Going Under the Knife

September 3, 2019 at 11:38 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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The prophet Jeremiah’s adult life had been spent trying to talk about God’s Word with people who did not want to hear or heed it. As the culmination of some of his most terrifying prophecies approached, the Lord had Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, write His prophecies down in a scroll (Jeremiah 36:2).

Through a series of events this scroll came into the possession of King Jehoiakim as he sat in his winter house warming himself by the fireplace. Predictably, the king did not like what was read to him, so he took out his “penknife,” (Jeremiah 36:23) and started cutting up the scroll and tossing it, page by page, into the fire.

While the point of this episode was to show the king’s utter contempt for God’s Word – such that he would actually try to destroy it – there is a certain irony in his choice of cutting instrument. A penknife is what we would today call a pocketknife – the kind with a blade that folds into the handle – but in Bible times it was more like a razor or a scalpel: a sharp blade used to whittle down the tip of a quill which would be dipped in ink and used for writing. What he should have been using to copy God’s Word, he was instead using to try to erase it.

King Jehoiakim thought he was “sharper” than God’s Word, but ultimately, of course, it is the Word of God that is “sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Word of God might “cut” us at times, but, as any surgeon can tell you, cutting is an often-necessary first step in the healing and strengthening process.

A One-Question Quiz for Boys

April 28, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

It’s one of the greatest Q-and-A’s of all time, packed into one clear and vital verse.

Q. How will a young man clean up his act and live right?
A. By purposefully and vigilantly moving through life with the Bible as his guide.

The psalmist asks and then answers his own question without hesitation, but are you and I convinced of this solution? I hope we are, because a wrong response has dire consequences: Psalm 34:16; Ephesians 5:3-6.

We sometimes use the colloquialism, “young men,” when we refer to boys – even those who are fairly far from the age (or maturity) of true manhood, and the Bible does the same thing here, translating it from the Hebrew na’ar. Boys do not come into this world with clean hearts, and they do not start their journeys through life on clean paths. No, they start off with dirty, sinful, corrupt, and foolish hearts, bent toward heeding the world’s beckoning call to travel down its own dark, dangerous, deceitful, and disobedient alleys. Thus, the question in the first part of the verse presupposes that a young man’s “way” has need of purification (cleansing).

Thankfully, the Lord God Who reigns over this sin-sick world has provided a ready-made and easily-obtainable means for such cleansing. This antidote is not, however, a one-time vaccination or smoothly coated pill, quickly ingested and then forgotten. No, it is a remedy that requires young men to “take heed” – to look and listen carefully.

The Word of God is to be kept ever before their eyes. It is to be ingested through reading, and through attendance on teaching and preaching by trained and ordained men of God. Its principles and precepts are to be applied thoughtfully and rigorously as sign posts, warning lights, fuel for the journey, and dutiful directions at every twist and turn, every high-speed straightaway, and every providential detour along life’s course.

The Most Important Children’s Ministry Tool

April 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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There is a whole industry out there geared toward the production of material for sale to churches, under the heading, “children’s ministry.” From coloring books, to puzzles, to visual aids, to movies, to action figures, to entire programs with point systems set up to award patches, trophies, candy, and prizes for attaining participation and memorization goals, there is no shortage of items available for those who would like organize, institute, or carry on with, a “children’s program” at his or her church.

The Holy Spirit, however, reminds us that the most important “material” needed in the evangelism, instruction, and training of children is found between the covers of God’s Holy Word: the Bible.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 3:15

If you are a Christian parent, then I suppose there may be some value in having a shelf filled with work books, color-in-the-lines representations of Noah’s Ark, and attendance awards, or a wall covered with certificates of merit for knowing all the hand motions to “I’m in the Lord’s Army, yes sir!” but do not neglect the most valuable teaching and learning tool ever invented for the edification of little (or future) disciples of Jesus: the Scriptures.

Professing Atheists Are Blind to Their Own Lack of Objectivity

February 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Professing Atheist: It’s odd that you think quoting the Bible would sway unbelievers.

Christian: You may not like it, but it’s not “odd” at all. Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God (II Timothy 3:16), and we have seen many unbelievers swayed by its truth.

Professing Atheist: What “truth” are you referring to?

Christian: The Bible itself and Jesus Himself, Who is THE Truth (John 14:6). You’ve never met anyone who started out rejecting it, read it, and then changed his/her mind? Let me help you find a Christian church to visit.

Professing Atheist: No thanks. Been there, done that. It took me 40 years of belonging to a Charismatic church to realize it was nonsense.

Christian: You should try another church – a non-Charismatic evangelical church. If it was a typical Charismatic church, you may be like the unbelievers described in I Corinthians 14:23-25.

Professing Atheist: Those are Paul’s words, and they are not relative to me.

Christian: You mean “relevant,” but they are relevant to you, because they are not just Paul’s words, they are the Holy Spirit’s words, and the Holy Spirit is God, and God is your Creator and your Judge.

Professing Atheist: Most Christians are taught or told that the Bible is true before they ever read or have time to evaluate its claims.

Christian: That doesn’t make it odd for Christians to quote it to unbelievers. You are assuming that “most” haven’t evaluated it, but, even if that’s true, by your own admission, others have read it and have been convinced of its truth afterward.

Professing Atheist: Do you ever take into consideration that there are probably more that reject than believe?

Christian: Of course. The Bible says that many reject (Matthew 7:13-14). It doesn’t say that all reject.

Professing Atheist: The Bible is a book of claims. I reject its claims for lack of conclusive evidence.

Christian: There’s no conclusive evidence that you reject it for that reason. I reject your claim that you reject it for that reason.

Professing Atheist: You’re just playing semantic games. The fact that I said I reject it is evidence that I reject it. That’s my conclusive evidence.

Christian: That’s the point. It’s “your” evidence (Judges 17:6) so you’ve subjectively labeled it as “conclusive.” And your “evidence” is just a self-assertion. It shows that you have a double standard. You don’t reject the Bible as true. You just don’t like it (Romans 1:18).

Professing Atheist: Do you think cherry picking Bible verses will somehow convince me?

Christian: The Holy Spirit may or may not use them to convict you or convince you, but, if you think they are being used out of context, I honestly hope that you will look them up and read them in context.

Professing Atheist: I reject the Bible’s claims, but I do like reading its fictitious stories.

Christian: Try to be consistent. You were pretending earlier that you were persuaded by “conclusive” evidence. There’s no conclusive evidence that the stories in the Bible are fictitious. In fact, the definition of “fiction” is a work where the author does not claim
its truthfulness. The Bible definitely asserts its own truthfulness. And you know deep down that what it says matters.

Professing Atheist: I know it matters? Nice assumption.

Christian: That’s why you’re driven to discuss it. The fact of this conversation proves that you know it matters.

How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 3

May 7, 2014 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Previously I discussed some of the exciting things about reading the Bible. Be patient with the Bible. Some sections are like a torrid novel (there are even some scandalous passages!), but some parts are more like the terse outline in a study guide for a history exam. Other sections are beautiful poetry. Take some time to figure out what genre you are reading. The Bible has an unlimited depth. The more you learn, the more you will want to know. And the more you want to know, the more fascinated you will be. Here are some practical tips for getting more out of your Bible-reading:

1. Remember the truthfulness of it.

Thy word [is] true [from] the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments [endureth] for ever.

Psalm 119:160

The Bible is unique in this respect. It is absolutely true in every circumstance and situation. It is the Word of God, and God cannot lie, and He cannot change. Therefore, His Word cannot be wrong, and it does not become outdated. Everything else you hear is susceptible to being (and often is) a lie. The Bible is the “verily verily” of God – the “true truth.” You can depend on it and rely on it, even when everything around you and “common sense” seem to indicate otherwise.

… yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Romans 3:4

2. Reacquaint yourself with God in it.

Some people only have a second-hand knowledge of God. You know Him through your parents. You know Him through sermons. Your main experience of Him is through praise and worship. It’s time you get to know Him better – in the Bible.

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

II Peter 1:3

We know that God is loving, just, merciful, gracious, wise, and powerful, because He tells us these things about Himself, and He has recorded Himself demonstrating these things in the Bible. Can you imagine your spouse, child, or favorite person in the world giving you a letter telling you their most important thoughts, and telling you what they are truly like, and you don’t bother to read it? God has demonstrated His love and His care for us in the highest way conceivable. How can we not want to find out as much as we can about Him?

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

3. Recognize yourself in it.

The seeker-sensitive cliche’ “it’s not about you” is true, in a sense. But in another sense, it is about you. The Bible is where we learn how we got here and what our reason for existing is. A good hermeneutic principle to follow is to picture yourself as the sinner in every Bible story you read.

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15 (emphasis added)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 (emphasis added)

You are in the Bible in one of those two verses. If you are truly a Christian, then you are a “whosoever” in John 3:16. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, then you remain one of the “whosoevers” in Revelation 20:15, and I plead with you to ask the Lord to change your status today.

How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 2

November 8, 2013 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last time I addressed the misconception that the Bible is boring. Here are three types of excitement in the Bible:

1. The danger in it

In many places the Holy Spirit employees a style of writing which we might describe as a “cliffhanger.” In other words, a narrative will build up to a moment of suspense, then there will be a pause in the action before it is resolved. In Genesis 22, for example, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac – and at the last instant tells him to stop. Then He provides a ram (which itself is another cliffhanger that does not get resolved until the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament). The end of Genesis Chapter 2 is another example. The Bible makes an ominous statement about Adam and Eve being naked and not ashamed… right before the serpent shows up in Chapter 3.

There is another danger in the Bible, though, too: a danger for us. For when we read it, we can obey it or reject it.

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Hebrews 3:15

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

There are great blessings in reading your Bible – if you practice what you read. But there is great danger in reading it and then ignoring its commands.

2. The mystery in it

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him:

Ephesians 1:9-10 (emphasis added)

Bible mysteries are really not mysterious in the way we normally think of that term, because, if you read it, they are revealed. It is obvious there is a Creator just from looking at everything around us, and we can learn much about Him just by observing His creation, but to really know Him – and to be partakers of the mystery of His Gospel and His will – even for our own lives – we must dig into the Bible.

3. The fascination in it

The Bible is a page-turner, and not just because of its suspenseful passages, but because it is so intensely interesting – in a supernatural way. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God to make us want to understand it and to want more and more of it.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Honey is not something you eat quickly. You chew slowly and savor it.

Next time I will give some practical tips for getting more out of your Bible-reading.

How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 1

November 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The Bible is 66 books combined into one big book. Its Author is God in the Person of the Holy Spirit, but He used about 40 different human instruments over a time period of about 1600 years across three continents to write it. It is inerrant, which means it is perfect. There are no mistakes in it. It is infallible, which means it is not possible for it to be wrong. And it is inspired, which means that it is supernatural – divinely given by God.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:21

This verse seems, at first blush, in our modern vernacular, to mean that the Bible is new: The prophecy “came not in old time.” However, the emphasis that matches the “came not” is on the “will of man,” not the “old time.” The prophecy was, in fact, given long ago, but it did not come by the “will of man.” It came instead by the “inspiration” of the Holy Ghost. He picked up certain men (like you or I would pick up an ink pen) and used them by “breathing” His Holy living words through them. He did this either by dictation or superintendence. In other words, they either knew they were writing Holy Scripture or they didn’t, but God made sure that they were.

As stated above, the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and inspired. It is also sufficient.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

II Timothy 3:16

The doctrine of “the sufficiency of Scripture” holds that all of the Bible is inspired by God, and that it is profitable for all the things listed in that verse, so that we need no other words from God. We do not need any “fresh revelations” or new “words of knowledge” or privately-given “words of prophecy.” Therefore, when you hear someone say, “God told me to tell you this” or “I have a word from God for you” or “the Lord spoke to my heart,” you may reject these expressions or at the very least test them against Scripture.

And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

II Peter 1:18-19

God has deigned to speak to us, yet we often neglect His Word. We find our eyes locked onto our phones, our televisions, our laptops, even the information printed on a cereal box, while the precious and powerful Word of God lies nearby, unread and, in many homes, covered with dust. Part of the problem comes from a misconception about how interesting, accessible, and inspiring the Bible actually is. We need to realize the excitement in it. The Bible is not boring, and, if you think it is, you may have gotten this idea from getting stuck in a section of genealogies or some of the instructions for building the Temple. Or you may have fallen asleep in the minor prophets because you didn’t understand who was being addressed or why. But the Bible is not boring. There are wars and battles, love stories and intrigue, monsters and dragons, kings and rebels, superheroes and super villains – even talking animals! Hollywood offers up some big attractions, but they have nothing on the Bible – and the exciting stories in the Bible really happened!

In part 2 I will highlight three categories of excitement found in the Bible.

Holiness in Church

March 27, 2013 at 9:07 am | Posted in C.H.U.R.C.H. | 5 Comments
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C.hrist
H.oliness
U.
R.
C.
H.

What does holiness mean? It is the condition of being set apart for a special reason, and the condition of being clean from sin. When Jesus saves a person, that person is set apart from unsaved people. He or she is set apart unto God. Then the process of cleaning begins: the process of getting more and more separated from sin.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:25-26 (emphasis added)

We call this process “sanctification.” Sanctification means becoming more holy, and Jesus uses church to clean us. Specifically, according to Ephesians 5:26, how does He do this? By the washing of water by the Word. In other words, through Bible teaching. One of the “right” reasons we come to church is for organized Bible study with each other.

The Word for Sinners

March 13, 2013 at 8:41 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 7 Comments
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A good practical method for studying the Bible is to put yourself in the place of the “sinner” in every Bible story. Of course, every person in the Bible was a sinner except for Jesus, but what I mean is, avoid the temptation to compare yourself to Abel, for example. Rather, think about Cain as you study Genesis Chapter 4 and ask yourself, Do I struggle at times with unrighteous anger? Do I have a tendency to worship God the way I like to worship, rather than the way He likes to be worshiped? If two characters in a Bible story are contrasted for obedience and rebellion, see yourself as the rebel and ask God for forgiveness and deliverance. If there are two sinners in a Bible story, picture yourself as both of them (Adam and Eve). If there are a bunch of sinners in a Bible story, picture yourself as all of them (the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness). The Bible helps us to have a teachable spirit.

Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.

Psalm 119:12

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

Psalm 119:15-16 (emphasis added)

Delight leads to love, which leads to meditation, which leads to delight, which leads back to love, which leads to back to meditation. Study a verse with this attitude, and pretty soon you’ll have it memorized!

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalm 119:18

All Christians must be students of the Word.

Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.

Psalm 119:21

Wandering from the Word takes you into the enemy’s camp.

Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously. I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.

Psalm 119:29-30 (emphasis added)

If we don’t walk in God’s Truth, we are walking in the enemy’s deception.

HE. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

Psalm 119:33-34

The purpose of Bible study is to know God better. The Word of God shows us the God of the Word. God speaks to us through His Word. Do you love God? He’s written 66 love letters combined into one big book. If you love Him, you will read it. If you are not listening to God’s Word, you are by default listening to the devil.

A Word about the Word

February 13, 2013 at 11:24 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 11 Comments
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We are not sure which human instrument the Holy Spirit used to write Psalm 119. The consensus seems to be that it was David, but I have also seen it argued that it was Jeremiah. The psalm itself is about God’s Word. Like Psalm 112, it is in the form of an acrostic, but with eight lines for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Almost every line is a meditation on Scripture.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

It is not enough to have God’s Word in our hands, in our homes, and in our heads. We must have it in our hearts!

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

The Bible helps us stay clean. We pour it through our minds the way we pour water through a dirty vessel to purify it.

I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.

Psalm 119:14 (emphasis added)

Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

Psalm 119:111 (emphasis added)

I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.

Psalm 119:162 (emphasis added)

The Bible gives us joy.

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.

Psalm 119:24 (emphasis added)

HE. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

Psalm 119:33-35 (emphasis added)

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (emphasis added)

The Bible gives us guidance.

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

Psalm 119:37 (emphasis added)

The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

Psalm 119:72 (emphasis added)

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103 (emphasis added)

Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

Psalm 119:148 (emphasis added)

The Bible tells us what is valuable.

I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.

Psalm 119:58 (emphasis added)

The Bible tells us how to pray.

ZAIN. Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.

Psalm 119:49 (emphasis added)

The Bible gives us hope.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

The Bible gives us peace.

And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Psalm 119:45 (emphasis added)

Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Psalm 119:133 (emphasis added)

The Bible sets us free.

JOD. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.

Psalm 119:73 (emphasis added)

The Bible tells us what God wants us to do, and how to do it.

They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.

Psalm 119:74 (emphasis added)

Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.

Psalm 119:79 (emphasis added)

The Bible tells us how to pick our friends.

VAU. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word. So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.

Psalm 119:41-43

We must pray the Word, answer with the Word, and speak the Word consistently. The Bible gives us strength.

DALETH. My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.

Psalm 119:25 (emphasis added)

Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.

Psalm 119:40 (emphasis added)

Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.

Psalm 119:88 (emphasis added)

Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment.

Psalm 119:149 (emphasis added)

The Bible revives us.

I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

Psalm 119:7

Praise is good preparation for Bible study.

They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

Psalm 119:3-5 (emphasis added)

The Bible shows us the difference between our ways and God’s ways.

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