Saturday, June 30, 2012

Death is Irrelevant

1 Thessalonians 5:10 KJV
Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

Barnes Notes says that an error had apparently developed in Thessalonica that those who survived to see the Lord's return were somehow more blessed than those who died previous to His coming. The teaching is in some ways ironic seeing that all of them died, not seeing His return. Whether a person lives or dies in no way effects their standing before the Lord. Some of the most wonderful Christians died very early in life. This does, however, demonstrate their understanding of the imminent return. They knew perfectly that Christ would come and they believed it could be in their own lifetime.

Another error dispelled in this verse is that of souls sleep. When a person dies, their body is in the grave but they are immediately in the presence of the Lord.

The real lesson of the passage is the powerlessness of death in the face of the Lord. We make so much of death.
  • People pay fortunes to delay the day of their deaths
  • Some people obsess over death, idolizing someone they loved who has died
  • Some have crippled themselves emotionally and spiritually in their grief over ones death
  • The world has used the threat of death to try to hinder the growth of Christianity

The fact of it is that death is rendered powerless in the presence of Christ. Whether we are in that group of believers who will enter into the presence of the Lord through rapture, or those who enter His presence much sooner, through the doors of death, it makes no difference. Either way we are blessed to be in His presence. Death is defeated in the presence of the Lord it is
  • Innocuous
  • Irrelevant
  • Inert

And so, the wages of sin has continued its regular paydays. But it has never so much as slowed the progress of faith.

Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? 

Friday, June 29, 2012

God's Tender Love

Nehemiah 9:19-21 KJV
Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.
Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.

Nehemiah's confession brings to the forefront the grace and mercy of God to Israel during those forty years and that after their sin with the golden calf.

Israel was sentenced to wander those forty years after refusing to trust the Lord and enter the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea. And yet, for those forty years, while an entire generation withered and died, God
  • Was with them
  • Provided for them and
  • Protected them.
What a picture this is of God's tender love. It reminds me of a dear friend in Astoria who, when his daughter had disobeyed, took her in another room to be spanked, but for love for her took the spanking himself. Here was disobedient Israel. Their sin must be dealt with and God justly dealt with it. They were judged and their sentence was carried out, but God never left them through it. As they faced their judgment God wiped their brow, if you will, and blessed them as He could through it.

Oh, and the story of my friend in Astoria? Is that not exactly what God did when, out of love for us, He became man and died in our place? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Labor Done in Vain

1 Thessalonians 3:5 KJV
For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

The Apostle's concern was that the work he had done in Thessalonians would, through the persecution and pressure these Christians were experiencing, become corrupted and therefore incapable of carrying on. It was impossible that the immediate work would be useless. Those who had gotten saved were saved eternally. The Word that was preached was true and would never return void. What had been accomplished was accomplished.

But the purpose of the Christian labor is deeper than the immediate work. The purpose, whether it is in the winning and discipling of a soul or the establishment of a local church, is to create something that reproduces the work again and again.
  • It is never vain to win a soul. But there is a "vain element" if that soul never goes on to win another
  • It is not a vain thing to plant a church, but it becomes vain if that church begins to preach a doctrine different than the one it was originally delivered
When someone or a church is beguiled by other influences to change the message from what they were originally given, then the original worker's work has become vain and the work must be redone.

The purpose isn't just to win a soul or to plant a church; the ultimate purpose is to win a soul who will win souls and to plant a church that will continue in the faith and practice upon which it began.

Anything else is labor in vain.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Presence, Not in Heart

1 Thessalonians 2:17 KJV
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

I know exactly how the Apostle felt for I too know a great number of believers who, though I am able to see them little or none at all, my heart is still with them. At the risk of leaving some out (though I would never mean to do that but this space will not permit an exhaustive listing) there is, from our days
  • In Kennewick, M. R. (with every name  I also mean their families)
  • In Hermiston, the H. family
  • In Colorado R. H., B. H., M. W.,
  • From Astoria B. B., A. R., J. B., M. T., T. C., R. H., G. S., K. N.
  • In Spokane, S. S., J. D. S., D. S.
  • In Oklahoma, J. J.
  • From our ministry here in Puyallup, there have been those who have moved or passed away, M. K., D. P., L. D., B. O.
And of course there is my oldest son who, though I am thrilled for the Lord's hand in his ministry in Anacortes, I still don't see as often as I would like.

  • Some of these have gone on already to heaven
  • Some I have not seen in many years
  • Some I am blessed to see once in a while
  • Others have, for one reason or another, broken fellowship. But that in no way changes the heart I have for them
Though in presence we are separated, in my heart, they are as dear as if I were able to be with them each and every day.

I hold Paul's statement that we are separated for just a short time as a promise. In the case every one from whom I am separated I cling to the hope of that day when we shall be forever united in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One Man Standing Next To Another

Nehemiah 3:2 KJV
And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.

One could say that the theme of this chapter is the phrase, "next unto him."[1]
·         A good work is always a work of cooperation.
·         A good work always involves a number of people working side by side.

I notice that Nehemiah isn't even named in the chapter.
·         God had burdened him for these walls
·         God had used him to motivate the people to the work
·         God would use him to organize their defense against the enemies of the work
But the building of the walls was literally accomplished not by Nehemiah but by the people, each one standing next to the other and putting their hands to the task.

This is an excellent portrait of what makes the work of God's churches move forward. A great church isn't about the pastor, though he leads, organizes and instructs. A great church is more about the people of the church. Notice that, though we have some "big names" in the (Bible, Moses, David, and Paul, etc.,) the Bible gives us very few names of the pastors of the various churches. We may imply some of them, but in most cases we are not told about them but about the churches themselves.

We have twisted this around today. We make it about the preacher.
·         His is the name we see published
·         He is the one that is lifted up and (if we are not careful) idolized

To be sure God uses a man, one like Nehemiah, to rally people around God's cause but the real work is always done by one average hero standing next to another, and getting "dirty" in the work.

[1] The phrase is found thirteen times here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A True Friend in the Ministry

Colossians 4:7 KJV
All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:

Paul was always so careful to list the names of those who were involved with him in his ministries. Whether it was
·         The members of a particular church or
·         Those who belonged to his ministry team or
·         Someone in prison alongside him
Paul mentioned people, which means he thought about and cared for them.

He lists here three qualities of Tychicus which make for a great friend:
Brother beloved
Everyone loves to have someone to love. Tychicus was more than a brother, more than an associate; He was beloved to the Apostle.

Faithful minister
Tychicus was faithful in the ministry he performed. Paul loved him regardless, but his loved was amplified and fulfilled in the faithfulness he demonstrated. There are some brethren that I love intensely but may have little fellowship with because they have departed from that faith I embrace and cherish.

Fellowservant in the Lord
Not merely a servant in the Lord but a fellowservant. He works alongside of Paul. He thinks the same of the ministry as Paul. His interest his doctrine his focus is the same as Paul.

Paul wrote to the Philippians that he rejoiced when Christ was preached whether in pretense ordinary truth. But you have to realize that those who were a blessing to him were those who preached Christ in fellowship with him rather than in opposition to him or in independence of him.

For another look at this passage click here:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Righteous Worry

Colossians 2:1 KJV
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

We have been taught that it is a sin for a Christian to worry but that isn't entirely accurate. It would be a sin to worry and fret over those things God has promised to care for; but here Paul admits, even insists, that these believers know he is in great conflict for them. Though he addresses the conflict through prayer and by writing this communication to them, the fact still remains that he is in pain concerning them.

Now these he is in conflict over are Christians. He is concerned that they might be beguiled. He is not with them to personally protect them from the dangers of false teachers and he is not there to give them the instruction that will bring them into the full understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God".

And if Paul was conflicted over that for them then there is certainly a place for
  • Today's preacher to have the same conflict for his congregation and
  • Today's Christian to be equally concerned for their own growth and spiritual safety

So much of the danger Christians face is compounded by the fact that they think they can safely expose themselves to any teaching and philosophy of man and that their pastor has no right or business worrying over them because of it.

Paul was not ashamed of his conflict. Neither will I. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Goal is Perfection

Colossians 1:28 KJV
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

Key to this passage is a definition of what is perfection.
Some say it is spiritual maturity, which I believe is too weak a definition
Paul admitted to not having reached perfection but certainly he was spiritually mature.

Others claim it is sinless perfection
But the Bible condemns the idea of claiming to be without sin.

Another claims that since to be saved means we have the very righteousness of God, which is without contradiction perfect, perfection is to be saved
But this negates the purpose for the doctrine and development of sanctification.

I am of the opinion that perfection means full, whole perfection. It is that perfection for which Paul labored and it is that perfection Jesus Christ seeks in us.

True, no one has attained it, not even Paul. But that changes nothing. In no way may we use the failure of others as an excuse for the same in ourselves.
  • Perfection in faith
  • Perfection in sanctification
  • Perfection in service to the Lord
This is the goal, the objective, the target.

To settle anywhere short of this is to settle too soon. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Always Hope

Ezra 10:2 KJV
And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
Israel found themselves in a sad and difficult strait. They had ignored the Word of God and in such a manner as could not be easily remedied. They had taken strange wives and some of them had produced children by them. Times were different and correcting this sin had no simple and quick fix. There would be pain and there would be life long consequences because of this disobedience to God.

But there was hope. God's mercy was still active and God's blessing was still possible.

People find themselves in a similar situation today. The Word of the Lord has been ignored and the consequences of generations of sin cannot be quickly wiped away. In some cases the price of the sin can extend for generations into the future. It might look to some as if there is
  • No light and the end of the tunnel
  • No chance of turning things around
  • No possibility of restoration.
I see it in families.

I also see it in our national circumstances.
  • Our country has turned from the Lord for so long that we can't even agree on what it means to be a Christian
  • Our national debt is so huge it doesn't look like it can ever be paid
  • Our standing in the world is so weak that we are at least no longer an economic super power
  • Our choices for president this year are pathetic

But there is hope because there is God.
  • He is the light when no light exists
  • He is the potential when all resources are exhausted
  • He is the possibility when there is no possible means of victory
 There is hope because there is God. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Preacher's Duty

Philippians 3:18-19 KJV
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

The Apostle said that he had warned them before and now continued to warn them, even while weeping for having to do it, that many (and I am sure his implication here is that these were professing believers) are enemies of the Cross of Christ.

It is one of the most challenging duties of the pastor to keep this warning ever before his congregation even as those professing believers insist that they are true believers and that the preacher is arrogant to insist that his walk is right walk and that any other walk is not only different but dangerous to the gospel.

Though this duty is never pleasant it is becoming more and more necessary as those who walk a different way increase and as, with their increase, the cry against our warnings become louder.

I imagine that there will be more reason to weep as the years go on.
  • More will deny the old paths
  • More will embrace the progressive programs
  • More will turn from the doctrines of justification and sanctification and embrace a kind of Christianity that is legalistic in doctrine but liberal in practice

But the preacher's duty will not have changed:
  • Urge people to follow the old examples
  • Warn people about those who are enemies of cross
  • Weep for the souls of those who have been swept in to error 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Benefit of Life

Philippians 2:27 KJV
For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

In chapter one[1] Paul affirmed the struggle he had between life and death. That fact was he personally desired to be with Christ (though he was careful to say that he knew his life could be more needful for those on earth). Now here he speaks of another, Epaphroditus, who faced death and Paul exclaims that God's mercy in saving his life was not only toward him (he would likely have preferred to depart and be with Christ) but to the Apostle who would have suffered the loss.

Not only did Paul believe his life was a benefit to others but that the life of others was a benefit to him.

I also notice that Paul was not selfish with those he obviously needed, for, though the death of Epaphroditus would have been a great loss to Paul, to send him away that he might be a blessing to the church at Philippi was a joy to him. That I am thankful for another's life does not mean that I must smother that life in my own need.

[1] Philippians 1:23 KJV, For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are You In This Strait?

Philippians 1:23-24 KJV
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

I recently read an article of a young missionary couple who died in the service of the Lord. Prior to their death he had written concerning the issue of life and death (as a missionary he apparently understood his life was in a fragile place). The missions wrote, only four or five weeks before the death of he and his wife, "there is nothing sad about the death of a Christian. The only sadness (and I do not intend to belittle this aspect) is in the loss of companionship by those left behind."[1] We place far too much value on our lives, certainly more than Christians of centuries gone by, who willingly died rather than deny Jesus. Today we do about everything possible rather than die. Very few anymore find themselves in a strait betwixt heaven and earth. Today there is no question... we choose earth.

I am not advocating for a suicidal or fatalistic mentality, but the very fact that I feel like I need to give a disclaimer like this is indicative of the fact that modern Christians are so earthly oriented that we can't grasp the concept of longing for heaven while still earnestly living today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fruit Today and Capital in the World to Come

Ephesians 6:3 KJV
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Gill writes that the Jews claimed there were four things that, if a man observed in this life he would enjoy its fruit today and its capital in the world to come:
  • Honoring parents
  • Giving to those in need
  • Making peace with a neighbor and
  • Learning the Law

The Jews, of course, we're far from perfect and their applications of Scripture and philosophy is very often skewed. However the biblical principle is in favor of these four providing exactly what the Jews claimed; fruit today and capital in the world to come. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Not Once Named Among Us

Ephesians 5:3-7 KJV
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Today's Christianity is too friendly with sin. While the world calls us hatemongers because we claim to stand against sins such as homosexuality and abortion, the truth is we are much too lenient of our own sins.
Ephesians makes it very clear;  these sins
  • Should not be named among us
  • Are not among those who will inherit the kingdom and
  • Those who do them face the wrath of God
We have been taught
  • That the saved are forgiven of our sins
  • That God will not be angry with us and
  • That heaven is our home regardless of the fact that we still sin
All of that, I am convinced, is true. But there is a very serious side to this because these sins must not be so much as named among the saints.

We are not to be partakers of them. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Just One

Ephesians 4:4 KJV
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

The word “one” may be among the most offensive in the Bible. It's one a similar par with "I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me[1]" and "there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.[2]"

As much as men would like to believe there are many ways to heaven and alternative choices for faith, the Bible is clear that
  • There is one and only one God and that
  • There is one and only one way to come to Him

This does not mean God is exclusive. In fact God
  • Welcomes
  • Calls and even
  • Urges
all men from all walks to come to Him, only come His one way.

[1] John 14:6
[2] Acts 4:12

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Even Then He Is Good

2 Chronicles 32:31 KJV
Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

It is a humbling but healthy concept to realize that God has the authority and just right to know all that is in our hearts.
  • He is righteous to search our heart
  • He is righteous to try our hearts
  • He is righteous even to leave us as he did Hezekiah
In God's right to know all that is in our hearts God is perfectly righteous to perform any action.

God is God. All that He does is perfect and righteous and good.
  • If I understand what He is doing He is good
  • If I do not understand even then He is good 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In Times Past

Ephesians 2:2 KJV
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Ephesians 2:3 KJV
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Ephesians 2:11 KJV
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

The Apostle assumes of these believers that something is true of them that wasn't always.  They had changed since they have been saved. How they once walked they no longer walk.

And that assumption ought to be the same of each of us. Believers ought to be changed people. What was true of us in times past should no longer be true of us in this present time. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fullness Filled

Ephesians 1:23 KJV
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Jesus Christ is the fullness of the godhead bodily. He is the one who "filleth all in all." Jesus Christ is
·         Complete
·         Holy
·         Perfect
He is the embodiment of fullness. As Gill puts it,
“…besides the personal fulness which Christ has as God, and his fulness of ability and fitness for his work as Mediator, and his dispensatory fulness, which dwells in him for the use of his people…”

Yet the One who is perfect fullness finds fullness in His church.
·         What unbelievable love
·         What absolute devotion Christ has for his church
·         What a blessing to be a part.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Last Guy

2 Chronicles 25:16 KJV
And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king's counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel.

When Amaziah bowed before the idols of Edom God sent a prophet to warn him. The prophet is not named.
·         He was certainly not one of the hired counselors of the King for he would surely not have given him the truth but the message the king wanted to hear.
·         He was not a well known prophet such as Isaiah.
·         He was a simple prophet who was honest before the Lord
and Amaziah would have been wise to hear him.

The leaders of our world, and America in particular, are given to listening (if they listen to any spiritual advice at all) from those they believe are "credentialed.”
·         They look for those whose educational background speaks of influence
·         They look for those who are respected by the masses
But the men in America who are most likely to give a message straight from the Bible are those preachers who faithfully pastor their congregation,
·         Not seeking prominence
·         Not trying to climb the ladder of their denominations
·         Not seeking to please the people but the Lord
In other words, the last guys the governors and the president of our country seek for Spiritual counsel are the very ones who would give them the most honest counsel.