The Privilege of Provision

February 2, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Posted in The Family of Faith | 3 Comments
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Those who belong to the family of faith enjoy the privilege of protection, and the privilege of provision.

The citizens of earthly nations pay taxes so that needs will be met; the citizens of God’s family have their REAL needs provided for by God according to His riches in glory in Christ.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Citizenship in an earthly nation is supposed to provide safety and acceptance; citizenship in God’s nation and family provides a home and unseverable relationships (although fellowship may be tested, strained, and even broken).

The Problem with Pecuniary Parenting

September 29, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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In a previous lesson I critiqued the style of parenting in which parents make decisions concerning their children based on the popularity of the decisions. Getting input from our children, and listening closely to what they have to say, is certainly wise, but we recognize that our authority as parents comes from an authority higher than our children, and even higher than us.

Another parenting category may be called “monetary parents.” These parents tend to try to buy their children’s obedience, respect, or even love. The common parlance for this method is called “spoiling” your children. This is sometimes triggered by feelings left over from our own childhood that perhaps our parents were not as generous with us as we would have liked them to be. It helps to remember, as a counter to this temptation, that materialism breeds its own set of problems. Remember, your children are not an outlet for any lingering childhood resentments of your own, and you are not commanded in the Word of God (although you might be by society or pop culture) to give your children “all the things you never had.” Using bribery as a replacement for training, nurture, discipleship, and discipline is a recipe for rearing greedy, covetous kids.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

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? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:25-33

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

I Timothy 6:10

It is not wrong to give treats to our kids, and special presents from time to time, but it is wrong to rob them of the spiritual and practical disciplines of self-control and wise stewardship. Some of the poorest families I know are really the richest.

Next time, we will take a look at a third parenting category.

Getting Full (Part 2)

October 18, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Have you ever attended a church service or a conference that turned out to be sort of a religious pep rally where the speaker did his best to get you all fired up to do something, but then stopped short of actually telling you how to do it? Last time I wrote about the importance of being “full” of the Holy Spirit. Now we will look at how to do that.

The first clue lies right there in the verse that commands us to do it:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:18

How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it – lots of it!

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:13

That Spirit referenced in I Corinthians 12:13 is the Holy Spirit, and you have access to Him if you are truly a Christian – just like every other Christian has access to Him. So how do you “drink of the Spirit?” You drink the Spirit by “minding the things of the Spirit.” In other words, since the Spirit is not really a liquid, and we are using a metaphor here, you have to set your mind and your affection on spiritual things. You have to focus on the things of God and get involved in doing them. If you wanted to drink a large amount of water you would go to where the water is. You would pick it up, and you would pour it down your throat.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:5

1. Initiate spiritual thoughts and actions.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:1-2

Think about that with which God would want you to be involved.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Get full of the Holy Spirit by thinking about – and doing – the types of things the Holy Spirit loves to do: things that help others; things that build up others; things that edify; things that bring praise and glory to God; things that magnify Christ Jesus – which brings us to the second way to get full of the Holy Spirit.

2. Imitate the Lord Jesus.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John 7:37-39

If you came to Jesus, repenting of your sins, believing the truth about Him, and calling upon Him to save you from the wrath of God that you and I deserve, then you “drank” of His Spirit, and, after that, rivers of this “living water” exist in you and flow out of you. Therefore, you “drink the Spirit” by living, loving, and leading like Jesus. You need to live a pure and holy life, because that’s how Jesus lived. You need to love the people around you – and especially the people who seem unlovable – because that’s what Jesus did. You need to lead people into a right relationship with God, because that’s what Jesus did.

3. Indoctrinate yourself with Bible principles.

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

John 6:53

You need to read and study and meditate on the teachings of Jesus. You need to go to church and Sunday School and learn about, put into practice, and live out the teachings of Jesus. You need to be a student of the records of what He said during His time on earth in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you are going to have to find out what the Bible teaches, both in the “red letter” words, and in the rest of the Bible, too, including the teachings of the Apostles.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

I Corinthians 2:12-13

If we will indoctrinate ourselves with the words of Jesus and with Apostolic teaching, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

4. Interact with the Holy Spirit Himself.

He is a person. He is not a source, a power, a mystical cloud, a thing, or an “it.” When you are dealing with a person, you must cultivate a real relationship.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

John 3:8

You can’t control the wind, but you can certainly interact with it. It is important – and perhaps this is the most important thing to know about how to be filled with the Holy Spirit – to pray for Him to fill you.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:3

Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit.

You have to want to be Spirit-filled for the right reasons. He can not be manipulated.

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

Acts 8:9-23

“Simony” is the purchasing of church offices, but Simon’s real fault was in thinking he could manipulate and control the Holy Spirit for his own profit. He was covetous (“in the gall of bitterness”) and he was being used by Satan (“in the bond of iniquity”). The wrong way to ask God for the Holy Spirit is with an ulterior motive of manipulation. The right way is with a heart that seeks to please God. Remember, when you are filled with the Spirit, here is what you will find yourself doing: praising the Lord; thanking the Lord, serving others humbly because of God.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Ephesians 5:18-21

However, you can not have the Spirit at all – much less be filled – unless you have been born again.

Sharpening Your Focus

July 12, 2013 at 11:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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F.uel

When you have no provision or strength for the battle you are facing, then it seems to make little sense to go into the battle. You would not have the ability to do what you have been called to do. But that is never the case for a Christian in spiritual warfare.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Philippians 4:11-13

Philippians 4:13 has become a popular verse in American sports culture, but it is not really a verse about athletes winning ball games or fighters beating up their opponents. It is about drawing strength from somewhere else when you have none of your own. It is about sharpening our focus.

When we talk about drawing strength from somewhere else, when it comes to Christian warfare, what we really mean is from Someone else. When you are preparing for battle, draw your strength from Christ. In preparation you must believe that the message given to us by Christ will work.

F.uel
O.ptimism

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

I Corinthians 15:3-4

It is a message that is comprehensible enough that we should be able to present it straightforwardly, boldly, and with confidence. We have the message.

F.uel
O.ptimism
C.ommission

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20

Our mission is not optional, so lack of preparation is unthinkable. When Jesus commissions His followers there is a a transfer of authority, but it is still His authority. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go ye therefore…” and the “therefore” refers back to the authority which He has the sole right to distribute and supervise. Christians should not be “tale-bearers” (Proverbs 26:20) with this one exception: We carry the “tale” of the incarnation, life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and, because it is His “tale,” it deserves to be told. Most of us really love the idea of, “Lo, I am with you always” but the “I am with you always” is not detached from the “go ye.”

F.uel
O.ptimism
C.ommission
U.nction

And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

Luke 12:11-12

The unction that the Holy Spirit gives to those engaged in the battle is not an excuse not to prepare for the battle. Notice that the people being addressed in Luke 12 are people who are already in the battle and have already prepared. As Christians we must be prepared to speak, but we trust the Holy Spirit to help us when we get a response we don’t expect.

F.uel
O.ptimism
C.ommission
U.nction
S.ubmission

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

Philippians 2:13-14

Don’t fall for the excuse that you are too small to make a difference. If you think you are too small to make a difference, then you have never been in a tent with a mosquito! When it comes to spiritual warfare, don’t make excuses. An “excuse” is often just the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. Our comfort is not what is important. The will and glory of God are what is important. He works in us to do His will and His good pleasure. Sometimes (to borrow an overused cliche’) we have to “just do it.” We are under attack from the enemy – there is no doubt about it. We need to prepare to start fighting back, stop grumbling and complaining, and joyfully submit to the Lord.

F.uel: From Whom do we draw our strength?
O.ptimism: Why is it important to have confidence in our message?
C.ommission: Is the battle optional for us?
U.nction: Who do we have in the midst of the battle in case we encounter something for which we are unprepared?
S.ubmission: What needs to be our attitude about preparation?

Four-Dimensional Love (Part 2)

July 3, 2013 at 9:40 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (emphasis added)

In Part One I mentioned the height, the breadth, and the length of Christ’s love, but now I want you to see the depth – the “roots.”

Rooted love is not complacent about its depth. “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:19) In the love of Christ we have the potential to know the unknowable! To know what can only be known in Christ – and can never be known apart from Christ. How deep is the love of Christ? It is eternally deep – we will never get to the bottom of it. My relationship with other human beings who I love – even my relationship with my wife – when it comes to its depths, its richness – is dependent on my knowledge of God.

They say that loving human relationships (especially marriage) are hard work, but the real “work” of love should not be “toil.” It is joyous and exciting work. It is going down deep, but it is like digging for buried treasure, not digging a grave. If you have only a superficial experience of the love of God in Christ, let me plead with you to spend time alone – late at night if you have to – early in the morning if you have to – missing a meal or a nap if you have to – deep in the Bible – in Bible study and in prayer – getting to know God, and bringing up the treasures you find in His depths. Roots press down hard and deep, but they bring up sweet water and nutrients from the earth – up the trunk and down the branches – to strengthen the tree and make the fruit bountiful.

Most good Bible lessons contain warnings and comforts. The comforting part of this one is supposed to be that you now realize that the love of Christ is four-dimensional and that you can be rooted and grounded in it and it’s wonderful. But here is the warning part: Do not make the mistake of thinking that the reason to love your spouse or your friends is so that they will love you in return. The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, but it is not given to us to be used as a manipulation technique. Its purpose is not to teach you to give so you can get. That’s probably the major error in many otherwise good books on marriage, love, and relationships. The theory is that your “love tank” is empty. You feel empty because the special someone in your life doesn’t speak your love language or you haven’t learned to speak his or hers. You are from Mars, and your spouse is from Venus, so you need to learn to be a good alien, so your spouse will treat you right in return. Therefore, you can transform your spouse by serving him or her.

No! Jesus talked about this all the time and it always made people mad. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts…” “Even the sinners and the publicans and the unbelievers can do this…” These teachings of Jesus, which argue from the lesser to the greater, and contrast true love with superficial manipulation, have been adopted as principles for running businesses and winning friends and influencing people. “Be nice to others so they will be nice to you.” “Serve them and they’ll let you lead them.” When Jesus says that even the wicked understand the principle of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” He’s making a comparison, not setting the standard. You and I will get into big trouble if we take something good – service, self-sacrifice, selfless giving – and we use it as a means to get our needs met. News flash: You do have needs – but your spouse – or the person you care about – is not there to be manipulated into meeting those needs. Even if you are using very soft hands and very kind words in your manipulation, it is still selfish manipulation.

Your spouse or your loved one – by the grace of God – will one day make a very good spouse or best friend – and maybe they already do – but they are going to make a terrible Jesus. Your idols (the things or people you expect to meet your needs apart from God) will always let you down – and what you have idolized, you will eventually demonize.

As Christians, all our needs are met where?

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Jesus showed the height of love on the Cross: He was “lifted up” so that He might draw all men to Himself. He showed the breadth: His arms were stretched out wide – open, inviting, welcoming. He spoke forth, showing the length of love: “Father, forgive them;” “Son, behold thy mother;” “It is finished.” He was nailed to a “tree” which was rooted to the Earth. He was both human and divine, and He wasn’t there suffering in order to evoke sympathy so they would come and take Him down. He was there to sacrifice, to love unconditionally, to love those of us who were not just undeserving but ill-deserving of God’s love.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 2:24

Do the Righteous Really Suffer?

September 19, 2012 at 9:26 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 4 Comments
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[A Psalm of Asaph.] Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

Psalm 73:1

Asaph was a Levite and a worship leader in the sanctuary. He began to question God when he saw the unrighteous prospering and the righteous suffering.

But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

Have you ever asked that same question: Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper? It is actually the wrong question. Considering that no one has ever been righteous apart from Jesus, a better question would be: Why does anyone at all prosper?

Other Bible passages which deal with this same issue are Psalm 37, Psalm 49, Job, and Habakkuk. It is sometimes called “theodicy.” From our finite point of view, as fallen sinners living in a fallen world, we have a tendency to question why God (Who is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient) would allow suffering or evil.

Asaph, despite his faulty questioning, wasn’t a complete fool. At least he never denied the existence of God. In verse 3 he stated that he was envious of the foolish, but he did recognize that they were foolish.

And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

Psalm 73:11-12

It’s bad enough to question God’s goodness, but at least that’s somewhat honest. It falls more under the category of doubt than unbelief. But to question God’s existence? That’s idiotic and dishonest. I’m drawing a distinction between disbelief and unbelief. When it comes to unbelief in the existence of God, what we’re really talking about is just willful ignorance.

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

II Peter 3:5

“Willingly ignorant,” as one preacher says, means “dumb on purpose.” It’s covering your eyes and ears and sticking your head in the sand, and saying I’m a blind deaf ostrich. Creation proves a Creator.

It is a sin to envy the wicked, but Asaph forgot that serving God is not a commercial transaction.

They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

Psalm 73:5

You know people like this. They are not serving God, and they are even in open rebellion against God, yet they seem to be getting away with it, and from all visible indications, it appears that they’re doing just fine.

Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

Psalm 73:7

They have so many material possessions and treasures, and they appear to be so stuffed with blessings, that their eyes are bulging out.

They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

Psalm 73:9

They claim that they don’t need God in Heaven because they’ve got everything they need here on earth. As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, their attitude is, “My name’s Jimmy, I’ll take all you gimme,” and people seem to do it! If somebody tells them, “You’re in trouble, you’re breaking God’s rules – you are going to need God one day,” their response is…

… How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

Psalm 73:11

Asaph’s frustration over his alleged lack of rewards for serving God was obvious:

Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

Psalm 73:12-13

He says, “I’m trying to do right – and it’s for nothing!” We have to be careful not to be like Asaph. Satan often tests true Christians. His temptation is: “Sure, you’re serving God, but that’s because you’re trying to buy His blessing. Let God take away your blessing and we’ll see what you do.” Do you see the tricky word in that challenge? It’s the word “your.” Satan is subtle and he likes to insinuate that blessings from God are something we have a “right” to, or something we “deserve.” Our response should be, “It’s okay if God takes away His blessings. I never deserved them in the first place!”

All our needs are supplied in Christ, regardless of how things look from the temporal, earthly perspective.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

And the devil can’t take anything away from you because you don’t “own” anything anyway – it’s all God’s! Next time, we’ll take a look at how Asaph got back on the right track.

Working for a Living

July 13, 2012 at 9:10 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 3 Comments
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In Chapters 4 and 5 of Ecclesiastes Solomon examined earthly institutions and came to the following conclusions:

The government: corrupt
The economy: unbalanced
Church: vain

We have a tendency to adopt a very worldly attitude about our labor. Even though we work for wages – even though we say that we “earn a living” – everything we have that’s any good is really a gift from God. It is important that we do not try to exclude God from certain areas of our lives. God demands faithfulness and His view of faithfulness is pretty extreme. Imagine a husband going away on a business trip and returning home to his wife. “Were you faithful while you were out of town, Dear?” she asks. “I sure was,” he replies. “I was 90% faithful!” I don’t think the wife would be too happy with that response. In God’s opinion, “faithful” means 100% faithful.

Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Enjoy what God has given you, but remember that God gave it to you.

Why is there such a thing as labor? Why do we “work?” God gave Adam work to do in the Garden of Eden even before sin entered the world, but labor can be frustrating. No matter how many dishes you do, there are always more dirty ones. No matter how many times you mow the grass, it always grows back.

All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

Ecclesiastes 6:7

It can be dissatisfying, but our contentment, our satisfaction, will never come from without.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

We spend so much time planning and calculating and working and scheduling our time based on what we’re going to eat, what we’re going to wear, where we’re going to live. But Christ Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness – and all those things will be taken care of by God. If I do what God says, then God will take care of me.

For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 6:12

King Solomon, writing in the Old Testament, asked these questions rhetorically. But, living on this side of the Cross – under the New Testament – we can answer these questions definitively. Who knows what’s good for us in this life? Jesus does. Who can tell us what’s going to happen to us after this life on earth is over? Jesus can.

We can answer these questions with our mouths. Now let’s answer them with our lives.

Darkness Under the Sun

April 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 16 Comments
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King Solomon was looking at life from an earthly, temporal point of view, and he came to these conclusions:

1. Life is vain because of its monotony.
2. Life is vain because of the limits of wisdom.
3. Life is vain because of the limits of wealth.

I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:8-11

Solomon was the richest man in the Bible – maybe of all time. He was the Bill Gates of his day. However, no one can buy his way into Heaven or out of eternity. Somebody once said that if money can’t buy happiness, at least it will allow you to afford your favorite kind of misery. Money can be a valuable tool. You can’t eat cash, but you can buy food with it. You can’t keep warm with it, but you can buy fuel with it. This quote once appeared in the Wall Street Journal: “Money is a universal passport to everywhere except Heaven; and a universal provider of everything except happiness.”

For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

Ecclesiastes 1:21

You may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” but this is not true. When you go to see God, you won’t be judged for how nice a boat you have, or how impressive your music collection was. The Apostle Paul described life as if it were a race, but that race is not a race to financial security. It is a race to become more Christ-like. The preacher in Ecclesiastes tells us that, not only can we not take it with us, but we can’t control it anymore after we’re gone. Some of the most agonized-over and detailed legal documents are wills and trusts. There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide for your family after you die, but when we spend so much energy trying to make sure our descendants have an easier time of it than we did, we might be doing them a disservice. Sometimes, working to achieve things for ourselves is how God makes us into who He wants us to be.

King Solomon felt that:

4. Life is vain because it has an end.

We know that this is true only in a limited sense.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrews 9:27

The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 2:14

The idea that we’re all going to die can be a depressing thought. It is one of the reasons why there is so much “escapist” entertainment.

There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

If we are not careful, we will focus so much of our time, our energy, our money, on entertainment, that we will not have anything other than shallow entertainment to offer the people we care about when we find them suffering. Movies, music, television, and pop culture are no substitute for Biblical comfort, counseling, and promises when someone is truly in pain.

However, there is an opposite extreme to mindless entertainment that can also be vain. If we become so fixated on our own sorrows that they swallow us up, we will become “depressed.” There is a plague of depression in our society today. I realize that some of this is caused by actual physical conditions or chemical imbalances in the brain, but a great deal of it comes from being focused only on what’s happening “under the sun.” Without the assurance of a life beyond this world with a kind and loving God, there is a tendency to think, “We know death is coming anyway, so we might as well stop living now and get used to it.” That’s the view “under the sun.” But “over” the sun – “above the sun” – God wants us to enjoy life and have peace and hope and contentment.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

I Timothy 6:6

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:15-16

The Lord does want us to have fun – but with Godliness. And He wants us to be content!

Discipleship Lesson 5: Prayer

January 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 45 Comments
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I. Why should we pray?

We should pray in order to be conformed to God’s will, more than to attempt to change God’s mind. Prayer is also good for our peace of mind and heart.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

God allows needs to come into our lives so that we will draw close to Him and learn to depend on Him.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Matthew 6:8

Pray without ceasing.

I Thessalonians 5:17

It is dangerous for us to believe that all our needs are met and that we are not dependent.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Revelation 3:16-17

We must give thanks for our needs and even for our times of difficulty.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I Thessalonians 5:18

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psalm 100:4

Prayer should be our first reaction in times of trouble.

And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

Psalm 50:15

II. How should we pray?

A. We should pray in the Holy Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

B. We should pray constantly.

Pray without ceasing.

I Thessalonians 5:17

C. Public prayer is good, but most of our prayer time should be in private.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Matthew 6:5-7

D. We should pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

I Timothy 2:5

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Ephesians 2:18

E. We should pray with our sins confessed.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Psalm 66:18

F. We should pray with a forgiving heart.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

G. Husbands should pray without bitterness toward our wives.

Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

Colossians 3:19

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:7

H. We should ask God to fulfill specific requests when we pray.

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James 4:2-3

I. We should pray consistently with what is revealed in God’s Word.

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Proverbs 28:9

III. What should we pray?

A. Be specific.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Philippians 4:6

B. Give thanks.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I Thessalonians 5:18

C. Pray for others.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Ephesians 6:18

D. Praise and worship the Lord.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psalm 100:4

E. Pray for the lost.

Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Matthew 9:38

F. Pray for God’s will to be done – pray the way Jesus told us to pray.

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Luke 11:2

IV. Questions

A. Should we pray to the saints in Heaven or to angels? (No.)

B. Does praying for the same thing over and over show a lack of faith? (No.)

C. Should certain prayers be memorized and repeated word for word without feeling or as a substitute for personalized prayer? (No.)

V. Memory verses

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

I Timothy 2:5

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Psalm 66:18

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I Thessalonians 5:18

Discipleship Lesson 1: Salvation

October 15, 2010 at 10:38 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons, Salvation | 27 Comments
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Discipleship Lesson 1 is on salvation.

SALVATION

I. The two spiritual families

A. The devil’s family

The way to get into the devil’s family is simply by being physically born. Every human being comes into the world as a member of the devil’s family, since we have been conceived in sin and born in corruption. Not everyone likes to use the terminology of being a “child of the devil.” I am not implying that the devil creates human beings. He is a created being himself and lacks the power to create a living soul. It is also correct to say that we are born into this world as sons of Adam, and to say that we are born as children of wrath and children of disobedience. But all unsaved people are slaves to sin, and therefore slaves to Satan.

In one sense, the “children of the devil” are those who believe they are religious, but base their attempts at righteousness on a lie.

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

John 8:44

You enter the devil’s family by birth through your physical forefather, Adam.

And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:

Genesis 5:3

Adam’s image and likeness after the commission of sin and the “fall” in the Garden of Eden, is that of a fallen sinner.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

We inherited our sin nature from our “father,” Adam. Therefore, we are sentenced to die. We have to be “born again” because, up until then, we’ve only been born once – physically. We are dead spiritually before salvation.

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

Romans 6:23

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

I Corinthians 15:22

B. God’s family

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:3

As a result of your new birth, you have inherited eternal life.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

John 6:47

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John 3:36

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

I John 5:12

II. There should be a “family resemblance.”

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 6:14-18

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

II Corinthians 5:17-18

III. There is a “Father – son” relationship.

A. Fathers discipline and forgive their children; children love their fathers and desire to be forgiven when they have offended them.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

I John 2:1

B. Fathers protect their children spiritually.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 6:18

C. Fathers provide for their children.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

D. Fathers protect their children physically.

[To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.] God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

E. Fathers teach their children.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14:26

F. Fathers care about their children.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

I Peter 5:7

G. Fathers love to give gifts to their children.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Matthew 7:11

IV. A saved person will still sin.

A. God commands His children not to sin.

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Colossians 3:5-10

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4:14-18

B. God has broken sin’s power over His children.

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:25

C. God chastens His children in love.

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Hebrews 12:5-11

D. God forgives His children when they confess their sins to Him.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I John 1:6-10

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

V. Questions

A. How does someone enter God’s family?

By receiving Jesus as his Savior and being born again.

B. Find three verses that promise you eternal life.

John 6:47; John 3:36; I John 5:12

C. After salvation, God deals with you as:
a. a sinner
b. a son
c. a partner

Answer: a son

D. True or false?

1. Everyone must earn his or her way to Heaven. (F)
2. Sin must be confessed to a Christian leader in order to be forgiven. (F)
3. Each person can choose his or her own path to Heaven. (F)

VI. Memory verses

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:3

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9

Next time: Discipleship Lesson 2: Everlasting Security

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