Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lead By Sacrifice Rather Than Success

2 Corinthians 4:10-12 KJV
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

This is a preacher's passage. Oh, I am sure any and every Christian can apply the message of this chapter, but preachers had better apply them!

The lessons are multiple but I want to concentrate on this one. Paul says that "death worketh in us." He is speaking of himself and he is speaking by way of application to the preachers. The preacher offers his life to die.

He dies to worldly advances
He dies to selfish ambition
He dies to the pursuit of comforts

He may die emotionally through the trials of ministry
He may die physically through the persecutions for his faith

Death works in him. He bears the in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And he does it so that life may work in his congregation and in the lives of others he attempts to minister to. His goal is to give his life that others may live.

Would to God we would move back to the type of ministry where the pastor leads by his sacrifice rather than by his success.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Right Order of Things

2 Corinthians 3:16 KJV
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

The context is speaking about the difference between the Old Testament law of Moses and the New Testament truth of Christ. The Apostle does not deny the glory of the Old Testament Law, reminding his readers of the glory that shone upon Moses' face once down from the Mount, whence he received the Law. But he asserts that the truth of Christ is much more glorious on several counts, none of which would serve me well in this account, for lack of space.

The point for today's thoughts center on the fact that the veil, which had to be placed on Moses' face to cover that glory is still, in a spiritual fashion, in place. People, both Jews, and Gentiles, are still hindered by blindness to the truth of Jesus Christ.
The Word of God is a dark book to them
The preaching of the Cross is foolishness to them
The life of the Christian is weak to them

There is a veil upon their hearts. They cannot see the truth no matter how carefully and clearly it might be proclaimed.

But the Bible says that when those same people turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Notice the order. It is not that the veil is taken away, so now they see and they turn to the Lord. The Bible order is,
They turn to the Lord
The veil is taken away and
They finally see the glory of God's truth

If we keep this order in mind we will be much better off in bringing souls to Christ. Ours is not to show them the glory of Christ so they turn to the Lord. Ours is to press them to turn to the Lord so they may see His glory.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Life Is Not the End of the Matter

Jeremiah 39:10 KJV
But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

It occurs to me that this is quite the picture of what God says will happen in the future. Gill says, "...here was a strange change of circumstances with them; though the nation, in general, was in distress, they, who before had nothing, are now proprietors of vineyards and fields, when the former owners were carried captive: there might be much of the justice of God conspicuous in this affair..."

So like the rich man and Lazarus, those who had faired sumptuously found themselves captives and in torments while those who were the poorest in this world found themselves being blessed.

Believers may feel sometimes that this world has been created for the unbeliever. It can appear that the lost are the ones who fair so well in this life. But we must remember that this life is not the end of the matter. God has greater plans for us than the mere seventy years or so we may have right now. We look for a better, heavenly city. In that place, we will have vineyards and fields aplenty.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jeremiah Was Just a Man Too

Jeremiah 37:12-14 KJV
Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.
And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.
Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.

Throughout this chapter, I am reminded that, although Jeremiah was a prophet of God and I highly respect him, he was still a man, and the people of his day saw him as such.

In this passage, Jeremiah was falsely accused of escaping Israel and going to the Chaldean (Babylonians). Although Jeremiah insisted the accusation was false he was still put in prison.

When later the king sought him privately to see if there was any word from the Lord, Jeremiah pleads that the King does not send him back into the prison. He feared he would die if he went back there.

And still, later the king, fearing that others would find out that he was seeking God's Word from Jeremiah, instructed Jeremiah not to tell the people what he had spoken to the king about and Jeremiah obeyed the king, essentially deceiving the people. He did not lie to them, but he did intentionally withhold the information they were after.

A preacher is a human being. I am a human being. And my humanity of necessity plays its way into the ministry I have of God. But that in no way diminishes the responsibility I have to fulfill my ministry, nor the responsibility those I minister to have of accepting that ministry.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Obeying Our Father's Father

Jeremiah 35:2-6 KJV
Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.
Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;
And I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:
And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.
But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

Jeremiah 35:18-19 KJV
And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.

John Gill says that this Jonadab lived perhaps 300 years prior to this account. Still, the Rechabites obeyed his instruction. There were plenty of reasons that they may have compromised this instruction by this time.
Others had certainly compromised
Jonadab was long gone and this generations parents had never even seen him
The prophet Jeremiah the man of God instructing them to drink the wine

But they refused.

And God honored them for it.

There are more spiritual lessons that may be learned than this, but this passage unquestionably teaches the principle of following the instruction of our fathers. I grieve in our day for the lack of respect and honor paid to our parents.
Children, even the good ones, believe it is their duty to go and make their own way.
Children in the ministry abandon the direction set by their father in the faith, choosing their own mentors so they may "grow beyond" their God given preacher.

We may make all sot of excuses for doing our own things.
We may have the support of our culture and of our peers for doing differently than our fathers
We may believe that taking our own direction is the only way to thrive in our current world

But it is not of God and whatever successes we may gain by our drift into doing what is right in our own eyes - even if we do it "for the cause of Christ" will come to no good in glory.

Of course there are things our fathers taught and did that were not right
Of course there are things that would be acceptable and proper to do differently

But when push comes to shove I will always want to back my course by obeying my father's commandment, keeping His precepts and doing according to all that was commanded me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Every Answer Is Yes

2 Corinthians 1:18-20 KJV
But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

I liked this thought; God has no "nay" promises. The promises of God are all "yea." That doesn't mean that everything I want from God I get from God. It means that everything God has promised in His word is sure. It is flawless. It will not fail to come to pass.

Some of those promises may take a huge amount of time (so far as we count time) to come to pass.
Noah and the flood
Abraham and Isaac
Moses and deliverance of Israel
David and his kingdom
The Messiah and His advent
Christ and His second coming

But God's promises are all yea. We can trust in them. We can live for them. We can place all our hopes in them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Small Feat

Jeremiah 33:20-21 KJV
Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;
Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.

I love this!

God says His covenant (promises) to Israel is as sound and solid as the day in the night in their season. If it is possible for a man to make the sun fail to rise in the morning or to prevent it from setting at night, then God said it would be possible for God's promises to David to be broken.

I am reminded of two New Testament promises

John 10:27-29 KJV
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Romans 8:37-39 KJV
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God's promises are sure. They are so sure that no man will ever have the ability to force God to break them.
No sin we commit
No burden we bear
No thought we think
Nothing will prevent our Lord from keeping His promises to us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It Has To Die to Live

1 Corinthians 15:36 KJV
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

The Apostle uses the word fool, not speaking about anyone in particular but of the one who would foolishly ask, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" I take it that the question is not being asked in sincerity but mockingly.

The truth remains; "...that which thou sowest is not quicked, except it die"

No one is saved until they die to self and Christ is made to live in them.
Salvation is not the decision to live a new life. Salvation is not the reformation of our character. Salvation is the death and burial of the old man and the resurrection of a new man. Only a fool tries to save the life of this sinful man, hoping to make him good enough to go to heaven.

The Christian life is dying daily that Christ may live in us.
I must choose each morning to bury my old nature into the soil so that Christ may have my life and use it as he pleases this day.

Often, the dreams I have must die, before they can be resurrected to bring glory to God
I do not know that this is a hard rule that must take place each and every time, but it is a general principle that happens more often than not. I have my suspicion that even in those cases where it appears a person's dream came to life and has had great success with little or no hardship; if we could study it more closely we would find that there was death even in those cases.

Here is the hope; that God may allow us to spend some time in the cemetery of our dreams, still we will praise Him.
God will reward and raise to life those efforts made on His behalf.
God will answer those prayers so long prayed.
God will free those prisoners so long help captive
God will keep those promises made so long ago.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Which Yoke Do YOU Want?

Jeremiah 28:10-13 KJV
Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it.
And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.
Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.

God had instructed Jeremiah to make these yokes and send them to the countries surrounding Israel and including Jerusalem. The message was this; if they would surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, they would be able to stay in their land.

Hananiah, a false but popular prophet, took the yoke for Jerusalem and broke it. His claim was that God had spoken through him to tell the Jews God would break the yoke of Babylon.

And then Jeremiah was told to tell Hananiah that he had broken the wooden yoke and replaced it with an iron one. Though his message was hopeful and popular, it was not from God and inciting the people to refuse God's message of surrender only made their inevitable bondage to Babylon worse.

My application this morning is this; we may listen to preachers who bring messages of hope and popular lessons on how to have our best life now, but those preachers only make the inevitable pain of sin even worse. We would do better to surrender to the truth of God's Word that we are sinners. That we cannot overcome our sin in our own power. We would be better to accept and agree with what God has said about our sin condition. In so doing we free the Lord to apply the death of Jesus Christ upon our sin and bring mercy in our lives.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

We Are One Body

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 KJV
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.

I am one body.
But my body has many members.
And the miracle is that my members cooperate together so well that I very seldom think of any one member as a single unit but as it is in the whole.
My finger is my body
My foot is my body
My eye is my body

The whole is the emphasis, not any one member.

And I notice that those members who do the most work do not complain about those other members who do a less visible or physical work.

My feet hurt from the work they do - but they do not quit because my body never rests on my ear. They just do their job through the pain.

And the Bible says that the church - more specifically Christ (I am not going to meditate upon that; perhaps some other time)- is one body with many members also. What a miracle it is when the many members of a church function together, each being an individual and never losing that value, but each giving away the value of individuality for the emphasis of the body.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Blessing of Being Judged

1 Corinthians 11:32 KJV
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

I focus this morning on those words, "...condemned with the world."

This world is a condemned place. It has been judged with the sin of Adam. It has been deteriorating ever since. It is running out of energy, water, air, trees, and farmland. More and more men have to inject this world with man-made chemicals to keep it able to bring up the crops and protein sources we need to survive.

This world is condemned with thorns on the roses.
This world is condemned with violence on the most basic of levels; men are not the only creature on this planet that kills for the pleasure of it.

On the human level, this world is equally condemned.
One out of every one hundred Americans has spent time in jail
Islam and other non-Christian groups seem to be on the rise
America is obsessed with the occult and cult themes
Immorality is the norm rather than the exception

And God's Word says that He has condemned this planet and all that belongs to it to the fire.

Why would anyone want to befriend this world?

So we should count it a great joy when God promises us that "...when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." God mercifully uses judgment and chastening to separate us from this world and the condemnation it faces.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why Keep Under My Body?

1 Corinthians 9:27 KJV
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Since it is so easy to take verses such as this apart from their context, they, being so rich in and of themselves, this morning I chose to try to plug the text of verses 24-27 into the context.

In the early verses of the chapter, Paul asserts his authority as an apostle and insists upon his rights as one.

Paul could have kept a wife and family and said that other apostles did so
Paul could have forbear working a "secular" job
Paul could have expected the people under his ministry in Corinth to provide for his material needs

But he chose not to accept those things that were naturally and reasonably his; choosing rather to sacrifice them for the good of the Gospel.

Paul kept under his body and brought it under subjection
Paul rejected his rightful privileges of wife, leisure and remuneration

Because he saw something of greater value.
Paul strove for an incorruptible crown.

When we, in turn, learn to view the things of heaven as the prize, we will more easily abandon any affection for the trinkets of this world.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eating His Neighbor's Flesh

Jeremiah 19:9 KJV
And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.

The literal interpretation of this passage speaks of Israel under the siege of Babylon. But it appears to me that we may make some application to our own day and especially to those who claim to be of the household of faith (as Israel did at the time of this writing). Gill says, "...The Targum interprets it, the goods or substance of his neighbour; which is sometimes the sense of eating the flesh of another;" So there is a literal meaning of eating the flesh of friends and family - as would be the extreme case of Israel under siege. But there is another interpretation of taking that which belongs to your friends and family.

I see a flesh-eating spirit among many believers who are ready and willing to eat the substance of neighboring churches for their own sake. Church members of another congregation are accepted into their flock without due care, thereby consuming the goods and substance of the former congregation for their benefit. When this happens;

The former church is harmed.
Members who should have stayed and contributed both to the financial and physical well being of the church have now left the church wanting for those goods

The moving members are harmed.Spiritual maturity is stunted when a Christian is allowed to move away from mountains in his life. I recently read a column claiming that we are killing ourselves by protecting ourselves from germs. We have weakened our immunity systems and aided in the progressions of allergies and other issues of the immune system by being overly clean. In like manner we only hurt ourselves when we are allowed to move to easier and easier spiritual settings, avoiding tough moments of spiritual growth.

The testimony of Christ is harmed.
The Scripture does not allow for such shallow Christian relationships as we see today. Church is supposed to be a body; a community. It is not supposed to be so easily changed as a person would change a favorite shopping market. The enduring capacity of the faith is poorly reflected by the type of Christianity that allows for members to move from one place to the next for convenience's sake.

The accepting church is harmed.
God did not approve of the behaviour of Israel and neither does He approve of this type of behaviour among churches. The church that accepts members from other congregations without rightful steps taking place, may see material benefit from eating a neighbor's flesh, but no good will come of this in eternal value. That church may experience growth in this earth but will suffer loss in eternity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Real Joy

Jeremiah 15:16 KJV
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

The prophet lived in such perilous times. It was almost he alone who strove to live for and obey God's voice. There were plenty of others who talked a good line about spiritual things; there were plenty of others whose outward trappings made them appear to be blessed of the Lord. On the other hand, there was Jeremiah. The message he was receiving from the Lord was completely different than the feel good type of stuff being preached by the well-knowns.
Jeremiah was visibly unsuccessful.
Jeremiah was financially less prosperous and
Jeremiah was certainly not well respected.

But Jeremiah was the man who had the message from God. Under those circumstances, it would have been difficult to stay on top of things emotionally. So Jeremiah said that this was where he derived his joy and rejoicing:

From the Word of God
He had them and he consumed them. They were more than mere entertainment to him, they were his life. They were not simply something he read and preached, they were his sustenance and nourishment.

From the fact that he was called by God's name
In fact, it was because he was called by God's name that the Word of the Lord was a joy and rejoicing to him. One may use that very thing as a test of the sincerity of personal faith. A believer will love the Word of God. I cannot conceive of a true Christian who would not find God's Word pleasant to the soul. I am not saying that a Christian will always read the Bible every day. But I am saying a true Christian would never perceive the taste of God's Word as anything but joyous and nourishing to his soul.

Monday, September 15, 2008

God May Command Us NOT to Pray

Jeremiah 14:11 KJV
Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
This is one of those texts that can easily be ignored or dismissed by some well intentioned Christians. They might cite passages such as
Luke 17:3-4 KJV
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Matthew 6:14-15 KJV
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And say that Christ in the New Testament does away with passages such as Jeremiah 14:11. On the other hand we also have in the New Testament
1 John 5:16 KJV
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

So I believe we need to be careful and not dismiss Old Testament passages too quickly. The key, it seems to me is that as a Christian I should always forgive the one who has committed and ought against me. I, however, must take my stand against the one who commits ought against the Lord or the cause of Jesus Christ.

So there are I should not pray blessings upon.
Those who deny that Jesus has come in the flesh
Those who twist the clear teaching of the Word of God
Those who do God's Word dishonor by disobeying our ignoring His Word

Are those I must not pray for their good. I do still pray for them.
I pray they will come to see the truth.
I pray they will repent of their sin.
I pray they will hear Gospel reproofs.

But I do not pray that God would bless them in their sin.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Let God Lead Us

Jeremiah 12:2 KJV
Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.

God's preacher approached the Lord first with the words, "Righteous art thou, O Lord..." He was not accusing the Lord. He knew that all that God does is perfect and it is righteous. Still there were some things that he found to be beyond him. He could not get a hold on them; namely, why do the wicked sometimes prosper so well while he, and others like him, suffer so greatly in this world?

He said of the wicked
They take root
They grow
They bring forth fruit

But then he said of them, "thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins." The term, reins, speaks literally of the kidneys. In that era, the reins were considered the seat of the affections, like we would say of the heart. They spoke well of God, but their affections were far from Him.

I do not want to twist the word of God for personal use but something else came to my thoughts today. In our day we use the word reins to speak of that tool we use to control a horse. The reins attach to the bit which turns the horse in response to the rider. In that light, the passage could say that these were people who spoke a lot about the Lord but they did not allow the Lord did not have hold of their reins.

I know some like that today. On the surface, it may look as if the Lord is using them.
They are cheerful and excited.
They seem to being growing and bearing fruit.
They talk much of the things of the Lord

But the fact of the matter is, they do not heed His Word. They obey those portions of the Bible that serve their purposes, but they ignore or pervert those parts that would lead them in a direction different than they want to go.

I want to be a different sort. I want to be a Jeremiah Christian. I want to speak of the Lord and I want to let Him lead my life even in the smallest details.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Glory In This

Jeremiah 9:24 KJV
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
The glory that is ours is not just that we know the Lord, through salvation, or know the doctrines about the Lord through the study theology; the man that glories in the Lord will strive also to understand the Lord.

To understand His lovingkindnessIt is like no other. God's lovingkindness compels Him to cast unrepentant sinners into eternal hell. God's lovingkindness compels Him to suffer His own people to experience the pain that sin has caused in this world (through cancers, violence, and other human tragedies). Still God is loving and kind.

To understand His judgment
That some would respond to the Word of God and be saved, but others who may appear even more deserving on a human level, would be blinded to the Gospel and therefore sent to eternal torments. That God would love Jacob and hate Esau. To understand in any measure the judgment of God is truly a glorious thing.

To understand His righteousness
God can be jealous and be righteous in it. God can be angry and be righteous in it. God can pour out His long held wrath and be righteous in it. God is the measure of righteousness. We do not judge His righteousness according to our standards; we learn what is righteous according to His.

We come to the place where we truly glory in the Lord when we come to the place where we not only know that the Lord is, but we begin to understand Him - His lovingkindness, His judgment and His righteousness

Friday, September 12, 2008

Backward and Not Forward

Jeremiah 7:24 KJV
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.

"...and went backward, and not forward."

It is easy to search through the pages of the Word of God and see that Israel did indeed go backward and not forward. God began this nation through Abraham; one man who believed God and obeyed Him by faith. Abraham obeyed God
Despite the uncertainty of a land (not knowing whither he went)
Despite the long delay of the promised child and
Despite the struggles involved in famines, conflicts, and disputes with his nephew

Having been delivered from Egyptian slavery, the nation
Saw the power of God at the Red Sea
Was committed with the very Word of God and
Reached her heyday under the reigns of David and Solomon

Never before had a people been so blessed with the presence of God.

But in Jeremiah's day, they had plummeted into the same sins and debaucheries that had driven God to drive out the Canaanites and give their land to Israel. They had gone "...backward, and not forward."

It appears to me that Christianity has, in the last 2000 years also gone backward and not forward. We have degenerated into a business, a machine that makes merchandise with the church. We have conferences, clubs and conventions all designed to build the machine; sadly, it seems to be more about building the machine than glorifying God. We justify it by saying that the larger and more influential the machine (we call church) is the more God is glorified. I don't see that in the Bible.

And I have witnessed more than a few Christians who, o an individual level, have also gone backward and not forward. Having made a profession of faith there was once a time when they were excited about the Word of God, anxious to tell others about the Lord and faithful to the house of God. Over time tough, that enthusiasm has faded. They have gone "backward and not forward."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Be Thou Instructed

Jeremiah 6:8 KJV
Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.

This passage is, of course, speaking to Jerusalem as a warning of the judgment of God through the Babylonians. In this case, Jerusalem was to surrender to the will of the Lord for them - to be captured. In just the chapter previous God told them not to reason among themselves that "evil" would not come upon them. God said He would bring a nation upon them "from far....a mighty nation...a nation whose language thou knowest not..." And that nation would devour their land.

So now the word of the Lord to Jerusalem is "be thou instructed" The word means to be chastised or disciplined. God wanted Jerusalem to accept the discipline He was about to bring upon them and to be instructed and grow from it.

Then God warned them that if they did not accept this instruction His soul, His vitality would depart from them. Literally, it was being torn away from them.

I wonder how often we have torn the vitality of God's presence away from our lives because we would not accept the instruction that God has for us. Whether that instruction came
In the form of patient teaching of the Scriptures or
Through some form of rebuke or even
In the form of a chastisement

God wanted to mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. And because we refused to accept His instruction in our lives we ripped the power, the vitality, and life of God’s presence from our own benefit.

God help us be instructed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Righteous

Proverbs 10:16 KJV
The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.

Proverbs 10:21 KJV
The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.

Proverbs 10:28 KJV
The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.

Proverbs 10:32 KJV
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.

I focused on one phrase that is found repeatedly throughout this chapter, "...of the righteous..." There are other phrases that are very similar, but I stuck with the exact phrase and found three things the chapter says about the righteous:

The Labour of the righteous
A righteous man does labour. His labour, of course, is not for righteousness, for he is already righteous.
1 Corinthians 1:30 KJV
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
The righteousness of the righteous is not in and of himself but comes from Jesus Christ.

That said, he does labour and his labor tends to life.

The lips of the righteous
This is brought up twice in the chapter. How important our words are!
The lips of the righteous feed many. The first thing I think about is feeding souls the precious word of God. A righteous man is not content to hold his righteousness to himself. He shares it. He passes it along. He tells others the blessed word of Christ
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. There are some things that are not acceptable to say. A righteous person discerns the acceptable from the unacceptable.

The hope of the righteous
I am so thankful for the hope that is mine through faith in Jesus Christ. This is a sure hope. This is a rick solid hope. This is a hope that is based on the promise of the return of Jesus Christ. And it says the hope of the righteous shall be gladness. Even if there

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rejected Confidences

Jeremiah 2:35-37 KJV
Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.
Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.
Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.

God cites three faults of the people in these verses
They did not acknowledge their sin
They were quick to change their ways and
They were confident in themselves

I am reminded once again of how foolish it is to have confidence in the flesh. God said He rejected their confidences. God was not impressed with their pride, their skills, their personal accomplishments.

God is looking for humble and contrite people. God is looking for those who realize they are sinners and bow before God seeking His mercy and grace. Let me be one like that!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Church's Appeal

1 Timothy 3:15 KJV
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

I read something the other day that brought wonderful joy to my soul. The author, in speaking about the appeal of the local church said something like this, "If God is who the Bible says He is, why do we need to market His glory using the same tools the world would use to market sundry items?"

What a wonderful thought! God is so much more glorious than the things of this world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ carries with it its own appeal if we would but move past such paltry things as lowering the church to the world's level.

"The church's appeal," said the letter, is
The wisdom of God, the mighty of God and the love of God on display in the lives of a Gospel created people."

And that is the type of church I want to pastor; one that has a supernaturally attractive appeal.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The God Of...

Romans 15:5 KJV
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

Romans 15:13 KJV
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:33 KJV
Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

In this chapter, God is said to be the God of three things;

The God of patience and consolation
I am so glad that God is patient and able to be entreated. How lost would we be if God were not longsuffering with our sins. We turn from Him over and over and still, He calls us to repent and turn again to Him. We sin against Him but He is faithful and just to forgive our sins each time we confess them to Him.

The God of hope
How wonderful that God gives us reason to hope, for His redemption, for His mercy, for His empowerment, and for His return for us.

The God of peace
God is also a God of wrath. But His motive is always peace. He strives for peace between His creation and Himself. Every action God takes, every decision God makes, every direction God turns is a direction designed to bring His own to eventual peace with Him.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Serve In These

Romans 14:17-18 KJV
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

I read the other day a quote from Benjamin Franklin where he said that he believed we best served God by being kind to our fellow man. I heard a preacher just yesterday say that we serve God by serving others. There is truth in the words of them both.

But the Bible says that when we serve Christ in
Peace and
Joy in the Holy Ghost

That is the service that is acceptable to God. It is not merely that we serve others in the "spirit of" righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost either. The context identifies each of these as a quality.
So we serve God in righteousness
This is the salvation that comes from trusting Jesus Christ

We serve God in peace
This is the experience of being reconciled to God through Christ. Peace with God would lead us to live peaceably with others.

We serve God in joy in the Holy Ghost
This joy is the result of knowing our sins are forgiven and that God is our Father in heaven.

Friday, September 05, 2008

To This Man

Isaiah 66:2 KJV
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
I never want to forget this basic truth; God will look to the man who is
Of a contrite spirit and
Trembles as His Word

This is a spiritual condition we must exercise ourselves toward because it is the opposite of the natural tendency of the flesh.
We must be reminded
We must be chastened
We must be broken
Again and again, in order that we would be the type of man on whom the Lord will look.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Romans 13:14 (KJV) Both Hopeful and Dreadful

Romans 13:14 KJV
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

There is a personal responsibility found in this text that is both hopeful and dreadful.

It is a hopeful thing; an invigorating thing, to see that I may put on Jesus Christ. I do not have to be trapped in the rags of worldliness and human weaknesses. I am able to wear the white robes of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Yea, I am able to go beyond that and wear the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself.

But it is a dreadful thing because the thing that I would do, as Paul says in Romans seven, "how to perform it, I find not." This is a responsibility, a command of God that I put on Jesus Christ, but it is a responsibility I am utterly incapable of obeying without the gracious empowering of the Holy Spirit.

So I once again fall upon the words of Romans 7:25-8:1 KJV
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

What I am not able to perform; Christ is able to perform in me.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sought Out

Isaiah 62:12 KJV
And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.

"Thou shalt be called, Sought out..."

What a name! When all is said and done and when we are once and for all in the presence of the Lord, we will learn our real name; "Sought out."

All of my life God has sought me out.
When I was a young person, and before I became a believer, God sought me out. I can still remember the thoughts I had about God in my childhood. They were not developed and I certainly was not a Christian, but God placed in my heart a desire to know Him. Over the years of adolescence God brought into my life one person after the other that gave witness concerning Him. He sought me out.

After I was saved God sought me out.
There were years of less than ideal Christian living. But God kept seeking me out. Out of friendships that were not with Christians, out of activities that were not a good testimony, out of habits that were sinful. God continued to mold me and work on me to bring me out of the world's life and into a life lived for Jesus Christ.

God sought me out for service.
For me that service was pastoring. For someone else it will not be full time ministry. But God deals with each of us who are saved to serve in some way
Romans 12:11 KJV
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

When all is finally said and done; when we stand before our Saviour; we will hear our name, "Sought out."

And we will praise Him.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Keep the Commandment with the Heart

Proverbs 3:1 KJV
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

Here is quite the thought. The Word of God says to keep the commandments, not in the flesh, the body; but in thine heart. If the heart keeps God's commandments, the body won't be far behind.

Too much of our time is focused on action, activity, doing. We have it backwards. We think if we can get the right activities in our lives then the heart will follow. Thousands of years of human religion have proven that to be wrong. It doesn't work. It produces pride, arrogance and human elevation. Or else it produces frustration, failure and self condemnation. Neither is of the Lord.

It's easier to keep the commandments in the flesh too. The heart is a ethereal thing. It's not speaking of the pump in the chest, but of the affections of the soul. I may be able to force my body to behave a certain way - but to make my affections feel a certain way; that is another story.

So this is the grander work. It is the strait and the narrow way, the road less travelled. It is the path that seldom trod because it is the path we are less sure of. But it is the path that leads to the greatest vistas and most beautiful views in the life of pursuit after God.