How to Handle Unexpected Hostility

September 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.

I Samuel 25:2

This man, who probably had two separate homes (one in Maon and one in Carmel), was extremely rich. Some wealthy people are generous – and some are mean and stingy. In the historical period described in I Samuel, if there was ever a time when it would be wise to approach a rich man to ask for a favor, it would be during the shearing time – a time of celebration and prosperity.

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.

I Samuel 25:3

What a contrast! This evil and rude and mean-spirited man had a beautiful and gracious wife. He was a fool, and she was known for wisdom. He was “churlish” – translated from a Hebrew word which brings to mind a mean dog that bites the hand that would feed it, and is a pun on the name “Caleb,” which in Hebrew sounds like the word for dog. How could a man like Nabal obtain a wife like Abigail? If you know me and my wife, you are probably thinking I should know the answer to that, since it describes me and her! The Bible doesn’t tells us, though. We are left to assume that Nabal changed after the wedding, or that it was an arranged marriage, without Abigail having had a say in the matter.

And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.

I Samuel 23:4

David and his men needed food and supplies. Not knowing Nabal’s temperament, David believed this would be a good time to call in the favor implicitly owed to him by Nabal, but instead of charging into the shearing party with 600 unruly soldiers, he exercised discretion and sent ahead ten young, inoffensive messengers.

And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name: And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.

I Samuel 25:5-8

There was an understanding that the good service done to Nabal’s shepherds in protecting them and his flocks, and in being very scrupulous not to take anything for themselves without permission, would be rewarded in a culture where the custom of hospitality toward strangers was of the utmost honor.

And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased. And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.

I Samuel 25:9-10

Verse 14 says that Nabal “railed” on them, which is translated from a Hebrew word that means to screech at someone in fury like a predatory bird swooping down on its prey. It is difficult to overstate how insulting this was toward David, especially after he had just had an opportunity to take Saul’s life, and had refused to do it.

Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? So David’s young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings.

I Samuel 25:11-12

David was a complex character. He was a man after God’s own heart, known for his passion and zeal for God, but passionate and zealous people often have a hard time controlling that passion and zeal. David was someone who rejoiced at good news with his whole heart – as many of the Psalms attest – but he was also someone who could react very violently at bad news – as many of the OTHER Psalms, along with some of David’s actions – attest. When he received word of Nabal’s insults and his refusal to pay what David felt he owed, he did not hesitate.

Sometimes it’s hard to read tone into Biblical dialogue, but it’s not at all hard to hear David’s attitude, and imagine him speaking through gritted teeth with flexed muscles and furrowed brow in this verse:

And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.

I Samuel 25:13

David angry at Nabal

While this was going on, one of Nabal’s servants had the foresight to see where things were heading, and, when David’s servants left to report back to David, this servant, acting on his own initiative, went and found Nabal’s wife, Abigail, and told her what kind of trouble Nabal had stirred up for himself.

Just as David acted decisively and without hesitation when told of Nabal’s offensiveness, Abigail acted just as quickly and decisively – but with a far different motive and intention. Whereas David had strapped on his sword, Abigail packed a picnic!

Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.

I Samuel 35:18

That sounds like a huge amount of food prepared in a short period of time. As she went forth, the Lord’s invisible hand (what we call His providence) was at work. He arranged it so that David, bearing down on Nabal’s estate, ran smack into Abigail at just the right moment.

And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.

I Samuel 25:23-25

A superficial reading makes it sound like she was being disloyal to her own husband, pointing out that his name was well-deserved, but in reality she was doing him a great service – albeit behind his back.

Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal. And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord. I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.

I Samuel 25:26-31

There is tremendous wisdom in this speech, and it is not flattery. It is truth: David would one day reign over Israel, and the act of vengeance he was on the verge of committing would have been a stain on his reputation that would have hindered his abililty to rule, as well as showing a lack of trust in the Lord to fight his battles for him.

And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.

I Samuel 25:32-3

We can take a few lessons from the account of Nabal, David, and Abigail:

1. Don’t assume that people are good-natured.

David took it for granted that his good service toward Nabal would be returned in kind. We don’t have to resort to gross pessimism, but we do need to remember the doctrine of man’s depravity, so that we are not caught off-guard when someone responds to our kindness with rudeness or hostility.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:10-11

2. When you encounter unexpected hostility, don’t respond with rash anger in return.

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

There are times when righteous indignation is the appropriate and even God-honoring response, but a cooling-off period in which we seek the Lord in prayer and Bible-consultation helps us to exercise wisdom.

3. Don’t let your mouth write a check your provision can’t cash.

Nabal talked very boldly and arrogantly and provocatively to David’s servants, but he was ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 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 14:28-33

4. Peacemakers enjoy God’s favor.

Abigail saved both both men from a tragic consequence – at least temporarily.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Making true peace involves sharing the truth, and it involves self-sacrifice. Abigail took a big risk intercepting David, but she needed to share the truth that ultimate vengeance belongs to God, not us. David’s change of mind turned out to be the right course of action, and Nabal did not escape God’s justice.

And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light. But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.

I Samuel 25:36-39

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Romans 12:19

Abigail’s actions remind us in a way of Jesus, Who rescued us from the wrath and the shame we deserved because of our hostility toward God and each other. If you have been rescued from the power of sin, and from even greater sin than you would have committed apart from God’s providence and intercession, then praise Him. If you are still in your sins,  seize this opportunity right now – as did David – to turn from your present course, and turn toward Jesus. Repent, trust Him, ask Him to take away your sin and guilt – and live.

Doubling Down on the Hypocrites

July 15, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Luke | 3 Comments
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No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.

Luke 11:33

Jesus is the Light for Christians. He is the only thing that illuminates spiritual darkness. If you are going to have an impact for the Kingdom, you are going to have to bring out Jesus and shine Him into blinded minds.

The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.

Luke 11:34

The person with double vision – speaking from experience – does not see twice as much. If your eye be “double” then your “light” becomes darkness. Double-sightedness = spiritual blindness. Double-mindedness = instability.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

Double-heartedness = idolatry.

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

Psalm 86:11

Here are some Biblical examples of people with “double vision” who wound up in the dark:

Samson – his name meant “Son of the Sun,” but he liked to look at things he shouldn’t look at and had divided affections between the Lord and his own lusts, and he wound up blind, pushing a mill stone.

Lot – he was double-minded. He believed in God but wanted to live in the world. He ended up in a cave, in the dark, drunk, committing incest with his daughters.

Saul – he had a divided heart. He wanted to be the king but did not want God to be the King over him. He wound up in spiritual darkness, committing suicide on the battlefield.

And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.

Luke 11:37

Jesus would spend time with sinners, and and He was often harsh and condemning toward the religious leaders (Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers) because they would criticize Him and say, “Why are you hanging out with sinners? It makes you seem like a sinner, too.” This would be like asking a doctor why he’s always so sick since he’s always hanging out at hospitals, but we need to remember that Jesus loved the Pharisees and the religious hypocrites, too, and He did spend time with them also. He loves sinners, including “religious” sinners, but He does not brook their hypocrisy.

And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.

Luke 11:38

We do not know if this was a conscious action on the part of Jesus, designed to provoke a reaction, but it did cause a reaction for sure. Jesus responded with some very harsh rebukes.

And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?

Luke 11:39-40

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22

How could Jesus call someone a fool and not sin, when, for us, such name-calling is tantamount to breaking the Sixth Commandment? The reason is that when when we get mad enough to call somebody a fool, or a jerk, or an idiot, we are committing the sin of unrighteous anger usually, and and hypocrisy always, but when Jesus did so in this instance He was pronouncing prophetic “woes,” or curses, in keeping with His Divine calling. And He was not done with the name-calling either:

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke 11:42

They tithed out of even their spice racks, but they didn’t truly love God or His people, and they judged with their own judgments while ignoring God’s judgments.

Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

Luke 11:43

They paid for the best seats, and they wanted to be noticed and seen, because they were seeking worship for themselves insted of for God.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

Luke 11:44

The scribes were included in this third woe, which was especially insulting because they would go to great lengths to mark out graves and keep away from the defilement of dead bodies.

Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.

Luke 11:45

One of the lawyers who heard these woes suddenly became passively-aggressively “offended,” and, in doing so, bit off more than he could chew:

And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.

Luke 11:46

Jesus accused them of wanting to tell everyone else how to live, but not wanting to make it easier for anyone else to live right.

Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.

Luke 11:47

They were trying to rewrite history so that they could repeat it with impunity.

Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

Luke 11:48-52

They were fake teachers, adding to burdens instead of easing burdens. The scribes and Pharisees responded with anger.

And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.

Luke 11:53-54

They tried to “catch” the Words coming out of His mouth. They went hunting with traps.

 

The Be Quietudes

September 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 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 which 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/)

The Purpose, and the Misuse, of Anger

May 28, 2015 at 10:45 am | Posted in Matthew | 8 Comments
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Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Matthew 5:21-26

We are created in the image of God. This deals more with the make-up of our inner selves than any physical characteristics. It includes our will and our emotions. In some ways, our emotions are a mirror of the ways God chooses to express His feelings. We are able to love because God is love, and He has created an ability to love in us. We have compassion because God understands everything about us, and He has created in us an ability to understand others.

Many of the emotions which we received from God have been warped and perverted because of sin. Jealousy is one example. God’s jealousy is good. We should be jealous of those we love in the sense of wanting what is best for them, and wanting to share a special bond. But instead we make it into a petty, selfish emotion, where we are jealous of what someone else has, so that we want it for ourselves. Another example is lust: a strong burning inward desire for something. We should lust after our spouses. We should lust after righteousness. But we’ve turned lust into a sinful desire to have what is forbidden, and our flesh enjoys it all the more because it is forbidden. Fear is another example. We should have an awe of God, and a reverent fear of Him that helps us. Instead, we make fear our excuse for not moving in faith, for not boldly going into the unknown while knowing that God is with us.

Let’s focus on another example: anger. Anger is expressed by God. God is love, but He does get angry. God is love, and He is good, but a part of being good is being just, and part of being just is rewarding right and punishing wrong. God’s holiness must be offended by, and angered by, sin. It must be angered by injustice, so God reserves His anger for times when His creatures rebel against Him, as is the case with Lucifer, Adam and Eve – and you and I.

Question: How can God be loving and angry?
Answer: How can He not?

We tend to be subjective when we think about someone’s evil deeds. Two people read about a criminal in the news. One person is offended, and another person is not. One person does not approve of the criminal’s actions, but is sympathetic over the consequences of getting caught or over the circumstances that led him to commit the crime. A third person is aghast and disgusted at the villainy that was perpetrated. Deep down, though, each of them has a sense of justice. When the crime is horrific enough, or cruel enough, we feel an urge to see punishment meted out, if not by the authorities, then at least by some cosmic judge. None of us really, truly want a God who could look at 9/11 and just want to give Osama Bin Laden a hug. God’s response to kidnappings, rapes, murders can not be, “Let’s just hold hands and sing kumbaya.”

Question: If God is all-powerful and all good, why is there so much bad?
Answer: That’s the wrong question. The question should be: “If God is all-powerful and all good, why has He not obliterated this whole world a long time ago?”

God expresses anger – it seems – as a way of dealing with injustice and sin. But we have taken our God-given capacity for anger, and have warped it and abused it and tainted it with sin.

There is a righteous anger and a holy indignation. The Bible even tells us to be angry (but not to sin, Ephesians 4:26). Some examples of righteous indignation include Jesus chasing the money-changers out of the Temple, and sinners under John the Baptist’s preaching reacting violently to get past the Pharisees in order to get to God (Matthew 11:12).

Matthew 5:21-26 is part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ the King issued His decrees on the fulfillment of – and the real meaning of – the Law. The Pharisees had made the law of Moses completely external. Christ said that its real application is to the heart – internal. Sinful anger is anger that is not justified – anger that exists, according to Matthew 5:22, “without a cause.” And this may very well include 99.9% of all human anger. Because, unlike God, we are sinful and not capable of exercising or administering perfect justice, we are commanded to be forgiving, meek, humble, long-suffering, kind, loving, prayerful for enemies, willing to turn the other cheek.

We who have been forgiven in Christ have been spared the consequences of God’s anger, although God remained just. Therefore, we, being unjust, must not place our own selfish interpretation of justice around us and seek to enforce it.

Sinful anger is very dangerous. It makes us want to destroy, when Jesus has called us to be builders rather than destroyers.

Sinful anger puts us into bondage spiritually (and sometimes literally). God doesn’t want us to be captives. He wants us to be free.

Sinful anger in our hearts comes out of our mouths, and makes a bad situation worse. God wants us to come into bad situations and make them better.

The Law said “thou shalt not kill.” The Pharisees added:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Matthew 5:43

Jesus said not only is murder a sin, but unjustified hatred in the heart is murder.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

I John 3:15

Most murders are not cold and calculated; they are a result of unrestrained anger. Most of them don’t take place when people are defending a righteous cause; most of them take place in the barrooms and the bedrooms. God values human life. Only He gives it, and only He has the right to take it away. So the Lord says, make things right with your brother before you come to the altar to show your love for God. We need to come to worship with a right heart. Bitterness and anger toward our brothers intrudes on our relationship with God, and our worship of Him.

Purity, Prayer, and Possessions

March 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Matthew | 6 Comments
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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Matthew 5:17

The Pharisees had placed a crust around the seed of God’s Word. Jesus broke the crust, but He did not destroy the Law. He fulfilled the Law. A seed can stop being a seed through destruction, or through fulfilling its purpose. Remember, Jesus came onto the scene of public ministry after working for years as a carpenter, and His job has always been that of a builder.

In Christian maturity we move past rules and regulations (outward), and get directly to the attitudes of the heart (inward). Imagine if I dug a well, attached a faucet, and filthy water came out. Would I just change the faucet? No, I’d dig a new well. The hearts we were born with can produce only sin and evil. When we trust Christ, He removes the old heart, and replaces it with a new heart, from which can flow God-pleasing purity.

Matthew Chapter 6 deals with prayer, fasting, and money. Have you ever thought about why God commands us to pray when He already knows our needs? One reason is that prayer is the God-appointed way for getting those needs met. Here’s how it works. You pray to discern God’s will (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”). God allows needs to come into your life, and you draw close to Him in prayer (Psalm 50:15). God shows you that all you really need is Him (II Corinthians 12:7-10). You become thankful to God, even about your needs, and you stay in an attitude of prayer and ongoing communication with your God (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of what God already knows we need.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Matthew 6:19

Materialism is when we stop possessing things, and things start possessing us. Idolatry of things enslaves. It enslaves the heart.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:21

It enslaves the mind.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23

What you say is what’s in your heart; what you look at is what’s on your mind.

It enslaves the will.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24

Imagine: Your heart, your mind, your will – all enslaved to a bass boat or a TV set or a retirement account or a Cadillac. It’s not a pretty picture. However, in Christ, we can win the victory over our idolatrous desires to be rich, to own property, to possess things. Even worry about the basic necessities of life needn’t ensnare us.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 6:25

“Things” used for God will bring glory to God, but things used for me cheapen the things, and cheapen me as well.

What Can I Do for God?

February 18, 2015 at 11:48 am | Posted in Matthew | 5 Comments
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Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

The point of doing “good works” is not to impress other people with how “good” we are. Nor is the point to impress God, in the sense of gaining or earning His favor. However, the Bible does say to live your life before the eyes of God (I Kings 15:5; I Samuel 26:24). Many years ago, when I first started actively serving as a member of a local church, I was not sure what I would be able to do. The church had a gym, and it was in need of painting, so, as part of a big group project, I was assigned to paint a large section of the walls. I had done plenty of painting growing up, but this was special. In my mind, I wasn’t doing this for the church, or for the approval of the pastor or other church members. I was doing it for the Lord. I don’t think I’ve ever painted with such care and effort. I wanted to do a good job for my Lord.

If you are a father and you’ve ever taken a small child to a public playground, you have probably experienced this: There will almost always be young boys there with their mothers or some other female caregiver. They are happy playing by themselves until they see you (the only grown man) there. Almost immediately, they will begin showing off, vying for your attention, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, jumping off the highest part of the slide, turning a back-flip off a swing. “Hey, hey, look at me – look what I can do!” There is something inherent in boys that makes them want to please their fathers (or in the absence of their fathers) some male authority figure. It’s not exactly the same thing with God and His children, but there is a sense in which we should be striving to please our Heavenly Father.

On the other hand, though, we must be careful not to make an idol of our accomplishments when they appear noteworthy. We have a tendency to feel content as Christians when we accomplish all our spiritual “chores:” when we have read our Bibles, said our prayers, witnessed faithfully, advanced in our sanctification. When we have a day like this, we might secretly, perhaps even subconsciously, believe that God loves us “more” than on the days when we lose the battle to temptation, fall into sin, shirk our spiritual duties, and regress into the flesh. I call that type of of thinking “idolatrous” because, when that happens, we have become the source of our own “blessedness” – our own peace and contentment.

There is a difference between striving to fulfill every rule of law and living to please God – of being motivated by His greatness and goodness on one hand, versus being motivated by the false belief that I am somehow adding something to Him, on the other hand.

We like to think that God has no other hands than our hands, no other feet than our feet, no way of speaking but by our mouths, but this is not true. God is not dependent upon His children, and there would be no place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven if it was a place only for those with great faith, tireless devotion, and unfailing, continual, never-sliding-back progress in sanctification.

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Isaiah 66:1

The idea that God doesn’t need us might make some folks mad, but it makes me very, very happy. God can raise up a rock to do anything I can do – and do it better than me! It’s not the world’s version of the “great ones” who rule with the King in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matthew 19:30

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17

Yes, we shall reign in life, but not by our own righteousness. It shall be by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The Relief of being Blessed

February 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Matthew | 5 Comments
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The Sermon on the Mount contains the Beatitudes. It is deeply theological, but the deeper you go, the more practical it gets. It is the manifesto of the King. It teaches us to live like kings, not “one day,” but now. “Blessed are” “Ye are the salt of the earth…

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:16-17

Jesus taught that the Kingdom is “at hand.” It is here right now. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us that we are kings, and kings have what serving under them? Servants. Are your servants serving you? Or are you serving your servants? God gave us appetites, but we must rule over them. Hunger, thirst, and physical desire must be made to serve, and not allowed to rule. What about material possessions and money? God made things to use, and people to love. Too many people start loving things, and the result when you love things is that you start to use people.

It is helpful to remember the Beatitudes as the Be-Attitudes. God is interested not only in what you do, but in who you are. “Blessed” is usually translated as “happy,” but the people of Jesus’s time used the concept of beatus to describe a condition like death – an end of problems. It’s an indictment to us that we think of Heaven primarily in terms of what we get, and not the trouble we will be missing out on. “Blessed” is seeing God – even the God of wrath – turn toward you. He pauses, looks at you, and says, “I am well pleased.” That’s “blessed.”

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

Revelation 19:11-12

The Mountain No One Can Climb Alone

January 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Matthew, Salvation | 9 Comments
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Matthew Chapter 5 contains the first part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” and includes the “Beatitudes.”  Since we know that Matthew stresses Christ Jesus in His role as King, we may read this sermon as the King’s creed – the guiding and foundational principles of His Kingdom.

Since we also know that the book of Matthew was written primarily to the Jewish people, we may now unlock the significance of Matthew Chapter 5, Verse 1:  “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:”  The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to make a point of saying that Jesus “went up into a mountain” in order to call to mind the differences between the law that Christ the King was about to pronounce, and the law that Moses gave on Mount Sinai.

And, like everything in the Old Testament which is a shadow (Hebrews 10:1) or a type of the New Covenant, the law of Christ is “more perfect” than the law of Moses (Hebrews 8:5-7).  Examples:  Moses said, give God a tithe (one tenth); Christ says, surrender everything you have to God; Moses said, do not kill; Christ says, do not even hate your enemies; Moses said, do not commit adultery; Christ says, do not even look at a woman with lust in your heart; Moses said, give God a day (the Sabbath); Christ says, give God every moment of every day of your life.

It quickly becomes clear in Matthew Chapter 5 that the kind of rule-keeping and regulation-following it would take to truly achieve “righteousness” under God’s law is impossible for man to obtain.  Only Christ’s righteousness is sufficient for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Has that righteousness been imputed to you by faith?  If not, trust and obey Jesus Christ the King right now. (Romans 4:22-25)

Beware the Foreign Figurehead

November 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Matthew, The Fives | 11 Comments
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The first two beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount deal with people who are blessed because of the situation in which they find themselves: the poor in spirit and those who mourn. But the third beatitude pronounces a benediction upon people who are exercising a certain virtue:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

A person who has the capacity to be meek is someone who already appears blessed. It is a person who has strength, but then, in humility, and out of a desire to love and serve others, brings that strength under control.

Jesus says that the blessing for being meek is inheriting the earth. How much of a blessing is this, though, really? The earth – the arena of Adam’s fallen and sin-sick race – has become quite a shabby place. And perhaps that is the point at which Jesus connects the idea of meekness with receiving it as an inheritance.

See, Adam, the first man, was supposed to exercise dominion over the earth. This was a great honor. As the image-bearer of his Supreme Creator he was supposed to use his position to make His Creator seem great – in other words, to “glorify” Him. However, Adam – acting as our accurate representative even before we showed up – blew it big time. He did not glorify his Creator. He acted like the Creator was a promise-breaker: unwilling, unable, or at least unlikely to keep His Word concerning disobedience. And therefore Adam lost his dominion and our “inheritance,” if you will.

So, here we are, a little over 6000 years later, give or take, and the Creator has managed to redeem us at the greatest possible cost, and restore our inheritance. But how do we claim it? By acting like it should have been ours all along? By no means. We are to remember that this earth is a temporary inheritance compared to the eternal home we shall inherit in Christ Jesus. We are to think of Heaven as our home, and to think of ourselves as foreigners in this world. A faithful ambassador of his king, when visiting a foreign land, does not set himself up as a “figurehead.” Instead, he makes it clear that he is on a mission for his Lord. He brings under control the authority he has been granted, and exercises it temperately, reminding everyone that “the earth” is going to be reclaimed by its rightful Owner one day soon, and that He will deal accordingly with those who pretended that they owned it, and that He will demand an accounting from those He sent to be His emissaries.

A Confident Marriage

May 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Confidence is not arrogance. One of the Bible words for confidence is “boldness.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Acts 4:29 (emphasis added)

It’s not that the Apostles asked God to make them unafraid. It’s that they asked Him to make them irascible – able to face the fearful situation. What is the sine qua non for courage? It’s fear. God has not given us a “spirit of fear,” but that does not mean that God will keep us out of fearful circumstances. He has given us the ability to be confident in knowing that in Him we can overcome fear.

Are you courageous, constant, and confident enough to minister while being married? To stand at the gate that Satan is battering and to protect your marriage while still showing the love of Christ to a voraciously evil world?

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

Job 31:1

In a world filled with illicit sexual imagery, it doesn’t take courage to look. It takes courage to look away.

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.

Isaiah 3:16-17

The immodesty we see in society is not only Satan’s assault on godliness – it may also be part of God’s judgment for our pride. It takes courage not only to keep from looking, but to keep from imitating.

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

That is the zenith of irascibility! Jesus is not promoting self-mutilation. He’s teaching about just how dangerous adultery is, for He turns immediately to the topic of marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:31).

Being married – and especially being a married Christian – in 21st Century America requires irascibility in the form of courage, endurance, and confidence in order to combat the pervasiveness of overt sexuality. Earlier I compared this irascibility to a more masculine attitude toward combat, but this “masculinity” is not based on a “tough-guy” caricature of manhood. It comes from a fear of God.

And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:7-9 (emphasis added)

Joseph didn’t want to betray his earthly master, but, more than that, he was downright determined not to sin against his God! Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. The first must be present for the latter to exist. The fear of the Lord provokes the greatest courage of all. If Satan knocks that wall down, I could lose my wife, my home, my kids, my job, my reputation. That frightens me. But what frightens me more is sinning against the God Who loved me and redeemed me and made me His Own.

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