Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Bible: Impressive but Ominous


Zechariah 5:1-3 KJV
Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.
Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.

This flying roll is impressive for two reasons:
Its size
It is an unusually large roll.

It's flying
Books don't fly.
  • They are carried from place to place
  • They are copied and spread in that manner
  • They are read and their message is delivered through the audible word
but they don't fly.

These two impressive features immediately give way to the ominous burden they bring. This book is not a message of good news.

It is difficult for a student of the Bible to see this roll as anything but the Bible.
  • It is large in that it is not one book but a library of sixty six books
  • It has flown around the globe reaching people it would have at one time been impossible to believe
  • No other document has been printed so widely and taken to so many parts of the world
 The message of the Bible is one of good news. There is a way to have
  • Fellowship with God
  • Sins forgiven and
  • Live forever
But it also carries a terrible warning. Judgment is coming. Such judgment as the world has never seen. The ominous mood comes in the last days when it becomes so obvious that the majority of people will choose not to accept the good news and will indeed face the judgment.

Zechariah's attention is placed upon the roll and I am convinced it’s where we need to get people again. People need to be brought back to the book of God. We need to get their attention back to what God said. It is there we find
  • Forgiveness
  • Freedom and
  • Hope of the future

Monday, April 29, 2013

Full Time Work

James 1:27 KJV
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

To keep ourselves unspotted from the world.

The dirtying effects of this present evil world are pernicious indeed. As the ancient Jew would wash his feet whenever he came inside a house because the dirt roads would naturally soil them, so exposure to the elements of worldliness naturally stain our souls. Conformity to the world happens without any attempt on our part. Truly we must make an effort to avoid it. God's word tells us
  • We may be transformed by the renewing our minds and
  • We may be cleansed by the confession of our sins
Remaining unspotted is full time work.

But I look for that day when Christ Himself will finish the work of transformation in us and we will be presented before the Lord without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Be Ye Not As Your Fathers


Zechariah 1:4 KJV
Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.

If you want to breach a man's pride tell him his dad was wrong. There is something in us that, though we would have disagreed with our fathers in our youth, we turn out just like them in our maturity.

God is here addressing Israel's refusal to hear the prophets of their past. This refusal had resulted in the Babylonian captivity. Now the people have returned to the Promised Land and a new prophet urges them not to be as their fathers were.

There can be a number of ways we err in being like our fathers:
  • Some people err in that their family was a particular denomination and, though that denomination has changed over the decades, they refuse to change from it
  • Some people err in that their family was a part of a false religion and, though that religion is not Scriptural, they will not leave it
  • Some people err in that their family is known for certain besetting sins and though they have been personally hurt by them, they lead a lifestyle that includes those besetting sins

Family is an important piece of humanity. There is no doubt that children usually love their fathers and mothers no matter how poor a job they did raising them. I am glad my kids love me and haven't judged me too harshly for my mistakes as a parent. But
  • When it comes to the spiritual
  • When heaven and hell are at stake
  • When our own children may be saved or lost eternally because of our choices
it's time to listen to our Heavenly Father and not be like our earthly ones. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

God - A Consuming Fire

Hebrews 12:29 KJV
For our God is a consuming fire.

Though the verse is united with the previous under the conjunction "for" it seems out of place, a leap to find it in this context. It is true we are to serve God with reverence and godly fear, but a consuming fire seems to engender something beyond that. If we have a kingdom that is unshakable and which cannot be moved; if we are come to the heavenly Jerusalem and not to that mount which the Jews were forbidden to touch, why is it we quake and exceedingly fear His consuming fire?

That answer is to be found in the interpretation of the text. The consuming fire is one of protection for God's people and not of the prosecution of them.
  • God chastens all of His children but none of them are consumed
  • God disciplines and shapes us to holiness, but He never destroys His children
  • God rebukes us in our disobedience in order to bring us back into obedience, but He never repents if saving us
The consuming fire then is reserved for those who oppose and persecute us as is described in 2 Thessalonians when in flaming fire He takes vengeance on all who know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.[1]



[1] 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 KJV
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Strip Away the Proud

Zephaniah 3:11-12 KJV
In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.
I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.

It is the nature of sinful man to rally around the proud thing. For Israel, that had become their city and especially their temple. Though they claimed to be the people of God, they had become in fact, the people of the Temple. God's business in their captivity was to
  • Strip away their proud[1]
  • Remove from them the reason of their pride and
  • Leave them an afflicted and poor, but faithful people

Americans have many more sources of pride than I can list. Suffice it to say that to trust in any of them is to sin against God and leave ourselves in spiritual peril. The wise thing, the holy thing is to identify our temples and remove them before the Lord does. We never grow humble from the study of humility. We become humble by the removal of those workers of pride:
  • People
  • Possessions
  • Popularity
all must be plowed over if they have the effect of generating pride in us.

To trust in the name of the Lord; that is our soul aim.



[1] People

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shadows

Hebrews 10:1 KJV
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

Some people live their whole lives hoping for spiritual shadows to be their salvation. They recognize some supernatural characteristic. They know something is beyond the mere animal existence of humanity.
  • Some dabble in some sort of other worldliness
  • Some practice a type of metaphysical spirituality
  • Some involve themselves in an eastern mystical religion
  • Still others practice a type of Christianity not unlike the Jews of Jesus' day who had all the form of godliness but had none of the power of God

Countless numbers practice Christianity without Christ.
  • They see the shadows of what God has promised
  • They watch the motions of something that is to them unknowable
  • They hear the voices of the prophets
But seeing, they are blind and hearing, they have a deaf ear to the message of God.

The Good News of the New Testament is that God has offered us far more than shadows and figures. He has come in Person and we may touch Him, see Him and hear His Word personally through Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fear and Hope

Habakkuk 3:2 KJV
O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

The prophet has heard the word of the Lord. He has not merely written it down. He has not simply been present at the reading of it. He has taken it in. He has processed the message and here gives his response. Believers must be more than hearers. We must hear with ears that are open. We must hear, and process and respond.

He was afraid
The specific word in his case concerned the seventy years captivity in Babylon. That seventy years corresponds to Daniels seventy weeks that have been determined upon Israel. Within that period we find judgment, the finalization of Satan and the final end of the World. We find the wrath of God being poured out in righteous judgment upon all the earth.

We find reason to be afraid.

Any man who hears God's Word would be afraid.

He asked for revival
What an interesting reaction. His first response is not to be spared but for revival. He seeks the grace of God even in the middle of the judgment of God. This speaks to the nature of God and of the prophet's understanding of that nature. He viewed God as gracious. He saw opportunity for things to be turned to the Lord even in the midst of trouble.

He pled for mercy
Habakkuk understands and accepts God's wrath as right and holy and just. It is appropriate for the circumstances. But he is not fatalistic concerning it. Even though God is, at that moment, filled with wrath, God could, at that moment, be merciful.

Habakkuk was rightfully afraid. But rather than fleeing from God in fear, he turned to God to find help through his fear.

God's Word brought fear but God's character brought hope. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Prophet's Place


Habakkuk 2:1 KJV
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

I have for some time thought of the prophets as a type of the pastor where the Bible says that the priest is a type of the believer. Given this type, I see Habakkuk in the stead of a pastor here. He has brought his case to the Lord and is here waiting to hear what the Lord will say. It reminds me of the pastor who, after ministry among the congregation prepares himself to speak for the Lord

He is in an important place
The watchmen held the lives of the city in his hands. If he failed in his duty; if he was late in spotting or of warning the people of a coming danger, all could be lost.

His is in a strait place
The tower was elevated but also confining. People think of the pastor as having a huge place in the work of the Lord but it is also a restricted place. Only a few can be there. Once there, the standards are high. Responsibilities are high too.

His is a awful place
He is reproved of the Lord long before he brings any reproof to the people. Judgment begins at the house of the Lord and at the pastor's doorstep first.
  • He does speak to the people the Words of God
  • He is privileged to occupy his time with the Lord
  • He is placed in such a spot where many can see and hear him
But his is not the place for everyone. Few would want his place if they had it for very long. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Glorious Saviour


Hebrews 7:26 KJV
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

There is a place for the minister today. There is a need for the one who is dedicated to preaching God's Word, reaching out to feed saints and seeking to win sinners. But I am thankful that my faith does not rest upon the ministries of men but upon the one who has the power of an everlasting life.

Because Christ became man He was in all points tempted like as we are and we may therefore go to Him and receive compassion
But because He is God He is not compassed with infirmity.
  • He is holy
  • He is undefiled
  • He is higher than the heavens
  • He can save all who will come to Him and
  • He can save them to the uttermost

Because He has the power of everlasting life He never changes
His ministry is
  • Consistent,
  • Complete and
  • Continual

Because He is holy He is focused upon us
He need not indeed does not fret about His own standing with God but pours Himself into our need.

What a glorious Saviour. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Infinite


Nahum 3:8-10 KJV
Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?
Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.
Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.

I find this passage to be typical of the human perception; they viewed the strength of No, because of her supporters, to be infinite, having no end. And yet it did end. It was thought to be infinite but it was far from it.

Only God is truly infinite.

And so is the corrupted view of men. Having received the forbidden fruit we are forever seeing ourselves with godlike qualities.
  • We know good and evil
  • We measure ourselves among ourselves
  • We expect others to subordinate themselves below us
  • We create our own moral expectations and

  • We always come short of the glory of God.

When reaching out for infinity, when assigning to something unending strength, we would always do right to give that to God alone. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Minister or Monster


Hebrews 5:1-3 KJV
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

The High Priest does not answer to the pastor of the church but to every Christian. We should see ourselves as called of God to stand between God and men, offering ourselves as ministers to reconcile them to God. Everything I am about to say has its primary application for every born again believer. But there is a parallel that would be a good lesson for pastors to learn, especially those who become elevated in status due to size of church or the influence over other pastors.

No man is called, because he is better than others but precisely because he is compassed about with the same infirmities.
  • We are bound not to lord over men but to have compassion on them
  • We are to minister to them not as their betters but as sinners in the same need and
  • Our ministry is to reach not only their infirmities but our own as well
There are too many instances where the one who would be the minister has turned out to be the monster. It is exactly because he forgot that he "himself also is compassed with infirmity." 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Good Tidings


Nahum 1:15 KJV
Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.


 In this confused day of syncretism and tolerance God's message of good tidings is often misunderstood and rejected as hateful rather than loving. Today's world wants to view love as something that always feels good from the perspective of the individual. In order to accomplish that we have to tolerate everything.
  • We have to tolerate homosexual marriage
  • We have to tolerate abortion of babies
  • We have to tolerate aggression of Islam
  • We have to tolerate the taking of our liberty by the government

In order to make every individual feel good about themselves modern thinking says we must never find anything to be negative.
  • Even the criminal must be understood and tolerated and we must be very careful not to make the punishment seem too severe for the crime
God has a very different view of good tidings. It is couched in the backdrop of judgment. This chapter is almost entirely occupied with negativity. What a solemn thought that "no more of thy name be sown." This is harsh, terrible judgment.

And it is only after realizing the severity of judgment does God offer good tidings. They come as a follow through of the judgment. They can only be received by those who recognize how severe their state is before God.
  • There is no such thing as the universal fatherhood of God
  • There is no such doctrine as the salvation of all sinners
  • There is no good news that death ends the suffering of this life

  • The truth is that men have sinned against God
  • The truth is that God will judge that sin
  • The truth is that this judgment is eternal torment in hell

The “good tidings” is that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.“

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Christians are Compelled to Surrender Freedom

Hebrews 3:13 KJV
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

The responsibility that Christians have for one another is much more profound than most would accept in our generation. A telling sign of the weakness of modern Christianity is that we do not want to be held accountable and neither do we want the responsibility of holding others accountable. Christianity of this sort is too much bother. It interferes with the other priorities of life, a life in which our faith is but a part.

The sort of Christianity that the Bible describes would be labeled legalistic and invasive. It does make the Christian free to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience but it then compels the Christian to surrender that freedom to a community of like minded believers for the mutual benefit.

That community is a local New Testament Baptist Church. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

His Glory Preferred

Hebrews 2:18 KJV
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

It is obvious from this verse that it is not God's will to relieve us of all temptations and difficulties in this life but to comfort and succour us as we go through them.

Gill writes that these temptations are:
"... partly on his own account, to show his grace, power, and faithfulness in supporting under them, and in delivering out of them; and partly on his Son's account, that they might be like unto him, and he may have an opportunity of succouring them, and sympathizing with them; and also on their own account, to humble them, to try their faith, to excite them to prayer and watchfulness, and to keep them dependent on the power and grace of God"

Believers must learn to trust in the Lord. We must come to understand that the difficulties of life are all meant for God's glory and become convinced that His glory is much to be preferred over our ease. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Responsible for Sound Judgment


Micah 3:1 KJV
And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?

Though there are many differences between the passages, this reminds me of 1 Corinthians 6. People who have the Word of God ought to be capable of sound and equitable judgment. It is much to the discredit of a people who, having the privileges and tools God has placed at our disposal, refuse to use those tools and privileges, or else abuse them.

The Jews had so many advantages having possessed the oracles of God. Yet the testimony of their history is that they fell into the sins of the lost around them. Having the Word of God they tended to think of themselves more highly than they ought to have. Yet refusing to obey the Word of God they were culpable to a greater degree than those whom they despised.

Such is the warning if the Apostle to Christians.
  • With the advantages we possess
  • With the promises we are awaiting
  • With the Word of God, now complete
no people are more responsible for sound judgment than are we. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Personal Choices; Not So Personal Impact


Philemon 1:2 KJV
And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

We frequently see this small epistle as an engagement between two men: Paul and Philemon. This verse makes it clear that Paul addresses his concerns not only to Philemon but to his wife, Apphia, his pastor, Archippus and his church.

Though Onesimus was Philemon's slave, what affected Philemon and Onesimus impacted his house and, now that Onesimus was saved, his church. It was a situation that involved much more than the principle parties and required
  • The counsel of the preacher,
  • The comfort of the spouse and
  • The encouragement of the whole church

Very few pieces of our lives belong solely to us. Seldom is it true that a personal decision only impacts personally.

Every part of our life should involve
  • Our mate
  • Our pastor and
  • Our church
because they in fact are involved in every part of our life. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jonah Is Focused Now

Jonah 3:2-3 KJV
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.

Sometimes we read things without really asking the questions that make a thing make sense. A casual reading implies that the whale spit up Jonah on some shore next to Nineveh. Some Bible students over the years have had the great fish swimming all the way around the Horn of Africa to get Jonah closer to Nineveh. Others have had it swimming up long rivers.[1] The fact is that there is no shore next to Nineveh and that the fish must have vomited him on a shore two thousand miles away from Nineveh. Think of the distractions Jonah faced in doing the will of God now:
  • There would have been a month or two traveling
  • There would have been weariness in travel
  • There would have been numerous cities, towns and villages encountered
  • There would have been countless souls spoken to along the way.

Jonah got God's message well this time. Nothing got in the way of the will of the Lord. Nothing kept him from his assignment.

May we be so determined to be in the will of God. And may we not have to go to the belly of hell to get there.



[1] Even then he would still have been more than 1200 miles from the city.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A World Away from God

Jonah 1:1-3 KJV
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah chose to disobey God and turn away from what is modern day Iraq in favor of what is probably modern day Spain. In fleeing toward Tarshish Jonah attempted to flee from the presence of the Lord. Spain was a continent away. Its cultures and past seemed disconnected from that of the Middle East.[1]

But Jonah could go nowhere to escape God's presence.
  • He could not escape it in  the ship
  • He could not escape it in the fish's belly
  • He could not have escaped it even in hell
  • He certainly would not have escaped it in Tarshish

There is more comfort in this than dread. Sometimes a man wants to get away from God. His self destructive tendencies may drive him into absolute desperation where there is apparently no escaping the catastrophe he finds himself in. Being in that place he may come to himself, as the Prodigal Son did, and that is when he will be most happy that he had been unsuccessful in getting far from God.



[1] Nineveh represented the great power of gentile middle easterners while Tarshish seemed like worlds away. Some even believer that there is even a connection between Tarshish and the lost city of Atlantis.