Ministers Must be Meek

January 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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Previously we learned that ministers must be managers.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

I Corinthians 4:1-2

The word for “ministers” in 4:1 is hyperetes – the under-rowers on a Roman trireme – the lowliest of the low. They are workers who exist only to serve. While it is true that the Apostles were ministers who revealed the mysteries of God, they did not see themselves as overseers rationing out food so that no one gets too much or too little. They saw themselves as slaves driven to reach the destination of greater knowledge and greater intimate relationship with Christ.

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

I Corinthians 4:6

There were other factions causing division in the church at Corinth, but Paul used himself and Apollos to set an example of humility. Just as the puffiness of pride will destroy a marriage, so it will also destroy a church family. Puffiness is emptiness masquerading as fullness, and it is a symptom of pride. The Holy Spirit here does a better job deflating egos than Tom Brady does deflating footballs.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

I Corinthians 4:7

Who made me different from anyone else? God did. What do I have that I did not receive? Nothing. Why am I proud of it if it was purely a gift? Because I forgot I am a Know, and not a Know-Not, and I thought I could steal a little of God’s glory for myself (or at least distribute some of it to somebody I really admire).

fooled-again

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to engage in some biting sarcasm.

Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

I Corinthians 4:8

The “us” he referred to was the Apostles. He was suggesting to the Corinthians that, since they seemed to believe they had outgrown their teachers, perhaps they could teach the Apostles. After all, Paul and the Apostles were just out on their mission field, in the world, fighting to the death for Jesus, that’s all.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

I Corinthians 4:9

The “spectacle” was the last part of a gladiator show, when only the too-drunk-to-leave or the really poor or the most-depraved stuck around to see slaves and criminals fed to beasts. The main events were “contests” – these were just spectacles

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

I Corinthians  4:10-13

It’s as if Paul was saying, “We’re just out here putting on a show, being humiliated, laughed at as we suffer, but you’ve got this whole Christianity thing really figured out . It’s really about sitting around trying to show off whose teacher has the most knowledge, and trying to brag about how smart you are.” He was being honest about his own hardships, persecution, and suffering, but he was also driving home the point that meekness is of the utmost importance in managing the knowledge and gifts given by God for the purpose of Christian ministry.

Next time we will see that ministers must be mild.

Becoming Part of the Family

November 18, 2016 at 9:53 am | Posted in Mark, The Family of Faith | 3 Comments
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You get into an earthly family by being born or by being adopted. You get into God’s family by being born again (regeneration). He also adopts born-again believers into His family (grants them the status of adult children). This is very important to remember, because, as we are trying to do good to those who are outside of our family, the best “good” we can do them is to invite and encourage them to join the family of God.

It is also important to remember, as we minister to our fellow family members in the family of God, that none of us deserve to be in this family. Babies don’t birth themselves, and you can’t adopt yourself into a family. We are only a part of this family by God’s grace – His unmerited favor – His election of us – not our impressive abilities and not our works. We can’t “earn” grace. I’m not proud to be an American because I had nothing to do with where I was born. It would be even more ludicrous for me to be proud to be a Christian, because God is the One Who made me a Christian. I did not make myself one.

This motivates me to do good especially to those who are in the family of faith because they belong to God. If you are my brother in Christ, then you are God’s son, which means God loves you. A good Father protects His children, so I’m placing myself in danger if I fail to treat you the way God wants me to treat you.

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

Mark 9:42

The Humble King

March 21, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Matthew began showing us the humility of the King in Chapter 17 with the account of the King Who paid tribute. Jesus helped Peter to understand the practicality of glory. God’s glory, if it is to reflected in a way onto men, must be a disciplined glory which always points back to God. As Christ’s disciples we must be loyal to the One Who loves us enough and is gracious enough to shine His glory on us.

Did you know the word “shed” is used in 50 different verses in the King James Version of the Bible? Every single time up until Romans 5:5 it is used in reference to blood (except II Samuel 20:10 where it’s talking about guts). Guess what it refers to in Romans 5:5.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:5

After this experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the coin in the fish’s mouth, they must have really “got it,” right? After the Disciples saw their King transfigured in their midst, you would think their question would be, “Lord – King Jesus – what would You have us to do?” But that was NOT their question. Their question was, “Which one of us will get more than the others in this Kingdom?”

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1

This was not a very humble question. In fact, it appears to have been evidence of pride. Pride is thinking too much of ourselves. Humility is not thinking too little of ourselves. It’s not really even thinking realistically about ourselves. A better definition of humility would be not thinking of ourselves AT ALL. We can’t be trusted to have an opinion about how great or how little we are (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts are wicked and we are too biased and prejudiced to conduct a fair examination of ourselves – to see if we are humble or not.

The humblest person is the happiest person because he only sees opportunities for God’s glory. He’s not tired, not frustrated, not boastful, not depressed, not discouraged, not ashamed – because it hasn’t occurred to him to be those things – because he hasn’t thought about himself at all.

Pop psychology says that we should start exhorting people to be happy with themselves just the way they are, and it sounds good. It mixes a little truth with a little leaven – contentment mixed with self-esteem – so it even sounds kind of spiritual. “Be all that you can be.” “Get everything that God wants you to have.” “Have your best life now.” Saul of Tarsus had prestige, wealth, friends, a great career, a job he loved, room for advancement, respect. Then he met Christ – and he took his “best life now” and he threw it away to live like the scum of the earth for Christ’s sake, and for God’s glory.

Jesus wanted to show the Disciples what He thought about their argument over who would be “greatest” in the Kingdom, so He called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said:

… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3

This child was not spoiled. I cringe when I think what would have happened if He called one of my children to sit on His lap! Would she be laughing at her friends, sticking her tongue out? This child apparently exhibited the virtue of childlikeness, rather than the vice of childishness.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Mark 10:15

The quality of childlikeness that Jesus was pointing out was not playfulness, nor embarrassment, nor shyness, nor boldness. The quality that He wanted to illustrate was unselfconsciousness, which is another word for humility. Unspoiled children have a desire to please. They want to please their fathers, and others. Many times, as parents, we are guilty of causing them to lose this quality. We must not cause them to stumble.

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 18:7-9

We should be stepping-stones, not stumbling-blocks. We should be blessings, not burdens.

S.W.I.M. with Humility

January 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Some of us are lured by pride into believing that we are “deep” thinkers. We ponder the mysteries of God. We believe we have “figured out” some of the inner workings and mysteries of His providence and sovereignty. We are quick to pontificate, but reluctant to utter the dreaded inquiry-stifling words: “I don’t know.”

Certainly we want to immerse ourselves as deeply into Biblical doctrine as God would have us to go, but we must be careful not to dive down into sinful frustration, nor to burst up in a splash of hubris, claiming that we are masters of the deep, smugly certain and unteachable.

A god who could be completely fathomed would not be a real God at all. He would be encompassed and susceptible to explanation by the finite minds of creatures. The true God reminds us of our inferiority and our place of abject humility before His majesty.

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

Job 38:16

Some things in nature must remain a mystery to the most intelligent and enterprising investigators. Human knowledge has bounds beyond which it cannot pass. Universal knowledge is for God alone. If this be so in the things which are seen and temporal, I may rest assured that it is even more so in matters spiritual and eternal. Why, then, have I been torturing my brain with speculations as to destiny and will, fixed fate, and human responsibility? These deep and dark truths I am no more able to comprehend than to find out the depth which coucheth beneath, from which old ocean draws her watery stores. Why am I so curious to know the reason of my Lord’s providences, the motive of his actions, the design of his visitations? Shall I ever be able to clasp the sun in my fist, and hold the universe in my palm? yet these are as a drop of a bucket compared with the Lord my God. Let me not strive to understand the infinite, but spend my strength in love. What I cannot gain by intellect I can possess by affection, and let that suffice me. I cannot penetrate the heart of the sea, but I can enjoy the healthful breezes which sweep over its bosom, and I can sail over its blue waves with propitious winds. If I could enter the springs of the sea, the feat would serve no useful purpose either to myself or to others, it would not save the sinking bark, or give back the drowned mariner to his weeping wife and children; neither would my solving deep mysteries avail me a single whit, for the least love to God, and the simplest act of obedience to him, are better than the profoundest knowledge. My Lord, I leave the infinite to thee, and pray thee to put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life.

Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
“Evening Devotion for September 5”

Beware of Fresh-Faced Frowardness

June 19, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Posted in The Fives | Leave a comment
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Youth is prized in our modern culture. Actually, a youthful appearance has probably always been coveted among those who seek a shallow outward-focused beauty. But it is only in relatively recent times that youthfulness has started to seem like an indicator of quick-wittedness, intelligence, discernment, or at least innovation.

The Bible, as is so often the case, stands in contrast to, and corrects, the “wisdom” of the world.

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.

I Peter 5:5

Humility is an important trait for every Christian believer to cultivate, but it is especially incumbent upon those who are less mature, both in age and in spiritual growth, to be in subjection to their elders.

Submission can be a tricky and touchy topic these days, but the admonition and command concerning church authority, leadership roles, and attitudes is that the younger believers generally defer to the elder believers, who, through experience, are in a better position to govern (as undershepherds) the Body of Christ.

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

June 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 15 Comments
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I have written about this before, but – and this is hardly surprising – I apparently managed to influence exactly no one. In fact, I have either gotten more sensitive to the problem, or it has actually become an even worse epidemic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good grief! Where will it end? As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “What’s the deal with pride?”
https://i0.wp.com/www.focusst.org/forum/attachments/focus-st-discussions/70094d1412979162-what-s-deal-hatch-release-downloadfile.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 15:18-19

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

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

Matthew 12:35-37

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

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

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

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Beware the Fear that Falls

February 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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After Jesus was Resurrected He stayed on the earth for 40 days, then ascended into Heaven. Next came the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit appeard and indwelled the believers who waited in the upper room. This was the beginning of a new era, in which all who believed on Christ unto salvation would receive the Holy Spirit. It was also the beginning of the time during which the New Testament was written – as the same Spirit inspired Apostles and prophets to reveal God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

It was an exciting time, and new Christians were very enthusiastic about financially supporting the work of getting the Gospel message spread throughout the world. However, whenever there is opportunity for ministry, there is also opportunity for recognition, and the desire for recognition can be a dangerous thing.

A married couple named Ananias (the husband) and Sapphira (the wife), wanted to show that they were willing to sacrifice for the work of the ministry, so they sold some land they owned, and brought the money from the sale, laying it openly at the Apostles’ feet. This sounds spiritual and inspiring, but the problem was that Satan influenced them to lie about what they were doing. They pretended to turn over the total amount of money they received from the sale of the land, but they secretly kept a portion of it for themselves.

The result for both of them, beginning with Ananias, was disastrous. Peter found out the truth and rightfully accused him of lying to the Holy Ghost and to God.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

Acts 5:5

The Bible says that Ananias “fell,” and he did. He physically fell down dead. But his spiritual fall had come earlier, when he decided to try to deceive God and His people. In order to impress upon the early Christian believers how important it would be that the Gospel ministry be handled with honesty and forthrightness among them, the Holy Spirit caused “great fear” to come upon everyone who found out about Ananias’s fate.

We need to remember this principle as Christians even 2000 years later. A desire to exalt ourselves above our fellow Christians and to proudly make ourselves seem extraordinarily spiritual could very well result in a great (possibly embarrassing, possibly humiliating, possibly even deadly) fall. God is a loving Father, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and the Lord Jesus is a caring Shepherd and Friend, but the Triune God is not to be trifled with. A healthy fear and respect of His omniscience and power over life and death will remind us that our outward actions are never to be hypocritically severed from our inward motives.

Will God Do a New Thing in a New Year?

December 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In Numbers Chapter 16 we find God’s people in the wilderness, going through the world’s longest death march. They had been delivered from Egypt, and they were supposed to go directly into the promised land – called Canaan – a land flowing with milk and honey. But they were a rebellious people and a stubborn people and a disobedient people and a proud people and a fearful people – a people who heard the promises of God, but who just wouldn’t bring themselves to truly believe them or put them into practice. In other words, a people just like you and me.

Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took [men]: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:

Numbers 16:1-2

Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levi. Moses was the leader and Aaron was the high priest. Only the Levites were chosen by God to serve as priests. It was a serious responsibility and at times it was a hard responsibility, but it was a also a prestigious responsibility. The group of men who assisted the Levitical priests (but were not priests themselves) were called the Kohathites. Korah, a Kohathite, decided that Moses and Aaron were getting too much credit, and decided to form a rebellion against them.

The men who joined him in this rebellion weren’t the usual suspects. They weren’t the “mixed multitude,” the stragglers, the hangers-on, the rabble of society. These were “princes” – “men of renown.”

Did you gain some renown this past year? Be careful of that. As good Americans, living in the 21st Century, if there’s one thing we have a tendency to desire, it’s recognition. We want people to know who we are, and to look at us favorably. We want attention, and we will sometimes go out of our way to get it. Do you want to be noticed? Do you want others to be just a little bit jealous of you? Maybe you want people to know you’re successful, that you are a good parent, that you have certain possessions, that you are not like “those kind of people” that we all agree aren’t living or acting the way “good people like us” should act. Korah and his followers had renown, but they weren’t satisfied. They wanted the highest renown. Korah and his followers thought they had a new idea, but they didn’t. They had the same old idea that Lucifer had: “I want to be higher than where God has placed me.”

If your goal for 2015 is to get ahead in life by self-promotion or seeking recognition for yourself instead of recognition for Christ, then please remember the first point of this lesson:

1. There is nothing new about pride and self-promotion.

Korah and his rebellious followers confronted Moses, and they accused Moses of being proud and exalting himself and Aaron over the rest of the congregation. It’s funny how people will accuse others of the very thing they themselves are doing. Have you ever had someone attack you or criticize you or talk about you behind your back and say something about you that is completely untrue? That will make you mad, but what will make you furious is if it’s the very person that you have been going out of your way to help! Maybe even the person for whom you were sacrificing your own comfort or time or money to help! How many times had Moses interceded for these rebellious and sinful people and kept God from destroying them? They should have been thanking Moses and supporting him. So when they came to him and got in his face, how do you think Moses reacted? How would you and I react?

And when Moses heard [it], he fell upon his face:

Numbers 16:4

Moses did what few have the strength to do when confronted by hostile and unfair opposition. He humbled himself and prayed. That’s what we need to do – as hard as it may be. Anybody can fight fire with fire. It takes a Spirit-filled Christian, though, to keep our composure. To not lash out. To put down our pride and seek God’s will for how we’re supposed to handle this.

2. There is nothing new about failing to pray when we’re being persecuted.

God’s response when Moses humbled himself and prayed was to set up a test or a trial. Moses told Korah and his followers to come back the next day, and to bring their censers. God had already chosen Moses to be the leader of Israel and Aaron to be the high priest, but if Korah was determined to show that he knew better than God, he would have his day.

That wasn’t all, though. Remember, Korah had some co-conspirators: Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben. They had stayed back in their own encampment – maybe to keep an eye on things there, maybe because they didn’t have the guts to challenge Moses face to face – we don’t know. But Moses sent a messenger to go get them so they could hear how this was going to be handled.

And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up:

Numbers 16:12

Watch out for this attitude. Few and far between are the people who respect and willingly submit to authority, but authority and submission are ordained by God. Some local churches are harmed by the infiltration of false doctrine, and some are damaged by the moral failure of those in leadership, but many more local churches are brought low simply by grumbling, complaining, murmuring, and refusing to submit to the God-ordained authority of the pastor or elders or spiritual leadership.

Dathan and Abiram sent word to Moses:

[Is it] a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?

Numbers 16:13

How quickly they forgot what Egypt was really like!

Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up.

Numbers 16:14

They accused Moses failing to bring them to the promised land, omitting that it was because of their own disobedience! Then they accused him of figuratively throwing dust in their eyes, or pulling the wool over their eyes.

Moses had already prayed. Sometimes we pray to keep from lashing out in sinful anger. Sometimes – even after we pray – we need to have a righteous indignation against sin.

And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.

Numbers 16:15

It is likely that this took place during the very time when Moses was being inspired by God to write the book of Genesis. When he says, “Respect not Thou their offering,” we might wonder if he had Cain’s offering in mind.

3. There is nothing new about our ambivalence toward sin.

So the stage was set. The next morning 250 men showed up with incense in their censers. Aaron was there with his. Imagine the suspense. Suddenly, the presence of God appeared!

And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.

Numbers 16:19

How often we say that we long for the presence of the Lord in our worship services. But I wonder if everyone would be so excited if He actually did appear? Some people might rejoice, and some people might flee for their lives!

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

Numbers 16:20-22

This is the form of intercession that Moses had used before to plead with God to spare the people.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.

Numbers 16:23-26

4. There is nothing new about our reluctance to rescue those who have been deceived, led astray, and who are perishing.

So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for [I have] not [done them] of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; [then] the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing

Numbers 16:27-30

The Lord was about to do a new thing. This new thing was in response to some old things that were going on, and that these people – and I’m afraid you and I, too – kept doing, and may have been guilty of doing this past year:
1. pride and self-promotion
2. failing to pray when we’re being persecuted
3. ambivalence toward sin
4. reluctance to rescue those who have been deceived, led astray, and who are perishing

But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that [appertain] unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that [was] under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that [appertained] unto Korah, and all [their] goods. They, and all that [appertained] to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.

Numbers 16:30-33

The Victorious Humility of the Last Adam

December 15, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Matthew | 5 Comments
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Lord, help us to accept our circumstances, which are ordained by You. Help us to learn truths which will be encouraging. Help us not to be pessimists, drudging along dreading each trial. At the same time, please help us not to be fragile children, happily hopping around when things are great, but losing faith each time You test us or try us. Help us to delight ourselves in Your statutes, and not to forget Your Words when everything around is yelling at us to depend on ourselves, and not on You. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

As people gathered to hear the message of John the Baptist, he called the religious leaders a generation of vipers.

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Matthew 3:4-9

This should remind us to be humble. God can raise up stones to do what you do – and do it better. John’s humility made him reluctant to baptize Jesus, but he did it upon Jesus’s insistence. When he did so, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. Not like a royal eagle and not like not a bird of prey, but a bird of peace, a bird of mourning, a skittish bird. The Spirit of God indwelling us may be made to retreat when we sin against Him.

The Adam of Genesis 1 and 2 was the “first Adam.” Christ was the “last Adam.” Both the first Adam and the last Adam were tempted by Satan. The first Adam had everything he needed to resist this temptation. He lived in paradise. In Matthew 4, the last Adam went alone into a terrible wilderness, subjecting Himself to 40 days of fasting. The first Adam lost his battle with Satan, but Christ won.

Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness with three specific temptations.

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Matthew 4:3

This was Satan’s lie: “God doesn’t really love You, so put Your physical needs ahead of Your spiritual needs.”

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Matthew 4:7

Satan based this second temptation on a Bible passage:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:11-12

His lie to Jesus amounted to “God’s Word isn’t really true,” but he omitted “in all Thy ways” when he quoted it to Jesus. It is very common for the devil to challenge God’s Word by trying to twist Scripture.

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Matthew 4:8-9

In the third temptation Satan tried to convince Christ to take the easy way – to adopt a form of “worship” that did not include service. It was as if he hoped Christ could be tricked into thinking He could abandon the Cross and still receive the glory. Beware of temptations that invite you to take a short cut around God’s will.

Beware the Facial Fall

August 25, 2014 at 11:58 am | Posted in Hosea, The Fives | 3 Comments
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Most kids think it’s hilarious. Someone is running full speed, when suddenly he trips and flies forward before he can even bring his hands up to break the fall. Therefore, he lands face-first (hopefully in something no harder than grass). They call it a “face-plant.” It’s both painful and humiliating.

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When the prophet Hosea brought the news of condemnation against Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) he reminded the people that God had been a first-hand witness to all their spiritual whoredom. These people – the covenant people of the One True God – had committed heinous acts of spiritual prostitution by worshiping calf-idols, mistreating the poor, and seducing the formerly-faithful into their carnal and offensive syncretistic religion.

Hosea reminded them that, rather than being ashamed of themselves, they had made matters worse with their brazen pride.

And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

Hosea 5:5

In addition to God’s omniscient eyewitness testimony against them, their own arrogance was staring them right in the face every time they looked in a mirror. Furthermore, the haughty looks on their faces were a clear indication that they were neither remorseful nor repentant. Among seven things which the Lord has enumerated as provoking His hatred, a “proud look” tops the list. Therefore, both Israel and Judah would “fall flat on their faces” for their rebellion against God.

We need to be very conscious and careful of avoiding the sin of pride in our own lives. Do we show off a “haughty look?” Do we cast a defiant eye toward the Lord when we perceive that He has failed to live up to our ill-informed expectations? Has some long-standing sin made you calloused and disinterested in the Lord’s feelings about the matter? He’s neither ambivalent nor “tolerant” (in the postmodern, liberal sense of that term) when it comes to sin. If we turn our nose upward as we transgress against our Creator, we are bound to trip and fall over the line of His commandments and land face-first in His judgment or chastisement.

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