaries, whereas a double-minded person crosses boundaries at his peril.

Samson was born in Zorah, a city in Dan, near the Philistine border.

And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.

Judges 13:2

He was one of those babies in the Bible where his birth had been foretold to his mother or his parents, like Isaac (Abraham and Sarah); Samuel (Hannah); and Jesus (Mary and Joseph). Some servants of God are chosen in a special way before their birth.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

Galatians 1:15

In Samson’s case the angel appeared to Manoah’s wife, and then to both of them together. Although Manoah’s wife was thought to be barren, the angel told her that the child was to be a Nazarite from birth. John the Baptist is another example of someone who was chosen by God to be a life-long Nazarite. A Nazarite vow was normally a voluntary vow for a stated period of time, but for Samson, it meant that he was supposed to refrain from drinking wine or strong drink all his days.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the Lord he shall come at no dead body.

Numbers 6:2-6

He wasn’t allowed to touch dead bodies or get a haircut, either. It is helpful to make a distinction between Jesus, who was a Nazarene (from the town of Nazareth), but not a Nazarite (which means consecrated or separated under those particular Old Testament requirements). These restrictions were Samson’s boundaries. Physically, he crossed the boundary into Philistia, not to serve God, but to satisfy his own appetites. Spiritually, he crossed the boundary of his own Nazarite vow for the same reasons. He went into a vineyard. He had a wedding feast involving wine. He touched the dead carcass of a lion he had killed.

Do we respect our boundaries as Christians? Or are we double-minded and unstable like Samson? Often we excuse ourselves by thinking that we don’t want to really do any harm – that we just want to have a little fun. We think we can just step over our boundaries a little.

And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

Judges 14:1

Samson went down to Timnath, not to make war against the Philistines, which was his calling, but to look for a woman. We might say he was “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Let us remember that God has ordained boundaries for our own safety. If we cross over into sin, we lose our ability to determine the consequences.

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