Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Other Side of the Flood

Joshua 24:3 KJV
And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.

The flood here spoken of is obviously not that in Noah's day because of the mention of Abraham and Isaac. The word is one that means shimmering, like the sun reflecting off a stream and developed to mean a river. Commentaries claim the river to be the Euphrates because Abraham came originally from the other side of it. I think the reference must mean the Jordan as the Jews crossed it at flood stage when God parted its waters for Joshua to bring them over and possess God's promise for them.

The type of the flood is a traumatic and dramatic one.
• There was risk
• There was thrill
• There was potential victory

And that is the case with every person who follows the Lord into the life He has for us. We view ourselves as possessing this kinship because coming to live for Christ is such a huge life event. Those who have taken those steps see them as like crossing flood waters; we made it through the help of the Lord. We see ourselves as coming from the other side of the flood and we view ourselves as pre and post crossing.

I am praying for those yet on the other side and for those who are today midstream.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Not That Easy

Joshua 22:17 KJV
Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,

Israel had just taken the Promised Land and the two and half tribes who took their possession short of the Promised Land had just returned to their homes, when a controversy arose concerning them. Word got back to Israel that they had constructed their own alter. Immediately a delegation was dispatched to confront this sin. Phinehas, the son of Eliezer was the spokesman and reminds the two and half tribes of the sin of Peor. He then makes the comment that Israel was, to that day, not entirely cleansed of the sin.
• They were still dealing with the consequences and
• There were still people among them predisposed to the sin of idolatry

Often people who have committed some sin will insist that they have asked God to forgive them and that should be the end of it. What they refuse to accept is that the consequences of their sin is more far reaching than that. Though they have been immediately forgiven they may never, this side of eternity, experience complete freedom from the consequences of their sin.

Failure to accept that will certainly lead to a falling if not into the old sin, perhaps a sin much worse.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Others With Them

Luke 24:1 KJV
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

Sometimes the simplest phrase can come to life with meaning.

As the women came that morning to anoint the body of Jesus this verse says they brought with them the spices they had prepared. They came prepared to meet and minister to the Lord. And it says they brought with them some others.

These two phrases should be the example of every Christian when we come to meet the Lord on His day.

Come prepared
• Come prepared to teach a class if that is your ministry
• Come prepared to spend time in prayer
• Come prepared to give your tithes and offerings
• Come with a heart that has been prepared to both serve the Lord and hear his Word.

Come with some others
As Christians
• We ought always desire to be a help and a witness to others
• We ought to always be meeting new people and building friendships and reaching out to them on a spiritual level and
• We ought always to try to bring them with us to the church house that they might come to know our Saviour.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Get it Done

Joshua 17:18 KJV
But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.

A portion of this chapter covers the conquest of Ephraim and Manasseh of the hill country on the northern end of the Promised Land. It also tells us that they were not able to defeat the people in the valleys and that they complained to Joshua about it. Apparently they wanted help in defeating that land and Joshua wouldn't budge to do it. The tribes came in to the Promised Land together and took the land as a team. But the possession of individual properties of each tribe fell on the tribe itself.

I am reminded of Galatians six where we are to both bear one another's burdens and bear our own burdens. Believers are brethren, a family and we are to help one another. But each family within the family is also a whole unto itself and there are responsibilities that each family must bear on their own. Indeed, each family is made of individuals who in turn have responsibilities that no one can bear for them; they must bear them alone.

• Perhaps we are too uncaring today.
• Perhaps there should be a stronger sense of community within even the local church.

But we would also have to recognize that a huge number of people in our day look for someone else to take care of them.

Joshua charged the sons of Joseph to get busy and take those cities of the Valley. He then charged those seven tribes who had not yet taken a land to get up and do so.

Someone needs to give us the same charge.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Unholy Unity

Luke 23:12 KJV
And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.

I am reminded of Luke 16:13 where Jesus says of the one who tries to serve two masters, "…either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other."

Christ unites the souls of people either for Him or against Him.
People who are from all sorts of backgrounds and interests find common ground and fellowship in their devotion to Jesus Christ. On the other hand, people of such divergent backgrounds as to have been enemies also often find a commonality in their opposition to Christ.

• The people of Jerusalem, from different homes and occupations joined together in calling for crucifixion of Christ.
• At the end of the seven years Tribulation Anti Christ will have no difficulty assembling an army to stand against the King of kings and Lord of lords even as He descends from heaven.

Christ brings people together either for or against. We who claim to love the Lord then ought to be united in that love. Too many others will be united against it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Satan

Luke 22:3 KJV
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.

Luke 22:31 KJV
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

The Bible is so matter of fact about the existence of Satan that to deny that he exists is to deny that the Word of God is true. Twice in this one chapter, and in two different contexts, the name of Satan is mentioned. I may deduce from these references that
• He is real
• He is a person, (he is more than a bad attitude)
• He is dangerous

To underestimate the working of Satan, to refuse to accept that he influences many of the evil actions of mankind, to fail to see him as desiring to sift us as wheat is to leave ourselves exposed to his threats. Jesus is praying for us and greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. But we do not lean as we need to on the Lord until we realize how desperate our circumstances are with so great an enemy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Happens After Death

Luke 21:16-18 KJV
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

The Jews were conditioned to hear a prophet speak of things that bare future so to hear Christ speak of future events in Jerusalem was par for their understanding of the ministry of the prophet/preacher. We are so conditioned today after hearing two thousand years of Bible preaching, to expect passages like this one.

But this passage is startling to say the least. Jesus said in practically the same breath that they would be killed and that not a hair from their head should perish.

• Was Jesus confused?
• Was He speaking out of both sides of His mouth like some politician? or
• Did Jesus say exactly what He meant to say?

I take number three. And I take it to mean that perishing is something other than and even after death. We must never forget that. The message of the Bible, though set in this world and having benefit to this world, is a message about what happens after death. It addresses the other world. People like today's Joel Osteen deceive their congregations. They lull their followers into a false sense of spiritual security by filling their minds with self help fluff while omitting the weightier and much more important topics. Honestly, given the fact that Christ Himself preached of both heaven and hell do we really want our best life now? So what if a person is able to manipulate himself into thirty or forty years of earthly wonder? (I am supposing an adult who gets hold of an Osteen type book and is successful in obtaining that best life now. Suppose that he is thirty when he succeeds in obtaining that life and lives his average seventy years.) What would those few years be worth if in all of eternal life, His life is less? Suppose there is forty years of blessing followed by eternal hell? Suppose he is saved, but His focus on his best life now means in heaven he is saved yet so as by fire? Would you really want heaven to be worse than forty years of health and prosperity? Jesus mocked those who already have their reward. No true Christian could seek such a thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Side

Joshua 12:1 KJV
Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:

Joshua 12:7 KJV
And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir; which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions;

The perspective of the book of Joshua, as in the Bible as a whole, from inside the boundaries of Israel.
• There were those kings Moses defeated on the other side of Jordan and
• There are those Joshua defeated on this side Jordan
The Bible does not condemn the two and half tribes who chose their inheritance on the other side Jordan, but neither does it ever really focus on them again. They come just short of God's promise.

Too many people in our world are like that. They trust the Lord for salvation but they never fully embrace the life God has for them. While they are not condemned neither are they included in many of God's blessings for His people. God in effect seems to "ignore" them. It is not that He doesn't love them; it is merely that they don't account for the working of God in this world. God never gave up on those two and half tribes. Their names are recorded in the Word. But God's dealings with His people only records what happened inside the Promised Land.

If we have gotten saved, we would be better off being immersed in the life God plans for us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enough Already!

Luke 19:25 KJV
(And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)

Jesus added to His own parable the shock expressed by onlookers that God would take from one with little and give to one with much. The point is not that God doesn't care for the least. The point is that one who is unfaithful is not rewarded.

God's intent is to teach Christians faithfulness; to so mold and make us that we are presented to Himself without spot or blemish or any such thing. What should not shock us is that God is not finished with us. It should not amaze us that God will allow Christians to be conformed by the image of this world.
• He expects growth
• He expects faithfulness
• He expects fruit

When we get to heaven we will be shocked at who does and doesn't receive rewards. We will also be shocked by the fact that those rewards will not be based on equality and fairness but upon faithfulness and fruitfulness.

The lesson then is to not settle in our faith but allow the Lord to build using our faith.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where The Danger Lies

Luke 18:7-8 KJV
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Barnes notes keeps this passage in context and points out that the message here is that there is more danger that men will quit praying with the same fervency as the widow of the parable than that God will not answer our prayers.

There are huge implications in the text that God will not answer our prayers and avenge our adversaries quickly. We have to settle that in our hearts; Christianity is not for the fast food mind set. We had better plan to be in this thing for the long haul. We had better expect that there will be challenges for our faith and we had better get hold of the principles of importunate prayer.

The passage also assures us absolutely that God will answer and prayers and will avenge our adversaries "speedily" when it happens it will happen suddenly and without their opportunity to prepare themselves.

But the passage also warns us that when Jesus comes and when Jesus answers, very few will be left on their knees.

And so He urges us to pray and not faint.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

There Are Three Sides to Every Story

Joshua 5:14 KJV
And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

I have read that during the Civil War President Lincoln was asked if he thought God was on his side. To this question it is said that Lincoln replied, "My concern, sir, is not that God is on my side but that I am on His."

When Joshua saw the captain of the Lord has immediate question was, "Whose side are you on?" But Joshua made the mistake of only offering two sides; his and his adversary. The captain of the host of the Lord reminded Joshua that the third side to every conflict, and the only one that really matters, is the Lord's side.

It would help us in our own disputes if we would always remember that there is this third side and that His is the only side that matters eternally.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

When Do I Get My Own?

Luke 16:12 KJV
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

I recently reviewed a series of short videos designed to introduce concepts of logic and thinking. The videos cleverly illustrated how easily our minds can be deceived. For instance the in the gamblers problem, a coin is flipped nine times. Of those nine, three of them are heads and six are tails. The mind is so quick to recognize patterns that it immediately assumes that the probability is it will be tails in the tenth toss (or else reasons that heads is due). But the fact is, even if it had been nine for nine, as long as the coin has not been tampered with the toss is always a fifty-fifty chance. There is no predictable pattern.

The point is that our minds, unless carefully trained, may deceive us. (The Bible says the same thing of our hearts.)

Now this illustrates the passage in this way; Jesus implied in this parable that no one on this earth owns anything. We are merely stewards of another man's goods. However, it is difficult for any of us to grasp hold of that. What we hold seems so really ours that the largest numbers of people alive accept it and use it as their own. It takes discipline and training and great faith to come finally to see that all that is in our hands today, including life itself, belongs to God and we will give account of its use to Him.

But then Jesus implied that those who are stewards will receive riches of their own one day. That day is of course in heaven. The natural mind cannot conceive of this thing so it takes what is not its own and uses it as if it was its own, rejecting the notion that one day it will give account and ruining its hope of true ownership in eternity. The heart that lays up its treasure there is a heart that has been purposefully trained.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What About the Ninety Nine?

Luke 15:4 KJV
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

At first glance this looks like a bad business model. What wisdom could there be in obsessing in the one that is lost to at the neglect and the risk of the ninety nine? Many a business, many a church, many a family has been completely obliterated by those who obsess on what they do not have and ignore what they do. While the shepherd is gone after the one could not a worse thing happen to the ninety nine?

The clue is found in the phrase "just persons which need no repentance." The ninety and nine then could only represent those saints who have already been glorified and are now in heaven. Only they need no repentance and they are completely secure. Christ left them in perfect peace to come to earth for those who are still lost. The picture then is of the extreme measure that Jesus took to win those who are lost. He left perfect security. He left absolute fellowship. He left what is sure to reach those whose security was unsure.

Jesus is not giving permission to be irresponsible with what He has given us in order to gain what we do not have; He is teaching us what price He paid in order to save those in peril.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Does The Lord Allow It?

Luke 14:10 KJV
But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

I have been thinking that perhaps the reason that the Lord allows this world to so abuse the Christian faith and to mock spiritual principles is because if He were to make his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, so to speak, sinful man would pervert it into some sort of money making scheme or means of self advancement. We would take to our sinful heart those words in Luke 14:10, "then shalt thou have worship... "and we would fight for the lowest rooms, they would have to build more lowest rooms to accommodate the numbers making their way into them. Perhaps the Lord allows this world to get away with so much evil
• To prove those who will believe without immediate reward and
• To find out those who will do right even when no one acknowledges them for doing it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Moses Wrote This Song

Deuteronomy 31:19 KJV
Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:22 KJV
Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.

One of the things a person picks up from the Bible concerning songs and music is that God's people used them for either worship or for education and not for entertainment. Moses wrote this song (recorded in chapter thirty two) and sang it the same day he was "gathered to his people"; he died. The song was not celebratory in nature, though Moses had written one that was after the soldiers of Egypt died in the Red Sea. This song was meant to rehearse what God had said to Israel.

Moses was inspired in his writing I know. But songs that entertain aren't generally written and sung the same day. The writer has motives behind his music that necessitate his care when first releasing the song. He needs music to be scored and rehearsals to be done. Why, the couple who sang America the Beautiful at the 2012 Superbowl practiced it a week before the actual performance: and that is a song they have surely known since childhood. Entertainment requires careful preparation.

No, Moses did neither write nor sing for the sake of entertainment. And I conclude from that that far too much entertainment emphasis is placed upon even spiritual music in our day. The purpose of music among the believers must be an act of worship and an expression of a spiritual truth. If it is not that, it is not Christian.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When Men Won't Say...

Deuteronomy 29:25 KJV
Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:

Chapter twenty eight and twenty nine of Deuteronomy are weighty to say the least. There are the blessings prescribed early in chapter twenty eight but then there are the curses, most of which have already come to pass in Israel. Twenty nine ends by saying God's design is for men to see the judgment of Israel and ascribe it to God.

Today much of Israel is nationalistic, not spiritualistic. They, I am led to understand, have not only rejected Christ as Messiah but have abandoned faith in a coming Messiah.

And what can be said of America? The sentiment of the average American, and probably of the average Christian in America is that God would not dare judge anybody anywhere. How dare a preacher suggest such a thing?

Jesus implied that when He returns most will have stopped looking for Him and faith will be difficult to find on the earth. One sign of a lack of faith is a lack of the recognition of the blessings and especially the judgments of God on our world. It looks to me like the fact that men refuse to acknowledge the judgment of God is a sign that Jesus' return is not far off.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Place Chosen by God

Deuteronomy 26:2 KJV
That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.

A challenge for every Christian I know, and a point of contention for those who are not believers, is the thought that all religion is man made. It would not have been difficult for someone in leadership in Israel to survey the land and decide for himself where would be the best place for the center of their worship. This, in fact, became the situation when the woman at the well told Jesus that her fathers said they should worship in one place and the Jews said people should worship in another. Too much religion is just the design of designing men.

This is not what true faith is. Christianity is not to be our following those who seem successful and have found the most effective means to gather and lead a crowd. Christianity is to be following the leadership of the Lord and our leaders, if it is even right to call them leader (I have begun to question that more and more), are not to make plans and create ideas and call men to follow them. The ministers of God have only one real responsibility; to serve the Lord and His people in the place God chooses. That sort of Christian practice will not be any more loved by the world than the designing kind. But it is an honest faith, and it is the one God calls us to.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Choosing the Good Part

Luke 10:20 KJV
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:42 KJV
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 9:44 KJV
Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.

In the passage that came to my attention yesterday, Luke 9:44, there is a contrast between the excitement of Christ's casting out the devil from the boy and what Jesus said should sink down deeply into our ears, namely, the gospel of Christ. In Luke 10:20 Jesus told His disciples not to rejoice that the spirits were subject to them but instead that their names were written in heaven. And then in verse 42 Jesus says the good choice was to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His word.

Life is based on choices. We make them every moment of every day. The good choices have to do with
• The Gospel
• Our salvation and then
• Learning God's Word

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Never Let Down

Luke 9:44 KJV
Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.

Jesus had just healed the boy with the devil. His disciples had attempted and failed in the same, so that a greater contrast was made when Christ, without effort, rebuked the unclean spirit and it left. The people were amazed and glowing with praises toward Jesus.

But Jesus softened those praises in the ears of His disciples and told them to let those words He was about to say sink down deeply into them. He then proceeded to speak about His death.

People are very often anxious to hear stories of great miracles, hoping for something similar in their case. This world has such trouble that nearly everybody has some miracle they would like to see. The greater accomplishments a man has in his life only means the miracles he hopes for are that much greater. A man who has little could praise God for fifty dollars to buy gas to get to work; the President of our country looks for a peace treaty between nations. The point is, those are all secondary to the truth of the gospel.

Sometimes wonderful things happen and the fifty dollars is found or the treaty is signed. But sometimes all that falls through. But every time and all the time the truth of the death burial and resurrection applies.

• If we live for the other we will be often disillusioned
• If we focus on the gospel we will never be let down

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jesus Suffered Them

Luke 8:32 KJV
And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.

Barnes has an interesting observation in answer to those who object to Jesus "suffering" the devils to enter the swine and kill them. It isn't an answer that is easy, but it is one that brings forth reason for thought. He reminds us that God "suffers" evil of all kinds on this earth today.
  • He suffers the conflicts that are taking place in the Middle East where right now they say the Syrian government is killing one hundred or more of their own people per day.
  • He suffered Josh Powell to kill himself his own children by first hacking them with a hatchet and then blowing them up in a fiery inferno last weekend.
  • He suffers unbelieving men and women into government offices where they have now legalized gay marriage; a lifestyle that is overtly anti biblical.

Why would God suffer such wickedness when He has the obvious ability to prevent it?

The answer is in the eternal plan of God for a people who are redeemed not of coercion but out of pure love for Him. I do not pretend to understand God's plan but I have just enough of a grasp of it to know that even the evil Satan inflicts (God doesn't inflict evil, but only "suffers" Satan) will be turned for good and will, in the end bring glory to God. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

True Greatness

Luke 7:28 KJV
For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

There is no doubt but that John the Baptist is a great character in the New Testament. Though his work was short lived, it introduced that which is eternal. John the Baptist, Jesus said, was the greatest of all prophets. But his ministry is much more than that, extending into the New Testament and introducing that ordinance which distinguishes the church of Jesus Christ from all others; baptism of
  • A proper candidate  (saved) for
  • A proper reason (obedience, profession), using
  • A proper method (immersion) and under
  • A proper authority (a Baptist church)
  •  
Why would then Jesus say that the least in the kingdom would be greater than John? Does this mean, as many have preached, that John is not a New Testament preacher, that his message was in some way inferior? Not in the least. Consider the biblical lesson after this verse. John's baptism is the dividing line between glorifying God and rejecting God's counsel.

But what John began blossomed after his death. Like that grain of wheat that dies in the ground and then yields a hundred fold;
  • After John the Baptist came the death burial and resurrection of Christ and
  • After John the Baptist came the entirety of the New Testament
  • After John the Baptist came not only the salvation and baptism of those in Israel but all around the world
  • After John the Baptist has come two centuries of preaching that very message John preached.
True greatness inspires even greater greatness. It was his greatness that has led to greater things for Christ than he himself could have done. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

All The Days of Our Lives

Deuteronomy 17:19 KJV
And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:

The King of Israel was instructed to write out his own copy of God's law and to read from it every day. It was from the basis of that understanding of the Word of God that he was to judge the people (the context of the chapter deals with judgment - not necessarily all of it by the King, but in difficult cases, by the priest's who, obviously, were to know the Word of God.) The King was to read from that law "all the days of his life." He wasn't merely to study it and have a good understanding of it; he was to stay in it.

I have attempted to write out my own copy of the Bible. I am still working on it and I keep those parts I have finished. I can attest this is no easy task. But the real task, and one that no Christian has an excuse, is to read the Bible daily.
• Not just sometimes
• Not just until he has a decent understanding of it
• Not only in church services, but all the days of his life

What a difference it would make in the lives of people if they spent some time every day reading and thinking about and coming to understand the Bible.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

He Withdrew Himself and Prayed

Luke 5:16 KJV
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

Though the crowds of people pressed upon the Lord and Jesus did preach and teach and heal them, Christ also withdrew himself from them frequently.

The man who would minister to men has to realize that he also is a man and must be ministered to. It is an error to believe that we cannot be done without long enough to withdraw and be spiritually refreshed.

Jesus withdrew and prayed. It does not say He withdrew to pray, that would be with the intention of praying. No, He withdrew and actually prayed. The ministry we must have is the ministry of the Lord toward us and that is met in communion with Him.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Paganism Wrapped in a Christian Package

Luke 4:36 KJV
And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.

Jesus preached in the synagogues of Galilee with varied responses. But in the synagogue of His own home town the response was wrath. The people there tried to kill Him for the message He had preached.

Too much preaching today is geared to comfort and please and influence the hearers. There is a place for a "peace I leave with you" sort of sermon, but in many cases that's the only message some congregations ever hear. In the largest so-called churches in America the preachers have become famous for refusing to preach anything else. And while others preach a theological message that can be blunt, they salve their congregations with a social message that is down right promiscuous.

We need preachers who stand before their congregations without fear of the reaction. The task can be tough, but it is the only Christ honoring one. Anything else is paganism wrapped in a Christian package.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

As He Promised Thee

Deuteronomy 15:6 KJV
For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

God made a promise to Israel that if they obeyed his voice He would bless them in such a way that
• There would be no poor in the land
• They would loan money to other nations but never have to borrow money from those nations.

But then God said there would be poor in the land always and they were to open their hands wide to them. It does not appear to me that the poor were in the land as a consequence of their personal sin but as a consequence of the corporate sin of the nation. Therefore those who were wealthy and those who were poor were in the state they found themselves through no real merit or demerit of their own, but because of an overriding nature of disobedience to God. And therefore those who had much were not to see themselves as more righteous than others. They were not to think that they were in the place they were in because they worked harder or studied more or had more motivation. They were to, in no way, judge the poor but open wide their hands and help them.

We, who have been so blessed, have been conformed to believe we have because we earned it. We are conditioned to pick on the weak and make them that much weaker. That is not the Spirit of God in us and it must be resisted. We must chose instead to reach out to those who are in pain and hurting to do all that we can to be a blessing to them.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Proving

Deuteronomy 13:3 KJV
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

When I was younger and riding bulls I went with a group of friends to a place outside of Clarkston, Washington where a stock contractor was "proving" a herd of new bucking bulls. These animals had never been out of the chute before and there was no telling what they would do. The only way to find out was to get a cowboy on them and let 'em buck.

The Bible is filled with passages that tell us God proves us. Like Peter, who so boldly claimed he would never deny Christ but ended up denying not once, but three times, and that, within the sight of the Lord, none of us know whether we will obey the Lord or not until we have been put to the test; proven. We might think that God would be more gracious to us if He protected us from such proving, but protecting the flesh never really helps anything. It is similar to our distaste for exercise. It hurts, it takes time and we would much prefer comforting the flesh than inflicting pain upon it. But experience has shown that to protect the body from the discomfort of exercise is indeed harmful, not helpful. If we love ourselves we will exercise. And like disciplining ourselves not to eat so much. Eating is necessary, enjoyable and can give a sense of comfort in difficult times. But in America, where food is in overabundance, we would be better off to deny our bodies the pleasure of food rather than giving in to it. To suffer a few hunger pains would do us a world of good. In other words, if we love our bodies, we will let them suffer.

In similar manner then, because God loves us He proves us, not because the proving is pleasant but because its product is best.

Friday, February 03, 2012

There is a Hunger Riches Cannot Fill

Luke 1:53 KJV
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

The Bible says that both Elizabeth and Zacharias were righteous people, but they were childless. Blessings are sometimes withheld, not because of sin, but for the greater glory of God. And a greater glory was manifested when, in their elderly years, Elizabeth conceived and gave birth to John the Baptist.

In those months of pregnancy, Mary also conceived and carried within her body Jesus Christ. She went to visit Elizabeth who, among other things, proclaimed that God fills the hungry but sends the rich away empty.

There is an interesting thought. The rich would normally be thought of as having all of their needs met. They are certainly never hungry. But God fills the poor and hungry and leaves the rich to their own.

Wealth is no treasure without the blessing of the Lord.
• It may buy food for the belly
• It may provide transportation instead of walking
• It might purchase a vacation to conceal the misery of soul
But wealth can never satisfy the hunger that even the rich man feels.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

That Thing We Cannot Do

Mark 16:3 KJV
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

• The women agreed on a time to be at the tomb
• The women rose up early to be at the tomb at first light and
• The women had purchased. Spices with which to anoint Christ's body

But they had not found someone to roll away the stone. Despite all the rest of their preparations, this they could not do.

I doubt whether they would have been allowed to roll it away had they found someone who would do it for them. Pilate had put his seal on the tomb and placed guards there for the very purpose of keeping the tomb closed. But they came anyway and they came prepared to care for Christ's body.

And when they got there, that one thing that was bigger than them was already taken care of.

It's an illustration of walking by faith in Christ. While we may wonder how the Lord will do it, our concern is to concentrate on obeying the Lord and doing what we can do. We can plan, we can congregate, we can gather together those things in our reach with which to minister unto the Lord.

And we can come to where Christ is. And when we do that, the Lord will do what we cannot do.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Idols in the Homes of Saints?

Deuteronomy 7:25-26 KJV
The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.
Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.

Here is a principle that seems to be ignored amongst today. God doesn't want those things that have roots in idolatry and paganism in our homes. They are an abomination to Him.

I think part of the reason for this cavalier attitude concerning idols is traced to a misunderstanding of Paul's counsel that we know an idol is nothing in the world. That is an obvious truth. There is no god besides God. The idol has no supernatural power. It is a piece of wood or stone or precious metal and nothing more. But it is an abomination to God because it represents a person's love for some power other than God.

But the homes of Christians who are otherwise faithful and Christ honoring are often containers for those things that represent what God has clearly declared He abhors. Statues and figures of false gods adorn the shelves of Christians who simply see them as cultural art. Playing cards, whose roots trace to witchcraft or Islamic or both, and that today represent the gambling industry may be found in homes and are frequently played by Christians.

I know there's no false god in them, but they are an abomination to God and should not be in the homes of serious Christians.