Don’t Teach Fables

April 5, 2017 at 11:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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The are various ways to teach Bible stories (which are true, factual, historical events) to children, and various techniques that can be used. This is not going to be a lesson about how to use sock puppets, or how to talk in a funny voice to keep kids’ attention, or how to string out a story over several weeks with carefully designed “cliffhangers,” so they will want to come back each week to find out what happens next. There are people who are far better at those things than I am.

No, this is about the actual teaching of Scripture. Teaching means that you are focusing on what they are actually learning, not just making sure they are having fun or being entertained. Nor am I talking about showing off Bible knowledge, or giving out prizes for participation or accomplishment. I’m talking about actually finding out what God wants us to know about a particular Bible story: Why did God put this in there and command us to read and study it?

Therefore, the first thing to keep in mind when teaching Bible stories to children is: Don’t teach fables. Bible stories are not fables. They are not fairy tales, and their purpose is not always to teach a “moral lesson,” although we usually can glean moral lessons from them.

The problem with avoiding the fable-teaching method in children’s Bible studies is that you will be hard-pressed to find a children’s curriculum or lesson book that DOESN’T use this method. Take the story of Jonah for example.

“Jonah was told by God to go where? Nineveh. But he didn’t want to go there, did he? No. Where did he go instead? To Joppa and then to Tarshish. And when he boarded the ship for Tarshish, what happened? A big storm that resulted in him getting thrown overboard. What do we learn from this? That if you disobey God something bad will happen to you.”

That’s true – as far as it goes – but remember, there are people disobeying God all over the place like crazy, and they seem to be doing fine. Several of them hold the highest government offices in our land! The story of Jonah is not like the boy who cried wolf – he did something bad so he ended up facing the consequences.

Try this instead: “What happened to Jonah when he was thrown overboard? Did he drown? No, God sent a big fish to swallow him up. That’s terrifying, but it turned out to be better than drowning, because he lived in the fish’s belly for how long? Three days… hey, wait a minute… hmmm, that reminds me of someone else who was supposed to be dead, and went down somewhere for three days.”

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Matthew 12:38-41

It turns out that the Holy Spirit, when describing what happened to Jonah, was not really primarily teaching a lesson about the consequences of disobeying God, or even about how God can comfort you when you are scared and alone, or even about how God controls His creation (weather and animals). No, what He was primarily teaching is that we all have disobeyed God, and we deserve to be thrown into the sea to die, and we have absolutely no ability to save ourselves, but God can save us, because He Himself went down into the grave (the “belly of the earth”) and rose again in His Own power. Furthermore, just like Jonah’s testimony of coming back from the dead was the sign that supported his preaching, for us, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our “proof” that everything that Jesus said about our sin and His salvation is true.

We don’t want our kids to think of a cartoon man and a cartoon whale, and definitely not a cucumber swimming around with a talking tomato.

We want them to think of a real man and a real fish that God used to get people ready to recognize Jesus – the Christ – Who would one day fulfill what Jonah and the whale typified: sin, death, burial, resurrection, and Gospel preaching!

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The Privilege of Patriotism

January 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Posted in The Family of Faith, Uncategorized | 3 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.

The Be Quietudes

September 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Talking itself is not a sin. Christianity is a verbal religion, and the Gospel is communicated by words. “Faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17). However, the Bible does emphasize that we should not talk sinfully.

The “Beatitudes” are found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matthew 5:3-11

The beautides describe the conditions for expeiencing blessedness, and they prescribe what some of the blessings are. Those who are blessed, according to Jesus, experience God’s favor, and are marked by the types of attitudes and actions which are pleasing in God’s sight, and bring contentment, peace, and happiness to one’s life.

For this lesson I have borrowed the name “beatitude” and applied it to the idea that there are times when it is more blessed to be quiet than to speak up: “The Bequietudes.”

1. Blessed are those who don’t gossip, for they will not make things worse.

Where no wood is, [there] the fire goeth out: so where [there is] no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Proverbs 26:20

Gossip ends when nobody is willing to repeat it – the way a fire ends when there is no fuel left to burn.

2. Blessed are those who LISTEN, for they will gain understanding.

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Proverbs 20:12

And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

Matthew 15:10

You can’t listen while you are talking. When people are talking all at once, it causes confusion. You learn more by listening than by talking. God gave you two ears and one mouth – take the hint, and try to listen at least twice as much as you speak.

3. Blessed are those who THINK, for they shall renew their minds.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

The Gospel is intended to engage your intellect as much as your emotions. Christianity is not mysticism. Serious thinking is hindered, not enhanced, by talking.

4. Blessed are those who READ, for they shall gain knowledge.

And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Isaiah 29:12

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

II Timothy 2:15-16

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

It’s difficult to talk while you’re reading (unless you’re reading aloud!) Read the Bible. Read books about the Bible. Read other books, too, but be careful what you read. Don’t read things that do not edify.

5. Blessed are they who CONTEMPLATE, for they shall be prepared.

Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:31-33

Your mind is a temple. A temple is where man meets with God. Serious decisions are made during periods of silent contemplation, not audible conversation.

6. Blessed are they who MEDITATE, for they shall be glad in the Lord.

My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

Pslam 104:34

Meditation is deep thinking; unlike contemplation, though, it is not always thinking about a pending decision. It is where you seriously and silently consider what you have learned about God in His word. Meditation is an acquired taste that tastes better the more seriously you take it.

7. Blessed are they who DON’T BUTT IN, for they shall not look foolish.

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Proverbs 18:2

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it [is] folly and shame unto him.

Proverbs 18:13

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: [and] he that shutteth his lips [is esteemed] a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:28

It is important to analyze a situation before getting involved. A person with a reputation for wisdom is more trustworthy than a person with a reputation for being a know-it-all or a busybody. People have less of a tendency to trust someone that is shooting his mouth off all the time.

7. Blessed are they whose words are few, for they shall give a better account.

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Matthew 12:34-36

One of the best evidences of what is in your heart is what comes out of your mouth, but, just because you are thinking something, you don’t have to say it. There needs to be a probationary holding pen (filter) before the words formed in your mind are deemed fit to come out of your mouth.

ability to not speak

(photo courtesy of: https://www.challies.com/a-la-carte/a-la-carte-august-28-3/)

Hearing What the King Says

September 3, 2015 at 11:06 am | Posted in Matthew | 7 Comments
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A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

Matthew 12:20

The nation of Israel rejected Jesus during His earthly ministry, but, by making themselves His enemies, they were breaking and burning themselves out without realizing it.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

Isaiah 42:1-4

Jesus did not destroy His enemies, the Pharisees, although He had the power to do it easily. He did however, as their true King, address the evil in their hearts.

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

Matthew 12:31

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

Matthew 12:35

Words can be evidence of evil in the heart. In this case, Jesus warned of unregenerate evil. There was an ongoing rejection of Him by the people of Israel in Jesus’s time. First they rejected John the Baptist, which was also a rejection of God the Father, since His prophets were His means of revealing truth under the Old Covenant. Second, their rejection of Jesus was a rejection of God the Son. Third, their rejection of the Holy Spirit would be the rejection of the final witness. Today, life-long rejection of Christ (which is the blasphemy of His Spirit) is the only unpardonable sin.

By the time we get to Matthew Chapter 13 we have seen the King’s arrival announced, His background confirmed, His Kingdom described and explained, and His power displayed.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian
Lift up Your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs
To Jesus Christ the King!

Alfred Ackley, “I Serve a Risen Savior”

Now He began to give some secret information to His closest followers. The words “hear” or “heareth” or “heard” or “hearing” are used 21 or 22 times in Matthew 13, as Jesus taught in parables, giving ordinary examples to help us understand an extraordinary Kingdom.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 13:9

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Matthew 13:13-16

Jesus compared the Word of God to seed that is sown. He compared the human heart to the soil in which it is sown. He compared the heat of persecution to the light that shines down upon the sprouting seed. Sometimes the seed lands in soil that is too shallow. Other times it lands in soil that is too crowded. Other times it does not even land in the soil – it just falls by the wayside. However, sometimes it does land in good soil.

When Satan can’t steal the seed that lands in good soil, he plants imitations of what the seed will become next to the real plants. This changes the symbolism. Now the field is not a picture of the heart. It is a picture of the world. Satan has false professors (tares), a false church (the mustard seed tree), and false doctrine (leaven). He has fake Christians who believe a fake gospel. He promotes a false righteousness. In the Tribulation he will introduce a false christ.

Jesus Christ: The Greatest Priest, Prophet, and King

July 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Matthew | 1 Comment
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The second big transitional phrase in Matthew comes at the beginning of Chapter 11:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

Matthew 11:1

The transition is from a section dealing with the King training His workers/warriors to a section dealing with the types of battles they faced.

Jesus explained that the religious leaders had been introduced, both by John the Baptist and by Jesus Christ Himself, to their true King.

But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

Matthew 11:16-19

These leaders, having heard the principles of His Kingdom, did not worship Him. Instead, they rebelled against Him. Worship involves surrender and humility. The rebellious leaders chose to be childish, and childishness involves pride and self-worth, along with a desire to show that “I can do it on my own.” This is the attitude that almost kept me from coming to Christ.

In Matthew Chapter 12 we see that the religious leaders began to take on the methods of Satan. Instead of just killing Jesus, they began to attempt to subtly undermine the principles of His Kingdom.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

Matthew 12:1-2

However, when their tactics did not work, they did in fact try to kill Him. This was what they had done in the past to God’s anointed prophets, kings, and priests. What they did not realize was that Jesus was…

Greater than the previous priests:

But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

Matthew 12:6

Greater than the previous prophets:

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Matthew 12:41

Greater than the previous kings:

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Matthew 12:42

It is not enough to clean out our spiritual house. The house must be filled with something.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Matthew 12:43-45

For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Matthew 12:50

If you do the will of God in trusting and receiving Christ Jesus, then you will be the right kind of “whosoever.” If you reject Him, you will the wrong kind of “whosoever.”

When Is It Good to be Proud? (Spoiler Alert: Never)

June 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 18 Comments
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I have written about this before, but – and this is hardly surprising – I apparently managed to influence exactly no one. In fact, I have either gotten more sensitive to the problem, or it has actually become an even worse epidemic.

“Here is a photo of my kids’ report cards, honor roll certificates, dance trophies, and character medals. I’m !!!!SO PROUD!!!! of them!”

“Junior got his driver’s license today. I’m one proud mama!”

“Sissy was baptized last Sunday at church! #BeyondProud!!!!”

“I don’t care what those liberals say, I’m PROUD of what this country stands for!”

“Tough loss for State U last night, but proud of those boys for giving it their all!”

“I’m proud to be a dad.”
“I’m proud to be an alumni.”
“I’m proud of my heritage.”
“I’m proud to be a Christian.” (duck, lightning warning!)
“I’m proud to call you my spouse.”
“I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee.”

Good grief! Where will it end? As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “What’s the deal with pride?”

seinfeld

Look, if you don’t believe the Bible, or if you’re pretending that you don’t believe in God (even though you and God both know that you really do), or if you’re not a Christian, then I understand. Being proud of all kinds of stuff is sort of your thing, and that’s to be expected. You’re not only proud, you’re obsessed with announcing your pride, and compelled to put it out there for eveyone to see. In fact, you are proud of being proud. You should read this, and then come back here.

And I know I’m not the Christian language police, but, if you’re a Christian, you should be concerned about things like truth and obedience and righteousness and specifically what the Bible says about our attitudes and expressions. Good news! I did the research for you. Here’s a list of all the Bible verses that mention pride. Here are the ones that use the word “proud.”

Did you see anything good? I didn’t. I saw stuff like pride leading to destruction, and pride exciting God’s wrath, and proud people grouped in with people classified as liars and murderers and evil-doers and the wicked. The word “abomination” was used at least once. Ouch.

Let me anticipate the argument, because I have heard this before. When Christians say, “I’m proud” or they talk about having “pride” in such and such, they don’t really mean the sinful kind of pride. They mean they’re happy for someone or happy about something. Sometimes they’re really lifting up another person’s accomplishments, or they just want someone to acknowledge their own hard work or sense of worth.

Okay, fair enough. I know people mean different things, but let’s examine this more closely. When you say, “I’m proud of my kids,” why exactly are you saying it? Are you saying it because you want people to see you taking the credit for what they’ve accomplished? That’s called bragging, and it’s certainly a form of sinful pride. Are you saying it because you want other people to be impressed with what your kids have done on their own? That’s taking credit and glory away from God, Who enabled, and sovereignly caused, your kids to have success at something. Why would you want to do that? That will bless neither you, your kids, nor the people who read or hear it.

If you say, “When I say I’m proud, I really mean I’m pleased with them. Or they’ve brought me joy. Or they’ve encouraged me by their hard work. Or I’m grateful and thankful for what they’ve accomplished. Or I want to give honor where honor is due.” There, you’ve solved your own problem! Say those things instead of saying you’re proud. Because here’s the deal with what we say:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

Matthew 15:18-19

And if you say, “What we think and do is more important than what we say,” then consider:

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 12:35-37

The bottom line is, what’s coming out of my mouth is a really good indicator of what’s in my heart. So, I’m going to admit it: I have four wonderful daughters and I’m proud of them. But I’m sinfully proud, and I’m asking the Lord to deliver me and change my heart and to forgive me for my pride. It’s not a good thing for me to be proud, and I shouldn’t want to announce it and show it off.

Or, for example, when the Houston Astros, a team that has suffered three straight horrible seasons, finally get the season off to a great start, the way they have this year, I do want to retweet all the game updates that are hashtagged #HTownPride, but I’m not going to – (1) because it makes no sense for me to be proud of something which is not my own personal accomplishment; (2) it’s sinful to be proud, and; (3) even if I’m feeling sinfully proud, I don’t want to brag about my pride and compound the sin even more.

I’ve been told repeatedly that I must tell my children that I’m proud of them. The Lord knows I’m not a good father. Many if not most of the problems that my daughters have (and they certainly have their fair share) are my fault. They sometimes evoke a gasp when they tell people, “My parents told me they’re not proud of me and they never will be.” They say this because we have tried to stop using that terminology. We love our daughters very much. We are thankful for them. They bring us unbounded joy. We are pleased with them. They work hard, and they have been gifted by God in amazing ways. We praise Him for them. We want them to feel loved, secure, and encouraged. If they don’t know those things, then I must take the blame for not telling them often enough, or making my feelings evident enough in my actions and attitudes. But if you tell me, “You have to tell your kids you are proud of them,” I’ll say, “Show it to me in the Bible.” When you show me a Bible verse commanding me to be proud, and then to truthfully express that pride verbally, I’ll confess, repent, and ask God to help me obey His Word. Until then, though, I’m going to battle against my pride and encourage my family, friends, and loved ones to do the same. And if I manage it, God will get all the praise and glory for it, not me.

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Christian Teachers Warned and Watched

March 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Biblical Teaching | 2 Comments
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The job of a Bible teacher is an honorable job. Almost every Christian is called upon to teach someone something.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

Titus 2:3-4

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

It is an honorable job, but it is also a dangerous job.

Teachers are warned.

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

James 3:1

The word translated as “masters” in James 3:1 is the Greek word didaskalos, meaning teachers. Why will teachers receive the greater condemnation, or, in other words, why are they exposed to a stricter judgment by God? Because teachers use words to teach, and words are dangerous things. You can read the rest of James Chapter 3 and see that the tongue is our most powerful member. It’s like a bit that controls a horse, or a rudder that steers a ship. Just as snakes have poison in their mouths, people have a much deadlier poison: the potential for hurtful and destructive words. You can’t call back an arrow once it’s been shot, and you can’t call back a hurtful word that’s headed for a child’s ears, mind, and heart, once it’s left your mouth.

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Matthew 12:36

If every “idle” word will be scrutinized, how much more will the hurtful, angry, destructive words? Especially when it comes to children.

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

Mark 9:42

Teachers are warned, and teachers are watched.

Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

II Corinthians 3:2-3

Children will not always read the assignments, but they will always read the teacher. The old maxim that “more is caught than taught” may be truer than some Bible teachers would like to think. Students are are looking for clues as to how sincere the teacher is as a representative of Christ.

And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night. Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Joshua 4:1-6

That’s what students really want to know. Not just what the things you are teaching mean. But what they mean to you. They need to know what you know in order to grasp the material, but what they really want to know is: Are you sincere? They can sense frustration, they can sense doubt, but, even more so, they can sense hypocrisy. Make sure that your relationship with the Lord is right. Make sure the “Rock” of Ages means everything to you.

Swallowed up with the Word

May 18, 2011 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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The illustration in the children’s picture Bible seemed so accurate then. I have to laugh, though, when I think back on it now. There’s Jonah, the prophet, wearing a long robe, with his long hair and serious expression. He’s sitting on a wooden bench, with only a candle for light, intently reading his Bible, surrounded by huge white ribs and shadowy internal organs. The caption beneath the illustration proclaims that he’s in the belly of the whale.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/whalejpg.jpg?w=300

When I read the Book of Jonah today I find that the swallower is not even called a whale (although Jesus referred to it as a “whale” in Matthew 12:40). In Jonah the swallower is called a “prepared fish” (prepared by the Lord.) I prefer to think it was a Megalodon shark, but what do I know?

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSwXAvZ5M4cJ-miAYavR7NoZGpdaequcDnZpPgyleFi9unosS-H

The point is, it is not likely that Jonah sat calmly on a bench reading by candlelight during his three days and three nights in the fish’s belly.

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17

In fact, Jonah was probably squeezed in there, alone in the dark, like a man buried alive in a submarine coffin.

Thankfully, though, this did not keep Jonah from reciting the Word of God. Jonah 2:9 (“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”) shows that Jonah had memorized Psalms 3:8 and 37:39.

There are many good reasons for memorizing Scripture (showing off is not one of them), but one of the best reasons for doing it is so that we can call out the promises of God in times of great peril. I pray that you will never find yourself in the belly of a great fish, but if you do find yourself alone and trapped and in the dark, you will be thankful if you have been long in the habit of spending time alone with God, letting Him sear upon your heart the light of His Word.

Quarterback Commandment No. 7

May 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Quarterback Commandments | 1 Comment
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This is a continuation of the series of Quarterback Commandments given by Bill Parcells to Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Commandment No. 7: Throwing the ball away is a good play. Sacks, interceptions, and fumbles are bad plays. Protect against those.

For those whose football parlance is somewhat lacking:

“Throwing the ball away” is when the quarterback intentionally throws a pass that no one can catch. This ends the play, and the next play starts where the previous one started, without any loss of yardage. The reason for doing this is that, among the possible outcomes of a pass play – sack (the quarterback is tackled before throwing the ball); interception (the pass is caught by someone on the other team); and incomplete pass (described above) – the incomplete pass is the least harmful.

A “fumble” is when someone carrying the football during a play drops the ball. Fumbles often occur during sacks, and often result in the other team grabbing the loose ball, which is disastrous.

The gist of Parcells’s commandment is: Rather than trying to force the best result out of every play, quarterbacks, when faced with a possible disaster, have to learn when to settle for a less-than-stellar result, so their team can have another chance on the next play.

Spiritual application: Christian ministers must learn to avoid strife over non-essential issues which will ultimately hurt the cause of Christ.

As you minister for Christ Jesus you will find yourself opposed. You will also find yourself having to decide where to draw the line as far as with whom you will minister and fellowship. A Christian minister often finds himself in the position of encountering opposition, much the same way a quarterback faces defenders who want to keep him from moving the ball downfield.

Thus, like a quarterback, a Christian minister must learn that there are times when it is better to salvage what he can from a bad situation, than to try and make a bad situation into a good one. “Live to fight another day” is the military slogan.

The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, instructed Timothy to be a very aggressive Christian quarterback:

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 2:1

But He also let him know that it’s good, once in a while, to throw the ball into the first row of spectators:

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

II Timothy 2:23

Titus got similar instructions: Play hard, and keep trying to win the game until the final whistle blows:

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Titus 3:8

But do not get bogged down by forcing the issue when the game is not on the line:

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Titus 3:9

So, as a Christian quarterback, I would like for everyone to use the King James Version of the Bible, but if you want me to go with you to visit your lost cousin in the hospital, and you insist on taking along your New King James, or even your NIV, I’m not going to refuse to go.

I believe that Jesus Christ is going to rapture His Church out of this world before the Tribulation starts, but if you don’t believe that’s precisely the order of the end-times events, I still want you to faithfully attend my Sunday School class.

When R.G. Lee, one of the best preachers of all time, pastored the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, he was allowed to go, once a week, and speak on the campus of Tulane University. He would answer questions from students, many of whom were skeptical about the truth of the Bible. On a particular occasion, a young lady raised her hand and asked, “Well, if what it says in Genesis is the literal truth, would you mind telling me just where Cain got his wife?”

Dr. Lee, not taken aback at all, responded, “Ma’am, I don’t know and I don’t care. If she was good enough for Cain, she’s good enough for me.”

Clearly, this was a good example of avoiding foolish contention, strife, and unlearned questions.

If I’m playing quarterback, and it’s fourth and long with no time left on the clock, with my team trailing by six points, I’m going to stand in the pocket, ignore the rushing linemen, and do my best to throw the ball to my receiver in the end zone even if he’s surrounded by defenders, because giving up on that play is not an option. In the same way, you and I are not going to be able to minister together if you do not believe that men are saved by grace through faith, and not of works, or if you believe that the Bible is errant and fallible, or if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t really the Son of God. Again, in military language, although it is good to live to fight again another day, the slogan, “there are some hills worth dying on,” is also true.

It is against a good quarterback’s nature to slack up, to give up on a play, or to admit that he can not improvise his way out of a bad situation. In other words, quarterbacks are not, by nature, meek. However, Parcells must believe that, to be successful, a quarterback’s natural boldness must be tempered by meekness in some situations, as part of the overall effort to win a game.

Did not Jesus Himself give us a similar example for the Christian life? Never giving up in accomplishing His ultimate objective, He nevertheless knew when to walk away from strife and contention:

He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

Matthew 12:19

During His boldest pronouncements, He sometimes invited peaceful submission rather than forcing His will upon His enemies:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:29

He even taught His disciples that sometimes it was better to throw an incompletion than to take a sack, give up an interception, or fumble the ball:

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Matthew 10:14

Professing Atheists Are Angry at God

April 16, 2009 at 8:53 am | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 31 Comments
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Christian: You can check this out by climbing up on a roof. Shake your fist, and cry out, “I don’t believe you exist, Gravity! You can’t be real! If you were real, you would not hold people down! You would have let them float away in true freedom! Therefore, I defy, O Gravity, that you exist!” Then, leap off the roof. By the way, I recommend that you do not really try this. But if you did, you would see that, if you break God’s law of gravity, then God’s law of gravity will break you – literally.

It’s the same way with God’s Biblical laws. You can break them if you want. But, if you do, they will break you. (Galatians 6:7)

Professing Atheist: Hah! Fool. We defy gravity all the time! We call them planes, and boy are they fun.

Christian: People do not defy gravity “all the time.” They only do it when they consciously take advantage of a machine or device which has been constructed in accordance with other natural laws created by God, and discovered by men, in order to work.

Professing Atheist: Every time a person kneals over and dies it is but for the grace of God. Every murder, every rape, every torture, trial, pain and suffering is but due to Him.

Christian: Whether people keel over, kneel over, or die in their sleep, death is not the end. (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12) After physical death, we will all appear before God one of two ways: with our sin, or with His Son.

The “garden variety” (Genesis 3:5) professing atheist will always blame God for atrocities, pain, crimes, and suffering. Not because he or she is too dense to understand the Truth, but because the Truth points out that we ALL (not just the murderers and rapists) are guilty before God. (James 2:10) Thus has been proven the original point of this discussion. People choose to reject Him, not because they don’t really believe He exists, but because they’re angry (like spoiled little children) at His righteousness.

Blaming God for the suffering caused by the sins of men is like blaming the Wright Brothers for 9/11. Talk about a logical fallacy!

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