Immutability for Today

June 30, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 4 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 13 is a very practical chapter of God’s Word. It contains doctrine that can be applied to everyday life. In fact, throughout the whole Bible, duty is never divorced from doctrine.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:8

This verse is often cited as a proof-text to try to convince people that God always works the same way, and that He does not operate differently in His relationship to creation during different dispensations or historical periods. That is not a correct use of the verse, but it is true that God’s character does not change. His qualities of love, mercy, grace, holiness, righteousness, and power are everlasting. He has been Father, Son, and Holy Ghost forever, and He will be forever. He cannot lie. That’s a comforting thing to know, a nice thing to know, and an important thing to know, but, in addition to providing comfort and assurance about the trustworthiness of God, it also has very practical outworkings in the daily lives of Christians.

Take, for example, the responsibility of the believer toward his or her spiritual leaders.

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Hebrews 13:7

Though leaders change from one to another, and though they might change in the sense of moral failure or being undependable, we must remember that our ultimate responsibility is to follow and serve God, and that He is always the same when it comes to trustworthiness and dependability. We chiefly put our faith in God’s Word and His promises.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall;
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call;
Trusting in the Savior as my ALL in ALL;
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail;
When the howling storms of fear and doubt assail;
By the living Word of God I shall prevail;
Standing on the promises of God

R. Kelso Carter

Beware the Frightening Footsteps

October 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Posted in The Fives | Leave a comment
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The rulers of God’s people had behaved sinfully and shamefully. Now they themselves would be shamed openly, as their enemies, the Assyrians, would conquer their land and humiliate them with smacks to the face.

Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.

Micah 5:1

They would also stomp through their palaces, terrorizing the people with the threat of captivity and destruction. However, the people could still choose to believe God’s promise that one day a Messiah would come. He would bring peace between God’s people and the God they had offended with their sin. And while He himself would be powerful enough to throw off the yoke of bondage on His Own, He would also graciously raise up Godly leaders and empower them to stand against God’s enemies.

And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.

Micah 5:5 (emphasis added)

If you have been born again by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are victorious in Him and do not need to fear the principalities and powers and dark rulers who tread through the palaces of this world. You may instead trust and believe that God is still ordaining seven (a metaphor for the the perfect number) and eight (meaning abundantly and plentifully) shepherds and principal men in Bible-believing local churches today to lead the flocks of the Lord Jesus in the ministries of peace and reconciliation.

The Warning to the Weary

September 26, 2014 at 8:48 am | Posted in Galatians | 4 Comments
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After the Holy Ghost had spent most of the first five chapters of Galatians driving home the point that Christians are saved, and set free from the law of sin and death and destructive fruitless rule-keeping, by God’s grace through faith in His Son, Jesus, He wanted there to be no confusion about the outworking of this great doctrine in our lives. Therefore, He plainly and passionately tells us in Chapter 6 that God’s grace is a motivation to work hard, not a license to lapse into sin.

If you are involved in active ministry at your local church, or anywhere else ordained by God, you will be tempted to get weary in well doing, because doing is hard work. Our encouragement is in the reminder that “doing” something in response to God’s calling is doing something that is “well,” something that is “good.” And that, eventually, if we faint not – if we don’t quit – we will reap from the good that God has allowed us to sow.

When my wife and I were first married, our pastor used to quote Galatians 6:9 all the time. Back in those days, when I was doing more pew-sitting than faith-walking, I could not understand why a preacher, of all people, would need encouragement not to get weary. Many years later, I can tell you from experience, and, more importantly, from the Truth of God’s Word, that fatigue brought on by doing well for God is more refreshing to my spirit than a seven-day vacation at the beach is to my flesh.

Oversight / Obedience

August 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Posted in I Peter, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 3 Comments
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Oversight

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

I Peter 5:1-2

What a comforting thought for us sheep. Not only is the Good and Great Shepherd watching over us, protecting us, providing for us, and leading us, but He has also assigned undershepherds – here the reference is to a pastor or an elder – to exercise oversight of us, and to help us, and to look out for our best interest. He has assigned them to feed us the Word of God, and to fight off wolves who might come in to deceive us.

The idea that Almighty God would exercise such meticulous oversight is very comforting. He wants every step you and I take to be monitored, but there is another side to the blessing of oversight, which is:

Obedience

Is obedience truly comforting? Don’t we struggle enough with being obedient to God? And now, how humbling! Willingly submitting to another human being!

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

I Peter 5:5-6

A previous lesson in this series was partly about opportunity. Here is a great opportunity – the opportunity to humble ourselves before God has to do it for us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

We make a big mistake when we think of obedience as drudgery instead of comfort. God says that obedience to His ordained authorities is profitable – that it is working itself out for our benefit.

Leading by Example

April 12, 2010 at 10:42 am | Posted in Ezra, Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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The city of Jerusalem was in ruins. The temple there had been destroyed. The city walls were breached and broken. The Jewish people were in captivity in Babylon. Then, one day, God caused a faithful group of His people to return to Jerusalem to undertake the imposing task of rebuilding the walls, repopulating the city, and restoring the temple.

Progress was being made until around 530 B.C. For about 10 years the people were forbidden to continue by the Persian king, Artaxerxes, and they worked on their own houses, rather than the house of God.

Two main factors got God’s people back on track, and motivated them to resume God’s work. One was Godly preaching.

Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.

Ezra 5:1

There is power in the prophesying (preaching) of God’s Word.

The second factor was that the ones doing the preaching were not afraid to get their hands dirty, and set a Godly example by practicing what they prophesied.

Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

Ezra 5:2, emphasis added

Spiritual leaders are often called upon to use their mouths, but they should also be willing to use their backs.

T.K.O. Your Pastor (#1)

April 8, 2010 at 9:39 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 15 Comments
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Normally, when we hear the initials “T.K.O.” we think of a referee stopping a fight due to a “technical knockout.” If you have been a Christian for a long time you probably have known at least a couple of pastors you would like to have seen TKO’d in that sense! A pastor is almost always a preacher, too, but they are not exactly the same thing. Some churches have a good preacher who is a poor pastor, and some churches have a good pastor who is a poor preacher. I once read about a church whose pastor was such a great preacher that people thought he should never get out of the pulpit – but he was such a poor pastor, that he should never have gotten into the pulpit to begin with!

Now, however, I’m going to talk about a different kind of “T.K.O.” Applied to the pastor, T.K.O. should stand for: Trust your pastor; know your pastor; obey your pastor.

I. Trust your pastor.

If most Christians are asked whether they trust God, they will unhesitatingly say “yes.” If you trust God, you should also be able to trust your pastor. He is supposed to be appointed by God.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:8

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Ephesians 4:11

Pastor-and-teacher are two jobs in one office. Two things that a pastor is to do are teaching and preaching – leading and caring for the flock.

Why did God appoint pastors?

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:12

I remember as a young child thinking it would be a pretty sweet deal to be a preacher: people always inviting me over to their house for fried chicken, only working one day per week. Until I read:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

I liked the part where it said people were supposed to obey me, and I would have the rule over them. But I was not so crazy about the giving an account part. Especially since it would be the Lord that I would be giving that account to.

Ephesians 4:11 says, “And he gave…” Pastors are ordained or appointed by God. If God trusts them, is it right for us not to, as long as they are not being unscriptural? Because they are accountable, we’re really trusting them to be right with God. Have you criticized your pastor before for less than Scriptural reasons? When we do that, Who are we really criticizing? When we don’t trust the pastor as he obeys the Word, we don’t really trust God.

I. Trust your pastor.
II. Know your pastor.

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

The Bible says to “know” your pastor. Many Christians love to hear their pastor preach – until he starts preaching against their sin! It can be a risky thing to “know” your pastor – to look behind the curtain. But you need to know if your pastor is a man of his word. You need to know if he is a man of integrity. You need to know if he practices what he preaches. You need to know if he will be loyal – if he will stand by his friends.

And you need to be loyal to him. We have to be careful about our attitude when we are approached by someone with something negative to say about the pastor. As Christians we must beware of gossip in general.

I Thessalonians 5:13 says “to esteem them very highly.” “Esteem” comes from an old French word, ais-temos, which means a “copper-cutter,” one who mints copper coins or makes copper valuable. So, esteem means “to make someone valuable.” We need to think about our pastor the way we would think about someone we really care about – the way we would think about someone who is very dear to us. When you care about someone, you get to know them, and you make sure they know you are there for them. Sometimes pastors cause church members to stumble by being aloof. They won’t let anyone but their family get close enough to really develop a caring relationship with them. Pastors who are pastoring the right way have a ton of responsibility, and sometimes a pastor needs a “pastor,” too. To whom will your pastor talk when he’s feeling down and discouraged?

We are to know the pastor, and esteem the pastor very highly. We are to show him honor in public, always making sure that God really gets the glory.

When you think about it, the pastor-as-preacher part of his job is to make the uncomfortable people comfortable – and to make the comfortable people uncomfortable. It can be tough. But who will comfort the pastor?

Next time, we’ll discuss the “O” in “TKO Your Pastor.”

Pouting Pastoral Pathetic Pity Party Permanently Postponed

June 29, 2009 at 10:32 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration | 5 Comments
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When the children of Israel entered into the promised land of Canaan, the Lord divided up the land among the various tribes. However, He singled out one tribe to minister directly unto Him.

At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.

Deuteronomy 10:8

The tribe of Levi was to be “separated.” As the special priests and ministers unto the Lord, they were to be set apart by special ceremonial and behavioral rules from the rest of the people. They were supposed to live “different” lives. They were also set apart unto God, devoted totally to standing before Him, and to blessing His Name.

Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.

Deuteronomy 10:9

While the other tribes enjoyed great material blessings and wealth, having been given bountiful land and opportunities for worldly prosperity, the Levites were to live a comparatively Spartan existence. Our spiritual leaders today often adopt a “woe-is-me” point of view concerning this aspect of full-time ministry to the Lord. They complain about members of their flock, who seem to be free from the inconveniences of daily ministry. For a church leader to say, “Oh poor me, I must spend time toiling in Bible study and care-giving visits, while my congregation can seek career advancement and material gains,” is to miss the point of the blessing of the tribe of Levi.

Sure, the other tribes had been given a great inheritance, but can there be any greater blessing than having the opportunity to devote one’s life to doing the Lord’s work on a full-time basis – of being free from the pressures that prohibit the lay-person from spending more time in personal worship with Christ, and from interceding on behalf of others directly before the throne of God? We must not make the mistake of feeling sorry for our spiritual leaders, nor must they make the mistake of wallowing in self-pity.


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