A (Perhaps) Parabolic Prodigal’s Preferential Proximate Predicament Produces Patient Prosperous Passionate Persistent Protective Paternal Pardon

October 28, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Luke | 4 Comments
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Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Luke 15:8-9

In the previous parable, about the lost sheep, the sheep was foolishly wandering away, but the coin did absolutely nothing to lose itself. This lady losing a piece of silver would be like a person with a thousand dollars losing $100. It’s only a small percentage, but it’s still a lot of money. If you lost it, you would rejoice when you found it.

The parable about the lost sheep highlights the Son. The parable about the lost coin highlights the Holy Spirit. The story about the prodigal son highlights the Father. Lost sheep and lost coins are out of place. People who are out of God’s will (especially lost sinners) are “disjointed,” they are out of place and not considered “useful” as long as they remain lost. They are also in danger.

The “parable” of the prodigal son may be a made-up story, as most of the parables of Jesus are thought to be, but the stories about the sheep and the coins are specifically called parables (Luke 15:3), whereas the one about the prodigal son starts off with:

And he said, A certain man had two sons:

Luke 15:11

Jesus may have taken the account of an actual event and used it for a spiritual lesson.

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

Luke 15:12 (emphasis added)

But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

Deuteronomy 21:17

Under the Old Testament system an older son got two thirds and younger son one third, but this is talking about inheritance rights, and inheritance rights aren’t triggered until the father dies, so the younger son in Jesus’s story wanted the portion of the goods that would “falleth” to him. He was tired of waiting for his father to die. He didn’t want to be around him. He didn’t want to live with him. He didn’t want to work for him. He just wanted his money. In essence, he wished his father was dead. The younger son’s preference was to live without the father’s presence.

As Christians, let us never feel oppressed by our Father’s presence. When we deal with lost people, remember that they have no desire for God’s presence. We often hear of people “seeking God,” but, apart from Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, they are seeking God the way bank robbers seek cops.

In the story of the prodigal son the father divided unto THEM his living. He didn’t argue and he didn’t plead. He just did it, but we can imagine that there was much drama before this day. We find out later on this was a loving father, and it did not appear that the son was planning on ever coming back.

And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Luke 15:13

How predictably heart-breaking. As soon as he could pack up his stuff and cash his dad’s check, he headed straight for the far country. He didn’t want his father’s presence, and, in fact, he didn’t even want his father’s proximity. As Christians, we must never stop drawing near to God.

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Hebrews 7:19

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

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

James 4:8

Drawing close to God involves cleansing, but lost people have no way to get clean apart from Christ.

The father divided to the younger son his “living” – his bios – the things necessary for life, and the son soon started selling those things to support a depraved type of “living” – zao – a vain “lifestyle.”

So, here’s the picture of the prodigal lifestyle. First, you have enough cash for “riotous living.” You don’t think about earning, much less saving. You spend, and you party, and you make tons of fake friends. Then you use it all up, and you start to lose your furniture, your car, your clothes, even your home. Then it’s not a question of whether you should work – it’s how are you going to eat? To make things worse, in the case of the prodigal son, it appears that the economy crashed while he was in this condition. Swayed by his own selfish preference, and not wanting his father’s presence or proximity, he found himself in quite a predicament.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

Luke 15:14

He had no more friends, no more resources, no more family, no resume’, and no credit. We might expect the father to come to his rescue at this point, but he didn’t. By withholding material provision the father was actually providing somthing better: the opportunity for transformation through brokenness. He was waiting for the son to come back to him.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

Luke 15:15

This was an especially terrible job for a Jewish man, for whom swine were considered not only physically, but religiously, unclean.

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

Luke 15:16

Our Heavenly Father knows exactly how bad things have to get for his children before they are forced to face reality and/or learn their lesson.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

Luke 15:17

Having seen an illustration of the Father’s patience, we now see His prosperity. Even when we squander His resources, God’s supply never runs out – or even runs low. The first things the younger son thought of when he came to his senses were the father’s goodness (he fed his servants well) and the father’s greatness. God is good – willing to be gracious – and great. He has enough grace to spare for the worst sinner. We can’t out-sin God’s grace.

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Romans 2:4

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

Luke 15:18

Sinners always sin against someone, but first and foremost sin is against God.

And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Luke 15:19

None of us are “worthy” to be called God’s children, and we can’t work our way into his favor.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

We thank God for His patience and prosperity, but we must not forget His persistence. The prodigal son’s father was watching and waiting. As an earthly father, he was hoping, but our Heavenly Father KNOWS. We also see an illustration of His passion, as the father in the story RAN, no longer waiting. The simple act of a wayway son coming home filled him with joy.

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

The Father’s protection from the penalties of the Law may be another facet to the story. Did the prodigal son’s father run and embrace the son to keep him from being stoned? If so, his protection was met with the son’s proposal:

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

Luke 15:21

But here he was interrupted by the father’s pronouncement:

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Luke 15:22-24

The father’s response were the gifts of imputed righteousnesss (the best robe placed on the son), ordained authority (a ring placed on his hand), freedom (shoes placed on his feet), temporal joy (a command to feast), and everlasting joy (a recognition of figurative resurrection, “was dead and is alive again).

longing for God

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.

Answering the Call

August 9, 2018 at 9:38 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Moreover the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Thus saith the LORD the maker thereof, the LORD that formed it, to establish it; the LORD is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Jeremaih 33:1-3

Jeremiah 33:3 is one of those “coffee mug” verses…

Jeremiah 33-3 coffee mug

… and we may take the encouragement to “call unto Me” as a command for us today to call upon God in prayer, but, remember, Jeremiah was in a special appointed relationship with God whereby God openly invited him to seek out prophetic visions and information from God, and God would share secrets with His prophet. You and I may call upon God for wisdom, and He may answer us through the study of His Bible, or through the passage of time as we see events unfold, but it wouldn’t be wise for us to seek a private revelation from God about the future.

God responded to Jeremiah by letting him know more about the future restoration of Judah and Israel.

And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.

Jeremiah 33:7-8

This would be not only geographical and material restoration, but, more importantly, spiritual restoration: cleansing AND pardon. God would forgive them for going astray (iniquity), falling far short of the mark of God’s righteousness (sin), and rebellion (transgression). This would be for a blessing to His own chosen people, but also for a witness and testimony to gentile nations.

And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.

Jeremaih 33:9

Do not fail to praise God openly in front of unbelievers for the prosperity God may allow you to enjoy, but don’t forget to praise him especially for the forgiveness of your sins, either.

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Romans 2:4

The Lord then repeated the assurances of the future fulfillment of His covenant by making an argumentum a fortiori.

Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.

Jeremiah 33:24-26

The idea is that when the sun stops rising and setting each day, then someone can question whether God’s covenant with the seed of Jacob and David will be broken.

God’s Will and Our Will

September 18, 2015 at 9:26 am | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 8 Comments
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Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

Romans 2:17-18 (emphasis added)

One of the distinguishing features about sometimes categorizing God’s will as preceptive, rather than decretive or secretive, is that God’s preceptive will is clearly revealed.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Romans 7:18

There is nothing good in our flesh. Have you come to grips with this in your life? Have you preached this to yourself and to the children entrusted by God into your care? God’s will can sometimes be described as dispositive, as can ours, but, in a stark contrast to His, our disposition, apart from His Spirit controlling us, is toward evil.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:19-25

Our wills are always subject to God’s decretive will, but they are often in abject rebellion against His preceptive will. Our wills are subject to our desires, but there is hope in Christ, for He can change our desires and thereby make our wills subject to God’s will.

One important thing to remember about God’s hidden will is that it is intentionally hidden. God has His reasons for not revealing His secret will to us, and those reasons are good. Historically, though, this has not sat well with everyone who claims to be a Christian. There were those in the early Church – including ascetics, gnostics, and legalists – who wanted to add their beliefs to Scripture’s teaching about God’s preceptive will, and to insist that their additions were binding, when in fact God had not revealed them to be so.

Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Colossians 2:23

The “things” referred to were possibly things like refusing to eat and wearing itchy clothes – things that appeared to mortify the flesh in an attempt to exercise “self”-control over the will. These denials of self and comfort were supposed to “prove” how spiritual the practitioners were by demonstrating their own “will power,” but they were basically worshiping their own will by pretending it was God’s will.

The truth is that there are certain areas where Scripture grants liberty and the application of personal conscience – for example, exact clothing choices, which holy days to observe, and what to eat or drink. In these areas, we should acknowledge that, where God has chosen to close His holy mouth, we ought not to be loud with ours.

The S.H.A.R.K. Principle (lesson 3)

April 18, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Posted in The S.H.A.R.K. Principle | 2 Comments
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S.atan
H.ates

A.ll
R.eal
K.

There is a type of “knowledge” which is empty. It’s not “real” knowledge. It’s like a mirage. It looks interesting, but there’s nothing really there.

An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

Romans 2:20

Beware of things which have a “form” but are empty. Satan teaches that outward appearances are everything. God teaches that outward appearances should be the result of real knowledge on the inside. Don’t let Satan squeeze you into this world’s mold. Get something substantial from God, from the Bible, and be changed on the inside – transformed, not conformed.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

II Timothy 3:1

Let’s see if it sounds like we’re in the “last days:”

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

II Timothy 3:2

Do you love yourself more than God and more than others? Do you wish God would have given to you what He has in fact given to someone else? (covetous) Do you desire to be looked up to, and to be told how “great” you are? (proud) Do you really believe that you are great? (boasters) Do you treat God’s name as an exclamation or an interjection? (“OMG”) Would you be satisfied if you had woken up this morning with only the things for which you had thanked God yesterday? (unthankful)

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

II Timothy 3:3-7

Appearing to learn something, while actually learning nothing, will not lead you to the truth, because Satan doesn’t have any real knowledge. He hates it. He only has fake knowledge, which is another name for “lies.”

S.atan
H.ates
A.ll
R.eal
K.nowledge

Did you know you have to have knowledge to go Heaven?

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

I Timothy 2:3-5

I said to Heaven, not to God. Everyone is going to meet God, with or without genuine knowledge. In fact, all roads lead to God. It’s just that there will be an enforced U-turn when you get there, unless you are in Christ Jesus. This is what Satan hates and what he doesn’t want you to know. Jesus is the only Mediator – the only One Who can make peace between you and God so that you can be in His presence and live. The presence of God will be absolute bliss for all eternity if you have believed the Gospel and trusted Christ, but the presence of God will be unbearable torment without the Mediator.

If you don’t go into the ocean you’ll never have to worry about a great white shark. But if you’ve never been born again through saving faith in Christ, you had better worry about the Great White Throne. It is from there that God will throw unbelievers into the lake of fire.

LONGsuffering in Marriage

March 16, 2012 at 11:53 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:3-4 (emphasis added)

Christian love in marriage must be a love that suffers long. Suffering means:

1. Taking offense with a resolve to absorb it without getting even for it.
2. Taking offense without it affecting your own inward peace.

Suffering includes:

1. Inward self-control
2. Outward testimony of peace within the marriage union

I Corinthians 13:4 not only says that true Christian love suffers – it says that it suffers long. Suffering long means:

1. Putting up with deep and frequent offenses
2. Putting up with offenses for a long time without defending ourselves

Longsuffering demonstrates God’s love to the world.

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Exodus 34:6

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Romans 2:4

Forbearance and longsuffering are extremely hard for fallen sinners to practice, because the “common sense” view is that forbearance and longsuffering only lead to more offenses. But, according to the Bible, when God is at work, forbearance and longsuffering actually lead to repentance – a change for the better!

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

I Timothy 1:16

Christian marriage should show a pattern of God’s love toward the world.

Longsuffering produces gratitude, reminding us how much God puts up with from us. It also reminds us to be humble.

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

Ephesians 4:2

Furthermore, it helps us to see God’s hand in trials and circumstances.

And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day. And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.

II Samuel 16:5-13

We don’t like suffering, much less longsuffering, but longsuffering is a Godly habit. It is vital (paradoxical, but vital) to get into the true depths and richness of marital love.

The Hard Work of Encouragement

May 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical farming, Hebrews | 9 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 6 is a good reminder to Christians to “grow up.” It’s natural to start off life as a child, and it’s natural for new believers to start off their Christian life as spiritual children. But there should come a point in time when every believer begins to mature. And, even beyond that, there should come a time when mature believers are actually aiding immature believers in the growth process.

Proper growth comes about from:

1. Feeding (on the Word of God)
2. Exercise (getting involved in Christian ministry or service)
3. Instruction (heeding warnings to stay away from what is dangerous)

I believe God is pleased when we show love and encouragement to new believers. First of all, it is the right thing to do. Second, it stimulates growth.

In order to encourage others to grow, we need to make sure we’re growing ourselves.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Romans 2:21

If the people you are ministering to start to outgrow you spiritually, that is not the ideal situation. One solution for this is staying grounded in the Word of God. When you encourage someone, encourage them from the Word. Experiences can be good, but the standard by which we judge our experiences is the Bible. Study your Bible.

When you minister to immature believers it is also important to find out where their interests lie. If possible, find out what’s going on at their homes. This is especially true with children.

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Proverbs 20:11-12

God gave us eyes and ears not just to entertain ourselves, but so we can observe who needs to be encouraged, and then do it.

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;

Proverbs 24:30

The “slothful” is like a farmer who is too lazy to work the field God has given him. He is purposely ignorant, willfully ignoring the vineyard.

And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

Proverbs 24:31

The vines are not growing like they are supposed to because of all the useless weeds that have come up and stolen the nutrients that should be causing good fruit to grow. The wall around the vineyard is no longer in a condition to stop wild animals or vandals from coming in and destroying the crop.

Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

Proverbs 24:32-33

The farmer says that he will get around to it after he’s a little more rested – after his schedule clears up.

So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:34

The lazy farmer will be robbed of his opportunity.

If you have been a Christian for a while, God has put you in a position to encourage someone. You have an opportunity to build someone up – to keep the fences of protection mended, to stimulate growth in someone, to feed someone, to pull out the weeds and thorns, to get in on the job of raising up mature Christians.

We’re not going to be able to do that if we don’t encourage them. And we won’t be able to do it by just checking in with them for one hour on Sundays. We’re going to have to call, to send cards, to invite them to activities, to visit them when they’re sick. Immature Christians tend to, for good or ill, base what they think about the Lord on what they think about other Christians. If I’m always late for church, I’m sending a message to someone that church is just not all that important to me. If I don’t know some basic truths from the Bible, I’m sending a message that preparing to live out God’s Word is not that important to me. If I only speak to my Christian friends on Sunday morning at church, I’m sending the message that I am only pretending to care about them.

Let’s strive to encourage other Christians, especially new ones.

Six Thoughts which Remind Us that We Cannot Achieve Righteousness on Our Own

September 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Romans | 9 Comments
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R.espect: With God there is no respect of persons. (Romans 2:11)

O.utward appearance: We think we will be judged on our outward appearance. (Romans 2:28)

M.en: We seek the praise of men, rather than the praise of God. (Romans 2:29)

A.ccuse: We accuse each other of things we do ourselves. (Romans 2:1; 16)

N.onsense: When our actions don’t match our words, we preach and teach nonsense. (Psalm 149:1; Romans 2:21-22)

S.ecrets: We think we can keep secrets from God. (Romans 2:16)

In Romans Chapter One the Holy Spirit had Paul introduce himself to his readers, and had him show his care and concern for them. When the preaching part of the epistle begins he takes the gentiles as his subject.

Chapter 2 starts off with the verdict that someone is guilty: “thou art inexcusable, O man” (Romans 2:1). Jews and gentiles are both guilty before God, but the Jews had been very specific in knowing God’s laws and judging others for breaking them.

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

Romans 2:17

The Holy Spirit does a great job of laying out the facts, using rhetorical devices, asking questions before they are raised by His opponents, and proving His case.

The Holy Spirit proves in Romans 2 that we can not achieve righteousness on our own.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Romans 2:1

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God might ask us today, “Are you your brother’s – or sister’s – accuser?” Satan is the foremost accuser of your brethren.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Revelation 12:10

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Romans 2:13-15

The Jews were not more righteous than the Gentiles just because of their lineage. This would have been a shocking statement to the Jews. We won’t be judged on what our ethnicity or nationality or heritage is, and we won’t be judged on what it looked like we were doing. We need to be careful of appearing to be something we are not.

Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

Psalm 149:1

The vocal expression of many modern church congregants during an enthusiastic time of worshiping in song might be, “I worship You with all my might. You are my everything. All I want is You…” While the reality is, “All I want is You… right after hunting and fishing and football, and making sure my yard work is done… maybe a nap, a snack, and a cold drink… then all I want is You.” The “new song” is referring to worshiping God intelligently, and it is pointing to the new person – the new man, the new woman you are – when old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Romans 2:21-22

For the Jews circumcision was of the utmost importance, but outward appearance will not serve as righteousness.

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

Romans 2:28

Circumcision of the heart – of the spirit – comes when we seek the praise of God (not God praising us, but seeking to cause others to give God praise.)

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Romans 2:29

Circumcision involves a sharp cutting instrument. If we are to have our heart circumcised (spiritually), we’re going to need something sharper than a scalpel. The Word of God is sharper than any scalpel. “Circumcision” comes from two words. The second part (“cision”), obviously, means “to cut.” “Circum” means “around.” “Circumspect,” means to “look around,” to make sure everything’s okay, or nobody is looking, before we do something. We should bind the Word of God around our hearts the way that Old Testament Jewish leaders sometimes bound actual passages of Scripture around their necks.

Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

Proverbs 6:21

We should bind Romans Chapter 2 around our hearts and remember that there we are guilty before God, and that we can’t use our heritage, our religious rituals, how we look, or anything outward, to achieve righteousness before God.

Making the Argument of Grace through Faith

September 13, 2010 at 11:47 am | Posted in Romans | 5 Comments
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Romans Chapter 2 tells us that we are guilty before God, and that we can’t use our heritage, our religious rituals, or the outward evidence of our behavior to achieve righteousness before God. Chapter 3 starts off by countering the arguments that could come up after the Holy Spirit has already proven that everyone, including the Jewish people, are guilty before God.

The first argument is, “What good is it even being Jewish, then?”

It turns out that, according to God, there are many advantages to being Jewish. God gave His Law to the Jewish people and made a Covenant with them and gave special blessings to them, not the least of which is that the Messiah would come through their heritage.

Some people were already making another argument against the doctrine that the Holy Spirit was teaching through Paul, saying, “Look, if God’s Law was given to point out that it could not be kept, then why should we even do good? Let us do more evil, to bring about more good.” But the Holy Spirit through Paul says God is righteous. He is not slack concerning His promise. He requires faithfulness, because He is faithful. He can judge our unrighteousness, because He is righteous. How do the just live? Or by what do they live? By faith!

Chapter 4 uses the specific example of Abraham, the ancestral father of the Jewish people, to show how Jewish people in the Old Testament times were justified by faith, before the Law, and before circumcision.

Tips for Teachers

August 18, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Biblical Teaching, II Corinthians | 6 Comments
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Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

II Corinthians 3:1-3

Christian teachers are to strive for excellence – to be the very best teachers we can be – not necessarily the best there are – but the best we can be. We may not have the most expensive materials or the fanciest facilities. Our students may not have read the lesson. In fact, they are more likely to read the teacher than the lesson. So we must make sure we are good “letters.”

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

Romans 12:11

“Fervent” is more than “not slothful.” We are to prepare our lessons while being mindful that we are serving the Lord. Don’t prepare just for the students – do it for the Lord.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Colossians 3:23

I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

Proverbs 8:17

Planning ahead of time makes for smooth-sailing on the day of the lesson. Take some time thinking about and planning your routine.

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

I Corinthians 4:2

As a teacher, be reliable. This is more than not missing the teaching time. It includes being trustworthy as a person. We want our students to grow in number, in knowledge, in maturity, and in fellowship and closeness.

For the body is not one member, but many.

I Corinthians 12:14

The Body of Christ is alive. A living body is an organism, but a disorganized organism will die. Therefore, teachers need to work together with each other and with those in other ministry positions. We need to work together and meet together. Not only are we valuable to each other, but we are valuable to the Lord.

Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:31

Right after Jesus proclaimed His authority He proceeded to allocate His authority to His disciples. But their enthusiasm must have been somewhat dampened when He told them what this authority meant, and how they were to use it. Our “value” lies in our willingness to serve. God doesn’t “need” me in the sense that He needs my permission to accomplish His will. Teachers have a target on them. We may only influence our students for an hour a week. They may be “taught” by someone else all the rest of the week. That’s going to lead to conflict once in a while between us and their “other teachers.” Just like some parts of the body protect other parts, we need to be loyal to each other. One of the reasons we value each other so much is because we know the Lord values us, and we are under His protection.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

It’s natural to start off life as a child, and it’s natural for a new believer to start off as a child. But teachers, like good parents, not only love their students, but want to see them grow up, too. Proper growth comes about from feeding (the Word), exercise (getting them involved in service), and instruction (the teaching itself.) To encourage others to grow, we need to make sure we’re growing ourselves.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Romans 2:21

If students outgrow teachers, teachers are going to have trouble teaching them.

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