How to Handle Unexpected Hostility

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

I Samuel 25:2

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

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

I Samuel 25:3

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

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

I Samuel 23:4

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

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

I Samuel 25:5-8

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

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

I Samuel 25:9-10

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

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

I Samuel 25:11-12

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

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

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

I Samuel 25:13

David angry at Nabal

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

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

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

I Samuel 35:18

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

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

I Samuel 25:23-25

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

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

I Samuel 25:26-31

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

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

I Samuel 25:32-3

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

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

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

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

Romans 3:10-11

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

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20

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

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

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

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:28-33

4. Peacemakers enjoy God’s favor.

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

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

Matthew 5:9

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

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

I Samuel 25:36-39

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

Romans 12:19

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

How to Deal with Flaky Church Attenders?

May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: Okay, so… there’s this couple that used to come to church faithfully for a long time, but then they stopped coming. Their church friends tried to encourage them, but nobody could really get a straight answer about why they stopped coming to church. They would just sort of mumble about not feeling connected, or going to a different church, or feeling let down by such and such church leaders, and things like that, but they wouldn’t be specific. People kept trying to follow up and encourage them for a long time, but finally just accepted that they weren’t coming back. Now, once in while, maybe a couple of times a year, out of the blue, they show up on a Sunday morning, and all their old church friends just go nuts. They fawn all over them, and tell them how glad they are to see them, and make a really big deal out of the fact that they’re back, but the next Sunday they’re not there again, and it may be five or six months before they’re seen again. My question is this: Is it right to make such a big deal over them when they show up, or should people just be polite, but have more of a wait-and-see attitude, unless they come for at least two or three weeks in a row?

Answer: That’s a tough question. I know it is disappointing when people leave the church for superficial reasons – especially young married couples who really need the blessing of fellowship and service in the Body of Christ. And, yes, it can be frustrating when (from a personal standpoint) it looks like people that we care about are being flaky about church attendance. However, it probably wouldn’t be wise to try to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm over their friends showing up at church – even if it can be kind of a set-up for disappointment. There may be a temptation to judge the motives of the couple you are describing as being attention-seeking, and to try the tactic of ignoring them when they come to church to see if they will come for several straight weeks until they satisfy their desire to be noticed, but I can’t find any Biblical support for that sort of judgmental speculation or pragmatism, and it’s usually not wise to judge someone’s inner motives. Probably the best thing to do is be happy when they do come to church, keep praying for them, and try to be happy for the people who are absurdly overjoyed to see them. Romans 12:15 says that we need to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (unless they are rejoicing in something evil – I Corinthians 13:6), so that seems to be the best attitude to have in this situation.

[One caveat is that there are people who wish they could come to church WITHOUT being noticed or fawned over, so when a big deal is made about the fact that they finally showed up, it has the opposite effect of making them not want to come back, but I honestly do not know how to combat that attitude. We can’t reasonably ask friendly church members to ignore guests or former members, and when friendliness is seen as a detriment instead of a benefit, there’s not much we can do about that.]

Obedience Matters

November 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:

I Samuel 12:14

God in His holy disposition was not disposed to give His people an earthly king. God was their true King, but they wanted a human king very badly, because the other nations had human kings. God allowed them to have their wish, although He knew that having a human king would cause many problems and much heartache and suffering, because a human king would be a sinful king.

He had his prophet Samuel appoint a man named Saul to be the first human king of Israel. I Samuel 12 is Samuel’s farewell address to the people, after he had anointed Saul as their king. What Samuel knew – and what you and I must know and believe ourselves – is that what really matters to God is not so much the strength of our earthly leaders, but our own obedience to God’s will as revealed in His Word.

Here are four brief thoughts on the matter of obedience, under the acrostic O.B.E.Y.

O.wnership

Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:6-7

But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:10

We do not like to think of ourselves as property, and especially not someone else’s property. If, like me, you are an American, you probably believe that our leaders are supposed to serve us, not rule over us. We think we are free and independent. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution even say that we are. But we are not. We are the subjects of a sovereign and mighty King, Whose rule is everlasting. We belong to Him. He owns us, lock, stock, and barrel from the moment of our conception, and He will do with us as He pleases. And we have nothing about us that is threatening or mysterious to Him.

If we believe this – truly believe – then obedience is not an optional thing. It is a logical and rational and inescapable fact of life. To disobey our Owner and King is foolish treason without any hope of working out well for us, and it subjects us to His anger and wrath and punishment or chastisement. Only such attributes as His grace, mercy, and love make even the beginning of a way to exist in His universe, and to therein know any joy whatsoever.

O.bey
B.iblical revelation

God – our Owner and King – has not left it up to us to try to figure out on our own what we must do – or refrain from doing – in order to obey Him. He has revealed His will to us in a written Word.

But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

Romans 16:26

It is our responsibility as God’s image-bearing creatures to know what He wants us to do – and HOW He wants us to do it. This knowledge does not come to us in dreams or visions, or by feelings or hunches. We do not get it by convening a council and reaching a consensus, or through trial-and-error experimentation. We get it by studying His holy Word – studying it to show ourselves approved – workers that won’t be ashamed when we stand before Him, saying, “But I didn’t know that was wrong,” or, “I didn’t know that’s what You wanted me to be doing with my life.” As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, “If you stand before God one day embarrassed by what you’ve done, then you will be standing there embarrassed on purpose,” because He has made it abundantly plain and clear in His book!

O.wnership
B.iblical revelation
E.arnestness

By earnestness I mean that our obedience to God must not be outward obedience only. It must come from the heart – from a true desire to please Him and an inward conviction that His commands and prohibitions for us are RIGHT.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

In order to obey God truly from the heart, our hearts must be cleaned and renewed. They must be “sprinkled” (splashed with the blood of Christ) and washed with the water of the Word. This is work of the Holy Spirit. We can fake obedience to certain extent, and fool other people, but God Himself is never fooled. To obey is better than outward shows of sacrifice, meaning that the inward faith of a desire to truly please God is better than external rituals. Earnestness is not really something we can achieve on our own, but it is the natural product of a true love for Christ and what He has done for us. However, and this is of tremendous importance, such earnestness WILL manifest itself in outward and visible acts of obedience.

O.wnership
B.iblical revelation
E.arnestness
Y.ield

The Holy Spirit wants you to obey God. He wants you to understand and obey His Word. He wants you to learn it and to live it. The office of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. If we will yield to the Spirit, we will honor Christ by our obedience.

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:15

Obedience is not only the way to show our love for Jesus; it is the best evidence of our love for Jesus. It is not only the will of God that we obey; it is the way that we demonstrate that His will is perfect.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

“Present” yourself to God. Yield to Him and His Spirit. This is your reasonable “service:” the way you serve your King and Owner. This will “prove” or “demonstrate” that His will is perfect.

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

Romans 12:2

At the very end of his farewell speech, Samuel said this:

Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

I Samuel 12:24-25

There is no question that obedience is not only the right thing to do, but the objectively best thing for us. Much disobedience in this world escapes the notice and the justice of the earthly authorities, but none of it escapes God’s notice or His justice. His justice WILL be satisfied – either on you, or in Christ.

A Body of Idolatry

June 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. If we take this literally, and I think we should, then it will remind us that all our limbs and sensory organs are to be dedicated to serving and glorifying God. If we ignore this command we run the risk of living like idolaters.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Psalm 115:4-7

A material idol, designed to act as, or represent, a false god, has a mouth that can’t talk, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, hands that can’t pick up anything, feet that can’t walk, and a throat with no sound. And then comes the kicker:

They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

Psalm 115:8

These idols are made by the very people who are worshiping them! How can they be so self-deluded?! Imagine praying for deliverance to a little figure that needed you to even carve it into existence. Can people really believe that a god would be dependent upon its own “creator?”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Logic, apart from the wisdom that comes only from the True and Living God, is not our strong suit. In fact, if we do not keep our hearts diligently focused on God, we will quickly fall into delusion and all sorts of idolatry.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Then, pretty soon, we will usurp the use of the mouths that God has given us, and start speaking disrespectfully, rebelliously, and deceitfully.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Next we’ll stop looking for God’s beauty in His creation, and we’ll studiously avoid looking for people who are genuinely needy or who make us feel uncomfortable, and we’ll instead use God’s gift of vision for peeking at forbidden and ugly-but-seductive things.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Before we know it, our idolatrous feet will follow our idolatrous eyes and hearts right off of God’s safe path and into the world’s bramble of unfulfillment, heartache, addiction, danger, and desolation.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:26-27

We are poor identifiers of our own idolatry. Most of us think that our common sense would kick in somewhere around the time we started placing offerings into the hands (hands that we ourselves had fashioned!) of idols that could not hold the very things we were trying to give them. But, no, here we are, hopefully knowing somewhere deep down that we – and all of the complex creation around us – were made by Someone infinitely greater than us, yet still trying to give our time, talents, and treasure to man-made idols, such as political parties, houses, cars, electronic devices, investment portfolios, clothes, and entertainment. What a contradictory race of creatures we are, to desire to be “blessed,” but to want to dictate, design, and direct our own trivial blessings, while our Supreme Maker and true source of all true blessings, is relegated to the sidelines of our lives and largely ignored.

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. 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 115:11-16

The Be Quietudes

September 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Talking itself is not a sin. Christianity is a verbal religion, and the Gospel is communicated by words. “Faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17). However, the Bible does emphasize that we should not talk sinfully.

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

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

Matthew 5:3-11

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 26:20

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

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

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

Proverbs 20:12

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

Matthew 15:10

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

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

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

Romans 12:2

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

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

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

Isaiah 29:12

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

II Timothy 2:15-16

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

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

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

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

Luke 14:31-33

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

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

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

Pslam 104:34

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

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

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

Proverbs 18:2

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

Proverbs 18:13

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

Proverbs 17:28

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

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

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

Matthew 12:34-36

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

ability to not speak

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

The Path of Sacrifice

November 6, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Biblical Walking | 6 Comments
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I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

Old Testament sacrifices weren’t living sacrifices – at least not for long. When a lamb or a goat or a dove or a bull was sacrificed, it was put to death – then it had no trouble staying on the altar. As New Testament Christians, we are called to present our bodies before the Lord, but I’m thankful we are not called to be dead sacrifices. We are called to be living sacrifices.

This means, among other things, that our bodies need to be God-oriented. They need to be focused on God, moving toward God, and moving with God. Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to accomplish this yielding of our bodies by the renewing of our minds. Proverbs 4 tells us that it starts with our hearts, but it is the same idea.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

“Keep with diligence” is redundant, because that’s what diligence is: it is taking care of something by watching it closely. The “heart” has control over the more literal body parts.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Guard your mouth from being froward – from saying something that will cause problems. “Perverse lips” means saying anything wrong – from telling lies, to being hurtful, to cursing.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Christians know their destination: He is Jesus. We have to keep our eyes on Him to move toward Him, and we have to keep our eyes on the Bible to move with Him.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Proverbs 4:26

Watch your step. Stay on the right path. It’s a narrow path. If you’re wandering all over the place, you’re not on it.

Let your ways be “established” – let them be made stable by leaning on the Rock – by “amening” – leaning your whole weight upon the Lord.

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:27

A little step in either direction takes you out of the path of being a living sacrifice. It makes you a living, but wandering, rebel. Continuing on in a direction, either right or left, will eventually bring you to the point of having made a 180 degree turn – the exact opposite direction.

Remove your foot from evil. People who wander in the minefield are going to get blown up – along with the children and wives and others who were following them.

Pass It On and Pour It On

December 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Last time we examined two principles that exhort Christian men to work hard:

I. Put It On
II. Pack It On

Now we will think about the exhortation to:

III. Pass It On

If you are a Christian, then God is always teaching you a lesson – but the lessons have two purposes. The first purpose is that whatever you are supposed to learn is going to be for His glory and your sanctification. The second is so that you can pass it on to somebody else.

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

II Timothy 2:2

The application of true Biblical doctrine that is passed on to us by our brothers and sisters in Christ is not to be kept to ourselves, pridefully “shown off,” or simply meditated upon. No, it is to be passed on to other faithful believers, who, in turn, will likewise share it again. Specifically, the Bible says we are to pass it on to other men. The Bible uses the word “teach” rather than “share” (which coincidentally sounds a little more “manly”). If you are a Christian man, when God teaches you a lesson, teach it to your son or another young man in your church family. Find a single mom who has a son that is being ignored by his selfish dad, and take the kid fishing and teach him what it means to be a man of God. Real men are not sophisticated monkeys, nor overgrown boys who can shave, nor girls with some different body parts. We are imago Dei – the image of God Himself – and we were not created to take up space, to play with toys, to be attractive to women, or to prove how tough we can be. We were made to serve the living God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Great King – and we had better start acting like it and we had better be passing it on to the next generation, or the next generation will be emasculated and routed by the enemies of God.

IV. Pour It On

One of the worst things you could be called when I was a kid was a quitter. God has not called you to be a quitter.

He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

Proverbs 10:4

The Bible condemns “slackers,” and contrasts them with hard workers.

The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.

Proverbs 12:24

The non-quitter is going to have authority. He’s going to lead. The quitter is going to have to pay an unpleasant price, and he will not be the one making the important decisions.

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

Proverbs 22:29

The non-quitter is going to have a good, respectable employer. The quitter is going to wind up working for a petty jerk.

If you are a man, pour it on: Work hard and don’t quit.

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Romans 12:11

Work hard at your secular job, then work hard for Jesus; don’t be a secular quitter, and don’t be a spiritual quitter. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Did Jesus ever give up? Of course not!

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

Galatians 6:2-5

If you are a man, here is what you are called to do: Be like Jesus and bear your burdens, yes, but do not be a “Stoic.” Stay involved with difficult people. Christian men bear their own burdens and they bear other people’s burdens. Your wife doesn’t respect you like she should? Tough – you’re a man – pick up that burden and carry it. Be respectable whether you earn her respect or not. Trouble with your finances? Pick it up and carry that burden, working hard and trusting God! Health problems (physical or mental)? Pick it up! No help with the kids? Pick it up! Difficulties with your nieces, nephews, single moms you know, neighborhood kids? Pick up those burdens and carry them the way Jesus did! You are a man. That’s what Christian men do – they carry other people’s burdens, and they do it in love, fulfilling the law of Christ.

Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

II Corinthians 5:9 (emphasis added)

Trying to win Christ’s approval (while still knowing the security of our justification and sonship) will often require us to forsake the approval of the world. We are not to care what they think if we are pleasing Him. Let them jeer, taunt, boo, scoff – we are seeking to please our Master! When we are light in this world, burning with candles lit from Christ’s torch, the darkness will push back. We might lose friends, the love of family members, or jobs. We might get passed over for promotions, and the cool people won’t invite us to their tailgate parties or Christmas parties. But we worship Someone who let Himself be tortured, abused, and ridiculed by vile sinners! He took it all for us; the least we can do is take a little for Him!

Going Beyond Fairy Tale Marriage

October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hosea | 6 Comments
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We prefer our love stories to be fairy tales, but the reality of marriage is not always sentimental. Few marriages are a perfect story-book from beginning to end. The Book of Hosea shows the stark reality of what it means to love in difficult circumstances. It shows marital love from the perspective of God’s love for us.

We can not be sure of exactly what happened, but Hosea married a woman named Gomer who either: (1) was already a harlot (prostitute); or (2) became a prostitute after the wedding. Then he ultimately redeemed his wayward wife in obedience to his prophetic call, as one of the greatest demonstrations of sacrificial love in the Bible.

And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

Hosea 2:19-20

God used Hosea to demonstrate His betrothal covenant to His people, and in our marriages we need to exhibit the characteristics and attributes of God’s covenant relationship with us.

Righteousness

God the righteous imputes the righteousness of Jesus to all who are truly born again.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:20-21

We have no authority, standing, or ability, as sinful human beings, to impute any sort of true meritorious righteousness to our spouses (or to anyone else for that matter, regardless of the erroneous and heretical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and its fictitious “treasury of merit”), but we must stand for righteousness on behalf of our spouses. We must be good husbands and wives and try to avoid sin to protect the sanctity of our unions.

Judgment

God’s judgment against sin was satisfied in the Cross for all who believe. We deserved God’s judgment, but Christ intercepted it in love.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Romans 5:18

Jesus willingly bore the judgment He never deserved. We must bear unrighteous judgment at times on behalf of our spouses.

Lovingkindness

God redeemed His people because He loved us and wanted to show us kindness.

At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Jeremiah 31:1-3

As redeemed creatures we were “meant” for God. In marriage we must think of ourselves as “meant” for each other – ordained by God to show His glory in our union and relationship, and practically, to help work out our sanctification.

Mercies

God withheld from us what we deserved.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

In marriage must never punish each other for things for which God has already punished Jesus. Be merciful to each other.

Faithfulness

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

God is perfectly faithful. We are not. However, we need to do our utmost, with God’s help and by His grace, to be faithful spouses.

The Trap of Lapsing into Laziness

March 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 8 Comments
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The Biblical hero Samson was consecrated from his birth, and was blessed by God as he grew to adulthood.

And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.

Judges 13:24

God’s calling upon his life was that he deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines (Judges 13:5). However, as Samson reached adulthood, we might wonder how much self-motivation he had when it came to performing this honorable task.

And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Judges 13:25 (emphasis added)

The Hebrew word translated “to move” in this verse has a connotation of violent persistence. It is almost as if the Holy Spirit had to beat Samson into action, so that he could begin to accomplish his purpose in life.

We tend to think of Samson as a “man of action,” with all his exploits – single-handedly slaying large numbers of Philistines, rounding up animals and setting them on fire, carrying off the doors of a city’s gate, fighting a lion, carousing with loose women, making up riddles, and generally causing mischief. However, the fact is, Samson was something of a sluggard when it came to getting down to the Lord’s business. For in addition to his battles, he is also seen wandering off the path into a vineyard, lounging about at a feast, dwelling idly atop a mountain, and dozing on Delilah’s lap while God’s enemies plotted his capture just outside. In fact, once, after avenging himself of a personal insult, he decided to simply call it quits.

And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.

Judges 15:7 (emphasis added)

You may have head the old expression, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” God made man to work and be productive. Even the plain revelation of His Law highlighted this fact:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

Exodus 20:9

The Bible contains numerous warnings against idleness and laziness.

The soul of the sluggard desireth, and [hath] nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

Proverbs 13:4

The principle of hard work is highlighted as a Christian ethic in the New Testament as well.

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Romans 12:11

As Christians we have divine callings upon our lives, every bit as much as Samson did, although certainly not the same one. Staying busy accomplishes a multifaceted purpose: It keeps us from lapsing into sin through inactivity; it brings blessings into our lives; and it glorifies the Lord.

The Right Kind of Rejoicing in Marriage

October 5, 2012 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 13 Comments
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Charity…

…[r]ejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

I Corinthians 13:6

Charity is agape love. It is “Christian” love. Within the context of marriage it is self-sacrificing love, active love, love-in-motion, Christ-like love. It is a decision to treat your spouse right, even when you do not feel right about your spouse. It is a giving of yourself for your spouse with two main goals in view:

1. That your spouse receives grace and mercy.
2. That your spouse is directed more toward righteousness (toward conformity to Christ).

There is a meeting point where grace and mercy intersect with righteousness, so that loyalty between spouses is “true” loyalty: a looking-out for the greater good. The greater good is, first of all, the good of Christ, Who is illustrated and advertised by Christian marriage. Second, it is the good of the other spouse, who can not be allowed to rejoice in iniquity.

There are two different words for “rejoiceth” in I Corinthians 13:6. Chairo is singular rejoicing. It is focused on the joy that the one who rejoices receives from an event. Sygchairo (pronounced “SOOG – high-ro”) is the second “rejoiceth,” and it is focused on rejoicing together. Sygchairo is the kind of joy that grabs all the people around you – or whoever is available – and is expected to be contagious.

In I Corinthians 13:5 we saw that love in marriage is supposed to be merciful. It doesn’t assume evil. Now we see that when it is disappointed and finds evil anyway, it does not rejoice. It does not even secretly rejoice (rejoice alone) with the satisfaction of being proven “right.”

In marriage we should never be happy about iniquity. Our own iniquity and any iniquity on the part of our spouse ought to be detested and dealt with lovingly but seriously. Therefore, rejoicing alone in marriage is a potentially dangerous thing. A warning sign should pop up when there is something you rejoice over without a desire to share it with your spouse. And a double warning sign should appear if your rejoicing over something is dependent upon your spouse not rejoicing over it together with you. If these things occur, the thing you are rejoicing over is almost certainly iniquity.

This might seem elementary, because we would obviously expect that if Christian love in marriage does not rejoice in iniquity, it must rejoice instead in righteousness or at least goodness of some sort. But that is not what I Corinthians 13:6 says. It says true Christian love rejoices in the truth. It rejoices together in the truth because the truth is not being hidden. It rejoices in authenticity or genuineness. And since “the truth” is just that – actual objective reality – both spouses can experience it and enjoy it.

“Honey, I had a great day today [leaving out the detail that I won $800 at the casino].” That’s not real love because one person is rejoicing in iniquity.

“Honey, I love you and I don’t want to assume the worst, but someone told me they saw you at the casino today.” That’s not rejoicing yet, but if it results in the truth coming out and forgiven sin and a turning to more truth, then it will be rejoicing together.

God loves truth. As married couples we are supposed to be a picture of Christ and His love for the Church. Christ’s love is not a pampering love. It is a perfecting love. It is not interested in iniquity or falsehoods. It is interested in real genuine authentic sanctification (in which, by the way, there is real joy).

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Romans 12:5

This verse is about the Church, but apply it to marriage. My spouse and I, as a married couple, being one flesh, are members one of another.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

Romans 12:9

Love is not hypocritical – it’s not hiding and pretending and covering up. That’s what sin did in Eden – it cost the man and his wife their “unashamedness” – their freedom to be uncovered with each other. God tells us to abhor iniquity. Don’t rejoice in it. Rejoice in truth, and rejoice in the Truth. Jesus is Truth personified. Our marriages can’t be about rejoicing in iniquity and rejoicing in Christ at the same time.

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