Sunday, August 31, 2008

By Faith

Romans 9:16 KJV
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Romans 9:30-32 KJV
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Righteousness comes to us not by our will - we want it so we have it.
Nor does it come to us through our efforts - we want it so we run after it.
Righteousness comes to us through the mercy of God and through faith in Jesus Christ.

This very truth has been the stumblingstone to countless souls who would not seek righteousness by faith but through their religious efforts. I am thinking of the Gentiles as those who have little or no religious background and Israel as those (in my illustration today - even Gentile people) who have strong religious practices. There are people in churches all over the world today who are seeking righteousness through the works of their church. Somewhere along the way they got righteousness confused with being a good church member. Christ has taken second place in their lives, if He has a place at all.

And the Lord is calling us back to Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lay It To Heart and Consider Them

Isaiah 57:1-2 KJV
The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

It is not impossible in our world today to see Christians who suffer for the case of Christ and to pity them. In some cases we have heard of Christians who have died early or tragically and we are tempted to believe that an injustice happened to them.
We see a Christian suffer financial loss
We see a Christian suffer abuses on the workplace
We see a Christian endure a terrible illness
We see a Christian killed in a battlefield or
We see a Christian killed in a car wreck

And our natural response is to think it is a sorrowful thing.

Not according to God's Word. It is very possible that God's taking of them early is a reward rather than a punishment.

The passage speaks of the lost world's reaction to the Christian suffering and the fact that they do not take it to heart. It means little to nothing to them.

God says what they should do is meditate on the testimony of their life, their sufferings and then their untimely death; and they should consider that God has removed them from the evil that shall come upon this world.

My wife and I lost the first two of our children before they were born. I have often thought of them and the fact that God graciously preserved them from the evils that are inherent in life on this planet. Anita and I look forward to the day we see them, not because of the tragedy of losing them, but because of the joy of seeing these who never faced a day of trouble as we and our sons have.

When we witness a believer who is suffering in some fashion; our hearts ought to reach out to be a blessing to them. And our minds ought to consider the reward that awaits them. Consider it, and draw close to God.

Friday, August 29, 2008

That"s Good News!

Isaiah 56:6 KJV
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

This chapter offers hope for two classes of people
The eunuchs who called themselves "a dry tree." and
The stranger who felt utterly separated from God

We could view one as the person who feels fruitless in their spiritual life and the other as the person who sees the vanity of the sins they have lived in.

In both cases, God says there is hope. He has not abandoned either. He has not left either without means of salvation.

That is good news! There is no one outside of the care of God. There is no one who could not be saved. There is no one whose past is so terrible that God could not and would not forgive them!

But in each case there was something God said made this hope effectual; they were to "take hold" of God's covenant. There was personal responsibility. The hope of God's grace was offered to them all, but the grace was only extended to those who took hold of that covenant.

As a Christian, I remember the day I took hold of that covenant and became saved. But I want to take hold of it each day fresh and new. I want to grow in the grace of the Lord and

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's A Little Thing

Isaiah 54:7-8 KJV
For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

What a blessed thought that God sees His chastening as "a small moment" and "a little wrath." I can get things out of perspective. I can see things through the deeply flawed glasses of humanity. I see things in contrast to the only thing I know, the few short years of mortal lifespan. God, on the other hand, sees everything in the contrast of eternal life and immortality.

If I keep in mind that my life is eternal; if I place my expectations and hopes, not on these few moments in earth, but in the life that God has promised me in the heavenlies, then anything that happens today and however long it may last, is but a little thing.

The discipline of the child of God is, as the Psalmist prayed
Psalms 90:12 KJV
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Rock and the Hole

Isaiah 51:1 KJV
Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.

Since my theme for personal study and preaching in 2008 has been "diligently seeking Him" phrases like "ye that seek the Lord" tend to catch my attention. He says to those of us who seek the Lord, "look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged." The rock and the pit are both interpreted in verse two as being Abraham.

There is a picture of Christ in here
"Look unto the rock."
Christ is the solid rock upon which our faith stands. God promised that through Abraham's seed would all the nations of the world be blessed. And what a blessing Christ is.

We who are believers are Abraham's seed by faith. So when I look to the rock; I am looking unto Christ.

There is a word of humility here
And the hole of the pit whence ye are digged
John Gill likens that to Sarah, who was barren until God gave her strength to conceive in her old age. I am reminded that my salvation is none of my own. Christ alone saved me. I was barren and unfruitful. I was nothing. I had no merit that could have caused Christ to desire to save me. But
He, in grace, called to me and
He in grace gave me ears to hear and
He, in grace, gave me faith to believe

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

His Fruit Wasn't Harvested for Thousands of Years!

Isaiah 49:4 KJV
Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God.
I wonder how many of the servants of the Lord have felt exactly like this? We are in great company when we feel as if we have labored for the Lord and seen little fruit.

To name just three.

In Isaiah's case, God said that his ministry would ultimately be to the Gentiles (vs 6). This prophet would not see the earthly fruit of his ministry until thousands of years after he had died. His fruit began to ripen at the end of Christ's ministry. The first fruits were plucked in the early stages of the ministry of Peter and then of Paul. The fruit of Isaiah's ministry is perhaps seeing its greatest harvest in the day in which we now live!

Faithfulness to truth is our goal; not visible, tangible fruit. If we will concentrate on knowing and obeying and preaching the truth of God's Word, regardless of the present cost, God will reward one day in ways we cannot imagine.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Careful, Careful!

Isaiah 48:11 KJV
For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.

I do not think we could hear these words enough from the Lord, nor could we have them expressed in enough ways. We must always keep in mind this very great truth; God will not give His glory to another.

And with what damage do we, who claim to be the servants of the Lord, take upon ourselves a glory of our own? Even if we do it for the "so-called" cause of Christ, do we not rob from the Lord we claim to serve something He may choose to take back from us at huge expense?
What will be the price that is paid for building names for ourselves?
What will be the eternal cost for accepting the following of men, clouding their view of Christ alone?
What judgment is waiting when we build our kingdoms and lift our names as great among men?

If we choose a path of self-glory, even if we do it with the name of Christ as our motivation, we place ourselves in grave danger.

God said, "I will not give my glory unto another."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

If God Pronounces It, We Can Surely Pray for It

Isaiah 45:8 KJV
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.

This is a pronouncement from Almighty God and would be a proper prayer for the saints of God. However, for us to rightfully seek this in prayer we would need to call on the God who is found in this passage

We must adore Him as the God who has made both peace and evil (vs 7)
Not that God has sinned; but God has allowed the evil one, Satan, to have his sway in the World. God allows bad things to happen to even His people, and sometimes He does it for reasons we cannot understand. This God is still all good and worthy of our worship and praise.

We must learn not to strive with Him. (vs 9)
Contending with God, challenging His ways, fighting His plans for our lives and for the world, is the very opposite of righteousness. How can we properly cry out to Him to "pour down righteousness" if we then fight against the very righteousness He would pour down?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We Are Witnesses

Isaiah 43:10 KJV
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

What a great comfort to know that God has chosen us both as servants and as witnesses.

We are witnesses for so we may know and believe
vs 10
God's call on our lives was not merely that we would be servants, but that we would be believers. His concern is not so much what we do, but who we are in Christ. We should not place the weight of responsibility upon our own shoulders in ministry. God could win the lost without us. He is more concerned in our own growth in faith through witnessing and serice to Him.

We are witnesses that He is Godvs 12
God declared - spoke His Word
God saved - rescued His people
God shewed - caused them to hear His message

And He did all of that while Israel had no strange god. They did not need an idol for God to perform on their behalf

We are witnesses and have no need to fearIs 44:8

Because there is no God beside Him. Fear not what men may do, rather fear God. And when we fear God we are not afraid.

The lost people are also witnesses
Is 44:9

They are a testimony to the fact that their idols have no real value.

They cut down a tree:
Use part to warm their house
Use part to cook their food and
Use what's left to make their gods

How useless is that!

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Old Baptist Outline

Isaiah 41:8 KJV
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
The old Baptist preachers were more willing to use Israel as a type of the church than we seem to be today. That may have something to do with the heresy of British Israelism and our desire not to fall into the same error. On the other hand, we probably need to be careful not to so separate ourselves from this early practice as to lose the application of the Old Testament to the New.

God says three things of Israel I want to be true of both myself and of the church I pastor

They were God's servant
As a nation; as a whole unit Israel was a servant of God. One of the ways they served God was as an example for us. We learn in Israel things both right ad wrong.
We see in their sins our own
We see in their tendencies the tendencies of our own flesh
We see in their spiritual pride the means of our own fall
We see in their great men, representatives of our own path to righteousness

May we be God's servant! As a church unit may we represent God to the world around us.

They were God's chosen
In a unique way, God chose Israel out of the world. It is described for us in Isaiah 41:2-4. The key to the text is that the Lord did it; not Abraham, not Isaac, not Jacob. God chose this man and God made of them the nation they became and will one day be.

May we never see ourselves as able in and of ourselves! If we have the grace of God in our lives it is because we have found grace in the eyes of the Lord. We are His to His glory and not our own.

They were the seed of Abraham, God's friend
And in this, we have New Testament authority to claim the same.
Galatians 3:29 KJV
And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Christ proves His friendship with us, who believe, by disclosing His secrets to us
John 15:15 KJV
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Isaiah 40:29-31 KJV Power and Strength

Isaiah 40:29-31 KJV
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Typically I spend my time in verse 31 but this morning it was verse 29 that seemed to catch my attention. I long for the power and the strength of the Lord in my life.

As a human being, I need it to deal with the struggles that make up life.
As a Christian, I need it to overcome the sin that so easily besets me and to bring any glory to the Lord
As a pastor, I need that power and that strength in order to minister to souls and serve my Saviour

The passage tells me though, that only certain people get that power and that strength. There are qualifications. There are conditions.

The power comes only to those who are the faint and
The strength goes only to those who have no might

God only exalts the humble. I like manner He only empowers the weak. So in order to be strong in the Lord, I must see my own weakness. It is not a problem being weak. That is the condition of us all. The trouble is in recognizing the condition. In the flesh, I want to make myself strong; I want to pretend I have no need.

So through confession and humility comes power and strength.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ye Should Have Hearkened

Acts 27:21 KJV
But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.

My thoughts today are on the phrase, " should have hearkened unto me.." He said the truth. If they had listened to him, they would not have been in the storm.

Paul was not a sailor, neither does the Bible say for sure that the Lord had spoken to him about the dangers of the voyage but only that he "perceived" the "voyage will be with hurt and much damage" (vs 10). However Paul was a man of God, a preacher. And their words and counsel should never be taken too lightly.
Even when a preacher can't give exact reasons for his opinions
Even when a preacher doesn't have a specific verse for his thoughts

Still a wise person would do well to give his words serious thought.

These were not even saved people to whom Paul had spoken. But they would have been wise to have hearkened
This was not regarding a church matter. But they still would have done well to have listened

I am not saying that preachers are infallible. I know better than most (being a preacher myself) that is not true.
I am not saying that every pastor is a man of God and is in tune with the mind of the Lord. There are plenty of false teachers in the world today
Nor am I saying that we must follow every piece of counsel a pastor gives us.

What I am saying is that a wise person, whether or not he is a Christian, should hearken to the voice of a preacher to avoid much harm and loss. Even as a pastor, I want to be sure I expose myself to other pastors and hearken to the things they say. And thereby I may avoid harm and loss.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

His Resurrection

Acts 26:8 KJV
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

Paul's address seems to hinge on this subject of this text and it is suddenly cut short when he brings this subject to its head in verse 23.

Neither Agrippa nor Festus seemed to be too much perturbed even by Paul's words in verse 20; that the Gentiles, "…should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance." But Festus could no longer contain himself when Paul said,
Acts 26:23 KJV
That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Why does the resurrection of Jesus Christ cause such a stir? It is precisely because this is the one act that sets Christ apart from all other faiths.
His resurrection sets him apart from other would be Saviours whose bodies are still in the grave
His Resurrection sets Him apart from the unbelievers who deny life after death is possible
His resurrection sets Him apart from the authorities of this world, whose authority is given them by God but is so often used by them in ways that are contrary to God

Probably the single most challenging thing a man must deal with when confronted with the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that men instinctively know they are beholding to Him. They must deny Christ's resurrection or they must admit that they will give an account to Him one day for the deeds done in their bodies.

And the Bible says that the only way we can have peace with God on that day of accounting is to humble ourselves before the Lord; ask Him to forgive us, and commit the rest of our lives to live and serve Him.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Isaiah 33:10 KJV
Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.

My attention this morning is on the word, "now." And I am reminded of a New Testament passage that I think connects with it,
2 Peter 3:18 KJV
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Peter prayed that God would have his glory "both now and forever."
Not just in the future.
Not just in heaven.
Not just after we die and go into eternity

Peter prayed that God would have that glory right now too.

And that is my prayer this morning. Too much is made of ourselves and too little is made of God. Too often we put God in the back places of our lives and only call upon Him when we need Him.

Father, Rise right now. Be exalted among men right now. Lit up Yourself and reign in our hearts and among us right now. I don't want to wait until I die to make You Lord and King of my life. I don't want to wait until I get to heaven to give You first place in my heart. I don't want to wait until I am in terrible need before I kneel down before You.

Now, Lord, is the time.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Man - Christ Jesus

Isaiah 32:2 KJV
And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

That the man here mentioned is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is not debatable based upon the verse preceding. I am reminded that one of those titles for Jesus is "the man, Christ Jesus."

And this passage is replete with pictures of Christ's saving work:

A hiding place from the wind
A covert from the tempest
Rivers of water in a dry place
Shadow of a great rock in a weary land

Our hope and help are not in religion, not in governments, not in reform. Our hope and help is a man, Jesus Christ.

Let us lean upon Him.
Let us fall upon His mercy.
Let us surrender our wills to Him and
Let us follow this King who reigns in righteousness

Friday, August 15, 2008

I would not mock old fashioned preaching

Isaiah 28:9-11 KJV
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.

Albert Barnes has some powerful words concerning this passage, "....That sin was contempt for the manner in which God instructed them by the prophets, and a disregard for his communications as if they were suited to children and not to adults. ...." (See his notes on verse 9)

I have always liked these verses and found them instructional on the process of preaching. We never get it all said, nor do our listeners get it all heeded. We give "here a little there a little" and we grow in about the same manner. Barnes points out that these words have to do with Israel's mocking and scoffing at the preaching of God's Word. They scoffed as though the preaching was ineffective as a means of communication.

And what an indictment upon our own day: when even preachers are mocking the preaching of God's Word and the old fashioned faith. Men who once stood where we stand have buckled under the pressures of their congregations, and the desire for larger ministries, and are now ridiculing preaching as they once did it and the songs they once embraced in their worship.

1 Cor 1:23-25
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

In light of Isaiah 28:16, the connection of this passage with Isaiah 28 is clear. Men may mock and call it foolishness. God still calls it "...the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Hope Is Christ - Not Better Church

Isaiah 26:18 KJV
We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

There are a number of promising texts found both in this chapter and the one preceding it, which were my reading portions for the day. However, I chose this text because it continues a theme I have been working most of this week; that being the failure of humanity; including Christianity. Our hope is in Christ, not in His church. Surely there is a place for church and we should hold it as a priority in our lives. But the Supreme of our life is to be Christ and not the church.

Just like Israel, when they said they would obey everything God commanded and the prophet warned them, they could not obey
Just like again, when they turned the brazen serpent into an idol and
Just like Israel turned their faith in the One true God into an abomination

It appears to me that the parables of Matthew 13 say the same will happen to Christianity; we will make more of it than it is. We will give to it a place it does not properly hold. We will make Christianity our God. And though that church is pregnant with potential to glorify God, because it has become our God we will bring forth, as it were, wind - nothing.

Our hope is Christ. We must return to Christ. We must trust only in Christ.

Father, make it so!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Isaiah 24:23 KJV
Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.

Everything Christ does He does gloriously.

His Gospel is a glorious Gospel
1 Tim 1:11
According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. (KJV)

His return is a glorious appearing
Titus 2:13
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (KJV)

And here we see that
His reign will be glorious.
Very little that we do ends up gloriously. We fail and falter. We sin and succumb to the flesh. We plan and plot to our own undoing.

Our true hope and our real glory comes only when we surrender ourselves to the Lord and allow Him to live and move and have our being. Only then can the outcome be glorious.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

If Christ Is Not First

Colossians 1:18 KJV
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

My thoughts today were pretty simple; if Christ is not first in our lives, can it really be said that He is God in our lives at all?

This is the battle that is waged in our souls day by day. Is Christ God in our lives or not? Satan accomplished a huge thing when he convinced Eve to eat that fruit and become as gods, knowing good and evil. That knowledge drives a wedge between us and the Lord every day. The lost are blinded by that knowledge so that they do not see Christ as Lord. The saint of God has recognized the Saviour and even knows the evil of his flesh, but he still battles with that flesh constantly.

So the battle I fight is the battle to die daily; the battle to give Christ first spot in all things in my life.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shebna Must Be Removed

Isaiah 22:23-25 KJV
And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.
And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.
In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.

There are two characters being here referred to;
Eliakim, who would be set up by the Lord as a nail in a sure place. Eliakim's office, being from the Lord, would be secure.
Shebna, who thought he had a secure office, but would be pulled down by the Lord.

Eliakim is a type of Christ, as is evident in verses 23-24.
Nailed to a sure place
A glorious throne to
His Father's house
And etc.

Shebna seems to me to be a type of the flesh of man.
He thinks he is secure.
He thinks he is prominent
He thinks he is glorious

And before Eliakim could be set up in this office, Shebna must be removed. So it is with Christ and the flesh; before Christ may have that glorious place in our lives, Shebna, the confidence of the flesh must be removed. I think it is significant though, that the Lord is the One Who removed him. We are not able to do this in the strength of will or determination, that one creates religious reformation which is both insufficient and will prove to not last.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A short break

I'll be taking a short break from these posts (though with the Lord's grace, not from my visits with Him) as I expect to receive my first granddaughter tomorrow morning. Anita and I are going to help by watching Joshua for a few days and hanging around the kid's house to offer them any assistance they need.

Right In The Middle of Them

Isaiah 19:23-25 KJV
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

My devotional text is verse 24. Israel, who has never been loved by either Egypt or Assyria, will one day, the Bible says, be a blessing in the midst of the land. Situated right between the two, one day both Assyria and Egypt will think it is a blessing that Israel is between them.

While Israel is not a direct picture of the Christians today, still we are of the seed of Abraham by faith. This world does not always see it as a blessing to have Christians living in the middle of them.
They do not always love our churches,
They do not always love our services,
They do not always love our witness.

But when a soul gets saved they become very grateful for those Christians who lived right there in the middle of them.
Those Christians whey ran into as they ran to and fro
Those Christians whom they met in their places of business
Those Christians who lived next door to them

All of a sudden those Christians become a great blessing. That church just down the road becomes a godsend.

I want so live that I am right in the middle of people who may not appreciate my faith today, but will when the light of the Gospel shines into their heart.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Common Sparrow

Luke 12:6 KJV
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

I used this text today to preach the memorial service message for a dear friend who went to be with the Lord, Sandy Ward. In preparation, I did some research on the sparrow. This bird is so common that it is regarded as the most widely dispersed species of any sort on the planet.

They are common looking - nothing spectacular
They can be song birds, but they are not well known for that - sort of common
They are so numerous that we regard their lives of very little worth

And one reference work I read said of the sparrow, "Any place a human inhabits, he will soon find himself sharing it with a sparrow."

That seems to be a lot like the Christian
We are usually not much to look at so far as the world is concerned
While we often sing, the world hasn't much interest in listening
We aren't the greatest in number in the world, but our lives have often been of little worth to the rest of the world

And it is our nature and commission that anywhere humans live, we try to get some of us living right in the middle of them.

I have come to love the sparrow this summer as I have considered him in the light of the Lord's Word.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lead Me...To Calvary

Acts 17:32 KJV
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

The people from Athens were curious of Paul's "new doctrine" and anxiously listened to what he had to say

They placed him in one of their most popular speaking halls
They listened to him as he spoke of their many gods
They heard his as he told them of the God who made all things
The accepted him as he told them that all men were of one blood
They even listened as he challenged them to repent

All of it was acceptable until he preached Christ's resurrection. That is the defining mark between religion and Christ. Only Christ offers a new life through the power of His resurrection. All others merely offer reformed life through the power of self-will.

People do not need to hear about changed behavior until they hear about the resurrection of Christ. And even those who have trusted in Christ's resurrection must be constantly taken back to the resurrection as the source for the new life.

The crux of the question and the place we must all dwell; is at Calvary.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back - The Plan of God

Acts 16:16 KJV
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

It is remarkable that this would happen in a place like Philippi.

This was a place Paul was assured the Lord had called him to preach the gospel in.
This was a place where the Lord had opened the heart of Lydia
This was a place where we now know a great church was planted

And yet there were distractions and oppositions.
Rather than being pleased with the publicity, Paul was grieved by the attention this damsel drew toward his ministry. Paul was not looking to the most well know guy in town. He wanted the ministry of the Lord to speak for itself - didn't need or want the help of the devil's crowd. When he rebuked her, her masters grew upset and turned the officials against Paul.

He and Silas suffered a terrible beating and spent a night in jail.

And while the Lord did do miraculous things in that jail cell, still they were compelled to leave the city and stop their ministry there.

All of this to say that we might be mistaken about what is an effective ministry in the eyes of the Lord. The work of the Lord appears to be always at odds with the people of the world. And while lots of souls were saved in the ministry of Paul, none of those souls saved appear to be the result of the sorts of things our ministries often rely upon today.

His was the result of consistent preaching and teaching despite suffering; not attracting people to his ministry because of the apparent material successes he had.
His was the result of churches meeting in borrowed buildings and homes
His was the result of leading people to the Lord whom he had met while in jails and prison cells
His was the result of prayer and songs offered to the Lord despite the outward trials

Someone said that early revival were the result of God doing what He usually does in an unusual number of people. We try to make revival being God doing things that are marvelous, outrageous, big and news worthy.

I am looking for God to do His usual, in an unusual number of people.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Antioch Never Got Too Big for Jerusalem

Acts 15:1-2 KJV
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

I have been spending a lot of time lately on the subject of ethics in Christianity. This passage addresses some of the things I am considering. When this dissension arose, the decision was made from Antioch (an established church which had already sent out missionaries and accomplished much for the cause of Christ in their own right) to go to Jerusalem and meet with the apostles and elder there.

Right away a person could say that the reason Jerusalem still had any authority over issues relating to Antioch was because the apostles were there (at least some of them). But the apostles do not appear to be the ones in authority in the context. In fact, after the testimony of both Peter and Paul, whose testimonies appear to be on about the same level as the believing Pharisees of verse five, James, who was not an apostle is the one who makes the determination. There was more accountability between churches in the book of Acts than we Independent Baptists allow today. True, denominationalism has led to some serious problems; and the hierarchal systems which developed over the centuries in the Catholic and Protestant movements are an abomination which will be destroyed by the Lord as is described in Revelation. Still, it is a blind eye which does not see that the churches of the Bible were not merely independent, but that they
Esteemed each other highly and
Cooperated with each other and
Held each other accountable

Antioch never got too big to ask questions of Jerusalem. And remember, the church in Jerusalem had gone through some hard times and Antioch has already by Acts 15 sent relief to the saints there. Still, even though the Jewish issue derived from Jerusalem, the church in Antioch sought answers from those in Jerusalem and accepted the counsel that was issued from Jerusalem.

Would to God we saw such respect among churches today.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

For My Family Too

Isaiah 11:1 KJV
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

There have been several references to the Lord Jesus Christ in the last few chapters of Isaiah

Isa 7:14 KJV
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isa 9:6-7 KJV
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

And then there is this. Admittedly, these verses are very Jewish in their context. As I read them, I get the sense that there is no attempt to give a chronological order to things, but that God is giving Israel truths that will be a part of God's plan for their national repentance and trust in the Lord.

But what has come to my mind as I have been meditating upon these words is
Genesis 12:3 KJV
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
This Rod out of the Stem of Jesse
This Branch growing out of his roots

Is not only for the blessing of the Jewish people. All families of the earth have been and maybe still blessed in Him.

I want to read the Word of God with understanding and being cognizant of the context and primary applications. But I am very thankful to the Lord to know that, given proper interpretation, every Word of the Lord has meaning and application for me. Verily, for all families of the earth.

Monday, August 04, 2008

As Men Rejoice

Isaiah 9:3 KJV
Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Many of the commentaries suggest that the "not" in "not increased the joy" is an error. They think it is so because it seems inconsistent with the text. They see a multiplied nation, the joy of harvest and a divided spoiled all as reasons for increased joy. They can't see how God would give all of that and not increase the joy.

I see it from a little different angle. My focus is on the phrase "as men rejoice." Men rejoice over superficial things, like
A multiplied nation
A good harvest
A spoil to divide

Men rejoice in shallow things that have little value and no value eternally. There is a bright shining light coming in the text,
Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

But these people can only find joy in the material temporal things.

Our joy would be truly increased if we would find our joy in Jesus Christ and not worldly blessings.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Different Walk

Isaiah 8:11 KJV
For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,

That God spake with a strong hand does not mean that God was hard on him but that, as a father would take his son's hand and the son would sense the father's strength, confidence, and will, so the prophet could sense the God's plan for him in the instruction.

God's will for the prophet was that he should not walk in the way of the people. They were overwhelmed with the strength of men. They saw the confederacy of the Northern tribes with Syria and could not see how God could help them. God's wanted the prophet to sanctify the Lord and to fear Him rather than these confederacies of men.

I view verse 18 as a summary of what would be different between the prophet and his family and the people,
Isaiah 8:17 KJV
And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.

I will wait upon the Lord
Even though right now it appears that He
Hideth His face
And I will look for Him

There are times when it is difficult to see the Lord in the world. There are times when it appears He hides his face not only from the people of the world but from us individually. The difference between the rest and the prophet is that the prophet chose to wait and look for the Lord even during those times.

Lord, let it be so in my life. Let it be so in the life of the church I am blessed to pastor.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

No New Message

Acts 10:35-37 KJV
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

It is not that those who "feareth him and worketh righteousness" are saved in and of those acts. Cornelius did both, but he was not saved until he heard the Word of the Lord and it indwelt him. (This passage says nothing of their praying the sinner's prayer but that as they heard the Word of God the Holy Ghost fell on them which heard.) He wasn't saved through his good works, but God did honor those good works by sending to him a man to tell him about Christ.

I think it is interesting that Peter told Cornelius and those with him that he already knew the Word Peter would preach. It had been "published throughout all Judea" and Cornelius was in Judea. In some parts of the world, it might be necessary to publish the Word in the first place so that people know about
The children of Israel
The baptism of John and
The message of Jesus Christ

But in most of the Western Cultures, it would still hold true that we can assume they have heard at least the rudimentary elements of these messages.

Peter did not give a new message; he just reaffirmed the message he knew they had already heard and let God do with that message as He pleased.
God anointed Jesus - whose 3 1/2 year ministry was much used of the Lord
The Apostles witnessed that He was taken by the Jews and crucified
But Jesus resurrected after three days and was openly shown to the apostles to be alive
Those apostles were then commanded to preach that Jesus is the Judge of the quick (those saved) and the dead (those who are not saved) and
That whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins (be saved).

Friday, August 01, 2008

What We Need More Than Vision

Acts 9:6 KJV
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

This verse has come to mind a number of times in the last couple of weeks and it is one that is worth meditating one today. When Saul of Tarsus was confronted by the Lord his immediate response was, "...Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
Saul of Tarsus had left for Damascus with a goal in mind. He had desired and obtained a letter. He had organized and developed a plan. He had every expectation that he would accomplish what he set out to do. But then he met the Lord and all that changed. In a moment Saul of Tarsus was transformed from being a self confident leader to being totally surrendered to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. "...Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

And that is a healthy way to wake up every morning.
Rather than dreaming up our own plans
Rather than setting for ourselves our own goals
Rather than determining for ourselves what we will do

We don't need goals
We don't need objectives
We don't need vision

We need to hear from the Lord what He would have us to do.

And then we need to be submissive to God's Word. When He tells us what to do, we need to obey it.