29 August 2008

Be Ashamed – 8.29.08

Ezekiel 36 speaks prophetically of the salvation of the nation of Israel and the relationship they will one day enjoy with their God. When this age has finally run its course, and the Jews have come through that time of tribulation, and Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom, all that's spoken of here in Ezekiel 36 will be fulfilled:

  • Israel will be cleansed from its filthiness and idolatry (v. 25).
  • God will give them a new heart (v. 26).
  • God's spirit will cause them to walk in His statues (v. 27).
  • They will dwell safely in the land of promise (v. 28).
  • God will prosper them and cause the ground to bring forth abundantly (vv. 29-30).
  • God will restore the desolate wilderness to Eden-like conditions (vv. 33-35).

Now, let's go back into the middle of that section and take note of a couple things. Ezekiel 36:31-32, Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.

According to verse 31, when God turns the captivity of His people and Israel comes into this new-covenant relationship with God, they will reflect on their rebellion and disobedience, and they will lothe themselves for their iniquities and abominations. The memory of their evil ways and their many offenses against the God Who has so richly blessed them will fill their hearts with regret and repentance.

In light of all this prophecy, verse 32 is an admonition given by Ezekiel to the Jews of his day. And the admonition is this – don't think that God is going to bring all these blessings upon the nation because of anything you've done…not for your sakes do I this. It won't be because of your merit; it'll be because of His goodness. It won't be because you've kept your promise; it'll be because He always keeps His.

The latter half of this admonition in verse 32 is what I'd like us to focus on and apply to our lives today – be ashamed and confounded for your own ways. In light of all the many ways that God has blessed us – EVERY good and perfect gift, James 1:17; a daily load of benefits, Psalm 68:19; the unspeakable gift of eternal life, 2 Corinthians 9:15; and the list goes on and on – how can we do anything but what He's asked us to do? Especially when those commandments aren't grievous (1 John 5:3) but for our good (Deuteronomy 10:13)!

And yet how many times do we offend. How often do we rebel and disobey. Even now, your heart and mind may be filled with something abominable in God's sight. Even now, you may be able to put your finger on some area of your life that God absolutely detests. Ought we not to be ashamed and confounded and lothe ourselves for our iniquities?

Have you ever gotten to the place where the goodness of God – in spite of you – brought godly sorrow to your soul and drove you to repentance (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10)? May today be that day.

Ezekiel 43:10 Thou son of man, shew…to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities…

26 August 2008

No More Prolonged – 8.26.08

Ezekiel 12:21-28 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord GOD. Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel had been forewarned that his ministry was to be carried out among a "rebellious house." And so it was. The people ignored the message of Ezekiel, who prophesied in Babylon during the time of the captivity, just as much as they had ignored the message of his predecessor, Jeremiah, who prophesied in Jerusalem just prior to the Babylonian captivity.

Now, in the passage at hand we learn of a curious proverb that was spoken in those days, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth. This was the excuse they gave for disregarding the word of God. Basically, they said, "Ezekiel, you're doing all this preaching on the judgment of God, and you're warning us of the consequences of our evil ways, but we don't believe you because we can't see anything bad that's happened to us as a result of how we're living." They brushed off all the prophecies by saying, he prophesieth of the times that are far off. (Keep in mind that the whole time they were making these excuses they were living in captivity in Babylon – as a direct result of their rebellion against the word of God!)

So God instructed Ezekiel to respond to Israel's excuses by letting them know that the days when His word would be validated and His judgment would fall would be no more prolonged. Ezekiel was to preach the message of Galatians 6:7, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

This message is needed in our day as well. Far too often our own lives echo this proverb of the Israelites and confirm the words of Ecclesiastes 8:11, Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

We need to be warned that just because God doesn't chasten us immediately doesn't mean there won't be consequences for our actions. When you put a seed in the ground, it takes time for that thing to germinate and grow before it can be harvested, but there will eventually be a harvest.

Young man, young lady, be assured that if you sow to the flesh, then of the flesh you will reap corruption (Galatians 6:8). Remember there will be a payday someday. Recognize that you just might be at that point – like Judah was – where God's forbearance will be no more prolonged. Then repent and seek His mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

22 August 2008

Lam 3.51 – 8.22.08

Lamentations 3:51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.

The above verse is most often quoted alongside an exhortation to young men to "keep their eyes in their heads." Now, making that application from this passage does not contradict any other portion of scripture (2 Peter 2:7-8) and such instruction is vitally important for this generation (2 Peter 2:14).

However, to interpret Lamentations 3:51 as a warning from Jeremiah regarding the lust of the eyes is to take the passage way out of context.

Let's get the background of the book of Lamentations. For over 40 years, Jeremiah had prophesied in the land of Judah. His message was one of warning. God had grown weary of the nation's idolatry and disobedience and would soon allow them to be taken captive into Babylon (the judgment He had prescribed in His covenant with the Hebrew people called the law of Moses). For over 40 years, Jeremiah urged the people to repent, but all to no avail. He was ignored, ridiculed, mocked, despised, and persecuted by the people he was trying to save from destruction.

In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and took the people of Judah captive just as Jeremiah prophesied. In Lamentations we see the great measure of love he had for the people who had so despitefully used him! He never came to the place where he was glad to see them get what they had coming (what Jonah wanted). He had continued to preach despite the hardness of their hearts because his true desire was to see them repent and be delivered. And when his preaching was finally validated – Jerusalem destroyed and Judah taken captive – it broke his heart and drove him to tears.

Let's read the verses that lead up to Lamentations 3:51 so we can put the passage in its proper context.

Lamentations 3:47-51 Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven. Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.

Here's the application for us today. Do we care about the people we preach to anything like Jeremiah did? Does it break our hearts to see people refuse the preaching of God's word and go on in their sinful ways to their own destruction? Or do we take the mocking and the reproach and the scorn personally and become apathetic about the wrath of God that abides on them and is soon to fall? Yes, it's frustrating when people reject the word of God and continue in their ignorance. But does it break our hearts? Does it cause us to weep?

May our eyes affect our hearts because of all the daughters of our cities. God grant it!

19 August 2008

As The Eagle – 8.19.08

Jeremiah 49:16 Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the LORD.

Obadiah 1:4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.

Many of us, at one time or another, have – like so many others written of in the Bible – learned the hard way that those that walk in pride he is able to abase (Daniel 4:37).

If we've read the Bible at all or listened to any good Bible preaching, we know that God hates pride. We know that pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). We know that Lucifer was kicked out of heaven because he exalted himself (Isaiah 14:12-14), and we know that he is a king over all the children of pride (Job 41:34).

In our opening passage, God describes the proud as those who exalt themselves as the eagles and make their nests among the stars, and He says that He will bring them down. Compare this promise to the one given in Isaiah 40:31, 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.

So those who exalt themselves like the eagles will be cast down to the ground, while those who humbly serve the LORD shall mount up with wings as eagles. From one end of the Bible to the other, this principle shines clear – God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6).

We understand that. We can see that. We're very familiar with the concept. But we need to ask ourselves today, as God sees our hearts, do we believe it? Do we put it into practice? Or are we foolish (Proverbs 30:32), are we delusional (Romans 12:3), are we self-deceived (Galatians 6:3) and full of pride?

You might not understand or accept it right now, but believe me, you need God's blessing. You need God's strength. You need God's grace. And you'll get nothing like while you continue to exalt yourself.

15 August 2008

Blessed Is The Man [8.14.08]

Outline of a study from the book of Psalms on "God's Recipe for Happiness"


  • occurs 49x in the book
  • made happy or prosperous; extolled; pronounced happy

PSALM 1:1-2

  • What the Bible says and what this world says about how to be happy are totally opposite. Will you believe God or the devil?


1. Get your sins forgiven (Psalm 32:1-2,5)

2. Make Jesus your LORD (Psalm 33:12)

3. Fear the Lord (Psalm 112:1; 128:1,4)

4. Live clean (Psalm 119:1-2)

5. Trust the Lord (Psalm 34:8; 84:11-12)

6. Fellowship with God & His people (Psalm 65:4)

7. Be a giver, not a taker (Psalm 41:1)

8. Be judgmental (Psalm 106:3)

9. Know the joyful sound (Psalm 89:15)

10. Allow God to correct you (Psalm 94:12-13)

Jeremiah 32.42 – 8.15.08

For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them…Jeremiah 32:42

Another clear, simple, straightforward statement regarding the certainty of God's word. My Bible labels this section of the book of Jeremiah "God's promise of a gracious return from captivity." What this passage points out is that just as surely as God kept His word in bringing judgment upon the people of Judah for their disobedience (in this case, captivity in Babylon), God will keep the promise He made to Abraham all the way back in Genesis 12, and Abraham's seed WILL one day inherit and forever possess the land of Canaan.

Back just one chapter, in Jeremiah 31:35-36, the Bible says, Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever.

Though Israel was under the judgment of their God in Jeremiah's day, He told them that the nation could count on returning to their land and dwelling in it forever just as much as they could count on the sun rising in the morning and the moon coming out at night.

Likewise, the promise of eternal life for all who would call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13; Titus 1:2; 1 John 2:25-26) is just as certain as the promise that those who fail to repent will indeed perish and the wicked will be turned into hell (Luke 13:5; Psalm 9:17).

I am 100% confident today that God meant it when He said the way of transgressors is hard (Proverbs 13:15), and I am fully persuaded that He was telling the truth when He said that blessings are upon the head of the just (Proverbs 10:6).

God has promised good things to those who obey His word. And He WILL bring those things to pass. Believe what He said, and walk accordingly.

Hilkiah [7.27.08]

From the 7.27.08 teen Sunday school bulletin...

What a blessing it is to have God's word! To have the ability to read it, a good preacher to explain it, and the Holy Spirit to impart understanding! One of the many great things about the Bible is the fact that it never gets boring. There's ALWAYS something new to learn. So here's something new I learned in recent weeks…

We should all be familiar with a priest from the days of the divided kingdom by the name of Hilkiah. You remember him, right? Well, if not, he was the man who found the book of the law in the house of the LORD during the days of Josiah the king. You can read about him in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34.

Hilkiah's find had a great impact both upon the nation (it spurred the second great revival of Judah's history) and evidently upon his own progeny. You see, he was the great grandfather of a man who is described as a ready scribe in the law of the LORD – a man by the name of Ezra (1 Chronicles 6:13; Ezra 7:1).

I learned while reading my Bible this past week it is also possible that Hilkiah was the father of the famous prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:1-2 says, The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirtieth year of his reign. Though Hilkiah evidently ministered as a priest in Jerusalem while Jeremiah claimed Anathoth in Benjamin as his hometown, the timeframe would definitely match since we see Hilkiah in the early days of Josiah's reign and Jeremiah (perhaps his son) in the latter days thereof.

This all became more significant when I read a very familiar passage later on in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 15:16 says, 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. I've read and even memorized this passage in the past, but it wasn't until I had considered the timeframe of Jeremiah's ministry, as well as his heritage, that I realized how literally he made this statement. Jeremiah said, Thy words were found because God's word really was found during his lifetime by a man named Hilkiah, who was quite possibly his father.

Now there are several practical applications that we can't miss. First of all, we need to recognize what a great privilige it is own a copy of God's word (Thy words were found). Secondly, we need to take advantage of this great privilege by being faithful to spend time in God's word daily (and I did eat them). And thirdly, we need to be careful to receive what God's word has to say and make it a part of our every day lives (and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart).

12 August 2008

Stand in the Gate – 8.12.08

A somewhat lengthy passage for us to consider today from the book of Jeremiah. Want you to read chapter 7, verses 1-12.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD'S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.

The situation in Jeremiah's day was a dire one indeed. The nation of Judah had been in rebellion for generations, and God's judgment was just about to fall. Jeremiah would live to see the day that Jerusalem was taken and the people led captive to Babylon. In the meantime, he was called to stand in a public place (the gate of the Lord's house, verse 2) and proclaim the word of the Lord. He was called to urge the people to repent (Amend your ways and your doings, verse 5) and to set forth the blessings awaiting those who would (verse 7). He was called to point out the errors of false religion (verses 4, 8) and to warn the people of coming judgment (verse 12).

This he did, and he did it faithfully.

Now, Americans are not God's chosen people. The Jews still are. But America was founded by God-fearing men on biblical principles. We have moved far from that foundation. Generations have lived in rebellion against the word of God. And America needs some men like Jeremiah to be faithful to the charge to Go…into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

If you're an active witness for the Lord, especially if you're involved in a public evangelism, you'll be approached on a regular basis by people who call themselves Christians and want to know why in the world you're doing what you're doing. Don't you know nobody wants to hear it? Don't you know you're turning people away? Etc, etc, etc. Here's something I learned from Bro. James that I've used several times on the street with good success. The honest enquirers are often satisfied with and enlightened by the accuracy of the statement, and the skeptical critics are often baffled enough to go away shortly after it's made.

Every prophet and every apostle in the Bible, even Jesus Himself – they all preached in a public place to people who did not want to hear it.

Having that example set forth in the scripture, why should we do any different? No good reason we shouldn't.

Are you? If so, keep it up. If not, it's time to be obedient and take a stand in the gate.

07 August 2008

Make Mention – 8.8.08

Isaiah 48:1 Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.

It's interesting (and depressing) to read through the book of Isaiah and note the times when what Isaiah said regarding Israel is true of modern America. Below is a sampling of such cases.

  • Isaiah 1:4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
  • Isaiah 3:12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
  • Isaiah 5:23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
  • Isaiah 28:7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
  • Isaiah 29:11-12 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
  • Isaiah 30:9-10 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

Now a brief word on our opening passage. As a Christian in this sinful world, do you not tire at hearing the name of our Almighty God thrown around as a curse or an oath? Don't you just become weary at hearing people utter the high and holy name of Jesus Christ as nothing more than a weak expression of shock or amazement? Don't you look forward with anticipation to the day when every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ IS LORD to the glory of God the Father!

Unfortunately, there's not much we can do to stop keep lost people from doing what lost people do or saying what lost people say. You can and should explain to a blasphemer why their words are offensive and ask that figure out another way to express themselves, but don't be surprised if your request is ignored.

What we can do is this. We can counter the swearing of the infidels by making mention of the name of God – in truth and in righteousness (Isaiah 48:1). In Job 36:1, Elihu also proceeded and said, Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that I have yet to speak on God's behalf. I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

Oh, that God's people would praise God's name as much as the devil's children curse it. Oh, that there were a Christian proclaiming the gospel of God's grace for every sinner blaming Him for their problem. Oh, that there were a witness to counter every blasphemy.

Do your part. Make mention of God's name – in truth and in righteousness.

05 August 2008

Boastful Axe – 8.5.08

Isaiah 10:15

Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

Isn't that just a great verse! You can't miss the application. We're nothing without Jesus, so what reason could we ever have to boast? An axe on the ground at the stump of a tree is never going to make that tree fall by itself. A saw set on top of a beam of wood is never going to make one piece two all by itself. It's impossible for a rod or a staff to stand on its own strength. And it's just as ludicrous for us as Christians to take any credit for anything the Lord empowers us and enables us and allows us to accomplish for Him.

Now, it is a great blessing and a privilege to be in the Master's service. It's a great honor to be entrusted with the gospel message and to have the responsibility of carrying that message to the lost. It's a wonderful thing that God would entrust us with spiritual gifts and natural abilities to be used to minister to His people. And there's nothing better than to be used by God to accomplish something that will count for all eternity.

To stand in a public place and distribute gospel tracts or hold a scripture sign. To proclaim the name of Christ from house to house on a Sunday afternoon. To lead someone to the Lord, as some of you did in Honduras. To minister to a congregation in sermon or in song. To labor together with other believers in prayer. To speak an encouraging word at just the right time to a friend.

But at those times when God allows us to accomplish something for His honor and glory, let's be sure it's for His honor and glory. Let's remember that it's not us, but Christ Who lives in us. Let's remember that without Him we can do nothing. Let's not be an axe bragging to the lumberjack. Let's not be a saw boasting to the carpenter. Let's yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto God and realize that we're nothing more than vessels to be used as He sees fit.

One of the greatest Christians who ever lived was led by the Holy Spirit to make this confession in 1 Corinthians 15:10, But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain…

Proverbs 19.27 – 8.1.08

Proverbs 19:27

Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.

Paul makes a similar statement when he asks in Galatians 3:1, O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?

Very brief thought for today. Each of us has a copy of God's holy word. Each of us attends a good, Bible believing church where we hear good preaching from the word of God and fellowship with good Christian people. We each have the same Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and bring God's words to our remembrance.

And yet there are times in our lives when all of that is not enough to make us do what's right. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: If I'm not listening to the preaching, if I'm not listening to the word of God, who am I listening to? What instruction am I receiving that is causing me to go the wrong way? Who is hindering me from obeying the truth?

Is it the wrong kind of friend(s)? Is it the news media? Is it Hollywood? Is it my own carnal nature? Is it my music? Who am I listening to instead of listening to God and why?

May we each identify that influence in our lives and rid ourselves of it by the grace of God.

What Do You Glory In? – 7.29.08

Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 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.

Over the past couple weeks, I had the privilege to participate in the annual boys' and girls' trips at Bible Baptist. I saw things I had never seen before (some spectacular Smokey Mountain views, a black bear in "the wild," a waterfall in the middle of a mountain cavern, an underground lake…and more), did things I had never done before (jumped into the river off a 35-foot ledge, slid down 60 feet of rock into a different, frigid river, snorkeled at Ichetucknee Springs…and more), praised God for protection and answered prayer (surviving quite a scare on an interstate overpass, hour upon hour and mile upon mile of perfect weather, a cut on a knee that could've been much worse…and more), and just had a BLAST the whole time.

To me it was very fitting to come across the above passage in my Bible reading on the first week of the adventure. As God Almighty allowed me to enjoy His awesome creation, it was the perfect time to be reminded of the fact that the BEST thing that any of us have going for us is the fact that we have a relationship with this Almighty God! Think of it. The God that hung the stars; the God that formed the mountains; the God that created the oceans and rivers; the God that spoke the universe into existence – I know Him. I'm His son. He loves me. He provides for me. He protects me. He instructs me. He hears my prayers. He answers according to His will. There's nothing better in this life or the next!

To glory is to exult with joy; to rejoice; to boast of; to be proud of. This nation is full (and our churches are full) of people who can find nothing better to glory in, to brag about, to devote themselves to, than their own intellect, their own ability, their own wealth, or their own status, or their own connections, their own experiences, their own achievements, etc. Praise God that life doesn't have to be that shallow!

If I've got anything to be proud about, it's my God. If I've got anything to boast about, it's my Savior. If there's anyone who needs to be lifted up, it's my Creator. If there's anybody who can put true joy in my heart, it's the lovely Lord Jesus. If I have anything to glory in, it's not anything I have done or will do or could do, it's my God.

He's loving. He's kind. He's just. He's righteous. I've been blessed by His grace. I've been spared by His mercy. I've experienced His care. I've received His direction. I've trusted in Him, and He's never failed!

Why don't we put aside the petty vanities of this world and glory in the LORD! Why don't we get excited about something that really matters and will matter forever, rather than that which is fleeting and temporal.

Everything this world glories in, everything this world tries to distract us with – it's all a lame replacement for a relationship with and service to a God Who is eternal, and powerful, and good. So seek His kingdom. Rejoice in His love. Read His book. Bring honor to His name. Tell somebody about Him.

Amen and Amen.

Direction – 7.25.08

Direction. We all need it. We all need it constantly. We all know some of what we need to do to get the direction we need from God. We know we ought to pray. We know we ought to read the Bible. We know we ought to listen to the preaching. And we know we have to trust the Lord (Proverbs 3:5).

But there are a few more things I read recently in the book of Proverbs that are said to help us get the direction and guidance we need from God. I believe these are important, but I believe it's easy for us to forget about these at times as we seek for God's leading in our lives.

The first is Proverbs 11:3. The Bible says, The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.

Integrity is defined as entire, unimpaired moral soundness or purity; incorruptness; uprightness; honesty. The Christian whose life and actions are at times characterized by dishonesty or less than irreproachable morality is one who will be unable to clearly see the path the Lord would lay before him.

Secondly, Proverbs 11:5 says, The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

Righteousness is defined as purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. It is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion.

The question we must ask ourselves as we seek God's direction is are we faithful to be obedient and do what we know God has told us to? If not, why would God give us further direction? If we're disobedient to what His commands, why would we be obedient if He makes it clear what decision we should make in a given situation?

A third passage is Proverbs 15:19, The way of the slothful man is an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain. Apparently, God does not obligate Himself to grant leading and guidance to lazy people. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might (Ecclesiastes 9:10) is the standard God finds acceptable because no matter what you do, it'll take diligence to make it work or to be successful.

So I know you've heard it before but here are 3 more passages to remind us…the way to get direction from God, the way to figure out "His will" for our lives is to be diligent to faithfully perform His stated will, as found in His word, and to trust Him to bless you for it just like He said He would.

Durable Riches – 7.22.08

Proverbs 8:18

Riches and honor are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.

The economics course I took at a local community college was definitely one of the best and most enjoyable classes I took in college. The teacher was a little Italian guy from Chicago who never wore a belt or socks, never fixed his hair, and was Catholic. The tests and assignments were challenging, but he knew and enjoyed his subject enough to make them seem easy.

I was reminded of one of those economics lessons when reading Proverbs 8, where wisdom is personified, and the Lord gives us a beautiful description of both its value and of its benefits.

Think back a few Sunday mornings ago and remember the biblical definition of wisdom. It is the application of knowledge; the exercise of judgment in avoiding evil (prudence) and attempting good; a fear of the Lord that results in adherence to God's commands.

According to Proverbs 8, one of the blessings associated with this principal virtue is durable riches and righteousness.

Now, in economics, a durable good (or hard good) is a good that does not quickly wear out or one that yields service or utility over time rather than being completely used up all at once. A car, a refrigerator, a copy machine, a couch, a computer, a house, a gun would all be example of durable goods.

Nondurable goods (or soft goods) on the other hand are those goods that are used up when once used or have a lifespan of less than 3 years. Gas, food, shoes, detergent, envelopes are all examples of nondurable goods.

A perfectly durable good would be one that never wears out.

Look again at Proverbs 8. Wisdom is associated with durable riches. I believe we could classify these as perfectly durable riches. You see, the benefits of possessing enough wisdom to do what's right are reaped both now throughout eternity.

On the other hand, the "benefits" of folly, of walking after the lusts of the flesh, would definitely be nondurable. They are quick; fleeting; here today, gone tomorrow; lasting only a season. The Bible says, treasures of wickedness profit nothing (Proverbs 10:2). They are consumed. They simply do not last.

So let's determine to seek wisdom. Let's choose to claim the riches that will last forever.

The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22)

Proverbs 3.27 – 7.18.08

Proverbs 3:27

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

A similar and more forceful statement is made in the NT, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17). The concept in both passages is very clear. It is just a much of a sin NOT to DO something you ought to do as it is to DO something you ought not.

The distinction is commonly described as sins of commission (commit-ion) and sins of omission. When you break a thou shalt not, the act you have committed is a sinful one. When you transgress a thou shalt, your omission of whatever deed was required is inherently sinful.

I believe that oftentimes it's easy for us to place a greater emphasis on staying away from sins of commission. We're usually pretty careful not to do the things that God has expressly forbidden. But the problem is that far too often we stop there, and think we're OK so long as we're not doing those real bad things God said not to do.

The truth of the matter is that our failure to witness is a sin. The truth of the matter is that our failure to do good to those that are of the household of faith is a sin. The truth of the matter is that our failure to praise the name of the Lord is a sin. The truth of the matter is that our failure to pray without ceasing is a sin.

Yes, there are many things God has commanded us not to be involved in. And we shouldn't be involved in those things. But let's take some time today to recognize that there are some activities that God has commanded us to be involved in, and we should give our hearts devotion to those things.

I believe the primary application for us to take from this verse is in the area of evangelism. Proverbs 3:28 says, Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. According to Romans 1:14-16, we owe it to the lost to boldly proclaim the gospel message. And according to Acts 1:8, it is in the power of our hands to do it.

Don't be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Withhold not the good thing that has been committed to your trust. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. Amen!

Psalm 119.25 – 7.15.08

Psalm 119:25 My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.

There are 3 powerful and blessed truths we can learn from this short, but loaded verse.

1. Sin has physical, temporal consequences – cleaveth unto the dust

Genesis 3:19 says that because of man's sin, he shall…return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. This final aspect of the curse on the human race due to Adam's sin was in keeping with God's warning in Genesis 2:17, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

  • Romans 5:12 – so then death passed upon all men for that all have sinned
  • Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death
  • Job 34:15 – man shall return again unto dust
  • Psalm 104:29 – they die, and return to their dust
  • Ecclesiastes 3:20 – all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again
  • Ecclesiastes 12:7 – then shall the dust return to the earth as it was
  • Daniel 12:2 – them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake

2. Sin has spiritual, eternal consequences – MY SOUL cleaveth unto the dust

There is an eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2), an everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:19) awaiting those sinners who stand before God on the day of judgment in their sinful condition (Hebrews 9:27). This is known as the second death (Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:8).

  • Ezekiel 18:4,20 – the soul that sinneth, it shall die
  • Job 17:16 – they shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust

3. Eternal life is made available through Jesus Christ – quicken THOU me according to thy word

Man has no hope of saving himself from his sinful condition. Psalm 22:29 says…all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. But those who are dead in trespasses and sins can be quickened (made alive so as to never die again) by the grace of God through the cross work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9; Colossians 2:13-14). God has promised to grant eternal life to all who would call on His name (Romans 10:13; 1 John 2:25-26), and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Psalm 22:29 says…all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him. Philippians 2:10-11 says, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A man would be wise to bow and make such a confession on this side of eternity, thus receiving God's deliverance from an eternal death.

An application for those who are saved – my soul cleaveth unto the dust. Do you place more emphasis on your outer man or your inner man? Do you spend more time on the physical or the spiritual? Do you spend more time catering to the needs of your vile body or your regenerated spirit?

Set your affection on things above!

Rahab & Zion – 7.11.08

Psalm 87:4

I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.

I was a bit confused when I first read this verse in Psalm 87. We all know Rahab was a person, not a country! But it's obvious that verse 4 is speaking of nations. So exactly what nation is Rahab?

Well, there are 2 other places in the Bible where Rahab is spoken of as a place instead of a person. They are Psalm 89:10 and Isaiah 51:9-10. The latter of these references makes it pretty clear that the reference is to Egypt (see the Red Sea crossing in verse Isaiah 59:10). Apparently the root word for Rahab means "boastful, proud, arrogant," which would line up pretty well with Egypt and its Pharaohs.

I did wonder whether there's any significance to the fact that the harlot of Joshua 2 and the nation of Psalm 87, Psalm 89, and Isaiah 51 share the same name, but I haven't come up with anything. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

Now, the entire Psalm focuses around verse 3, Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah. Zion, the city of God, Jerusalem – will one day be the center of this world's government, and commerce, and religion (Isaiah 2:2-5; Ezekiel 5:5; others).

The lesson for the boastful, proud, and arrogant nations of Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia is that the only thing that was special about the lowly city of Zion is that God loved it, God chose it, God established it.

The lesson we need to remember when our hearts are lifted up in pride and arrogance and conceit is that the only thing we have going for us is that there is a God Who loves us, a God Who forgave us, a God Who has made us His children.

No particular reason He chose the city of Zion as the headquarters of His kingdom. No particular reason He chose to love us and send His Son to save our souls. But praise His name, He did!

The Example of Israel – 7.8.08

Psalm 81:10-16

10 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. 11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. 12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. 13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! 14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. 15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured forever. 16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.

Several weeks back we met together separately (oxymoron…we had a class for the gentleman and a class for the ladies) and had a Bible study on "desires." The most important point of the evening was that God will allow us to do whatever it is we want to do, but we must keep in mind that He will also allow us to reap the consequences.

This point is well illustrated in the above passage with regards to the nation of Israel. When God delivered the Hebrews from Egypt's bondage, it was His desire to fill their lives with blessings (v. 10) and to speedily rid Canaan of Israel's enemies (v. 14) so they could live prosperously in that land (v. 16).

All that was theirs. All that was available. All that was promised.

HOWEVER, Israel did not believe God's words (v. 11). They disregarded His authority (v. 11). And they walked after their own counsels (v. 12). God wanted to bless them (v. 13), but He could not bless a people that walked after their own hearts' lust (v. 12).

You see, God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham. He promised that Abraham would be the father of a great nation which would inhabit the land of Canaan forever. That promise was unconditional, and that promise is still valid. But when God brought Israel out of Egypt, He gave that nation "the law" as an addendum to the covenant He had made with Abraham (Galatians 3). The law was given to govern their lives in the land of promise. The blessing promised for adherence to that law was peace, and prosperity, and long life in the land of promise. The curse for disobedience to that law was famine, and disease, and war, and captivity.

Now, there is a day coming when Christ will return and set up His earthly kingdom, and the Jews will dwell in the land of Canaan forever with Jesus as their King and David as their prince. He will rule over the nation of Israel, according to the law (Ezekiel 40-48), with a rod of iron.

Compare that with our present situation as NT believers. God has promised us eternal life through Jesus Christ (1 John 2:25-26; Titus 1:2). That promise is unconditional. If you are saved, you will spend eternity in heaven regardless of any good or bad works you do or don't do in the meantime. However, God does not take His children home to heaven at the moment of salvation. He has left us here to accomplish His purposes. Jesus Christ not only gives life, He gives life more abundant. He wants to fill our lives with blessings before we get to heaven. The theme of the book of Hebrews is Christ's present ministry in seeking to bring us on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1). He has indwelt us (Hebrews 13:20-21), and He has inspired and preserved His word which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction that we might be made perfect (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Unlike the situation with Israel, the blessings for adherence to the commands we are given are not physical, they are spiritual. But they are blessings nonetheless. And the judgment for disobedience might not be physical or material, but the Lord does chasten His own (Hebrews 12:6).

God wants to bless us, and if we're wise, we want His blessings. But we can't expect to reap His blessings as we disregard His word and walk after our own counsel.

Psalm 34.10 – 7.4.08

The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. (Psalms 34:10)

This, one of the many exceeding great and precious promises the Lord has given in His holy word. And what a blessed promise it is. Those that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

Understand that the word "want" does not always mean "desire." In this case, the meaning is very clearly "lack." It is used this way throughout the Bible, perhaps most notably in the 23rd Psalm, The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

So the promise here is that I'll not lack any good thing because of my pursuit of God and His will for my life. Jesus made a similar statement in Matthew 6:33, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

According to Mr. Webster's 1828 dictionary, to seek is to go in search or quest of; to look for; to search for by going from place to place; to inquire for; to ask for; to solicit; to endeavor to find or gain by any means.

So those who endeavor and pray and work and labor and search and inquire to find and accomplish God's will, God's pleasure, God's plan, God's commands will have:

1. All their temporal, earthly needs met (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19).

Food, shelter, clothing, God will take care of it. Comfort in trouble, he'll send the Comforter. If you need a spouse, God will bring that person across your path in His time…IF the Lord is your "chief joy" and your primary pursuit.

2. No lack of any good thing.

Here is where many of us are or have been. We know the Bible is the word of God, and we believe it is true. We know the Bible says we would be blessed if we forsake all and follow Christ. But there are many who cannot make themselves believe that what they know they'll miss out on if they ABSOLUTELY SURRENDER to the will of God could ever be bettered by all the blessings the Lord provides.

We want to mix a little bit of the blessing that comes from doing right with a little bit of the pleasure that comes from doing what we want. But that makes God sick (Revelation 3:15-16). The Lord promises all those who COMPLETELY CONSECRATE their lives to Him that they'll not miss out on anything that's GOOD for doing so.

There's nothing can match the joy and peace the Lord provides. There's nothing can match the love He can put in your heart. There's nothing can match the satisfaction of pouring your life into another and seeing that person blessed. There's nothing can match the rewards and the eternal inheritance awaiting those who press toward the mark.

We have no reason to doubt God's word. He's not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). And He said they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. So seek Him. Put Him first. And be blessed.

Hypocritical Joy – 6.27.08

The book of Job, most likely the oldest piece of literature in the world, has got to be one of the most interesting books ever written. I would also admit that at times it can be a bit confusing. What we have to remember when we read the attempts of Job's friends at "comforting" him was that much of what they said was true, it just didn't apply to Job.

Such is the case with Job 20:4. This from the mouth of Zophar the Naamathite:

Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?

Now, Job wasn't a wicked hypocrite. The Holy Spirit called him a perfect and upright man who feared God and eschewed evil. And contrary to the opinion of Job's friends, his calamity wasn't the judgment of God on his life. It was proof of the integrity of Job's love for the Lord. God used it to poke the devil in the eye (chapters 1-2) and make Job "more perfect" (chapters 38-42).

But the point we'd like to consider is the truth of the statement made in Job 20:4. The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite [is] but for a moment.

Young person, old person, middle aged person, there are 2 scripture passages we all need to commit to memory.

Hebrews 11:25-26 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Psalms 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Do you see that? The pleasures of sin last only a season (an undetermined length of time, no longer than this temporal life), while the pleasures of righteousness last forever.

I know it's tempting (at times) to think that the people out in the world who do all the things a good Christian shouldn't do and don't do all the things a good Christian should – that they're having all the fun, that they're enjoying all the good things this life has to offer.

Here's what I would like to ask you, in the midst of such temptation, are you going to trust your thoughts and your feelings or are you going to trust the word of God? You think…that'd be great! God's word says…no, this is really great! Which will you trust? God wants to bless you. The devil wants to destroy you.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Reactions to God’s Mercy – 7.1.08

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy. (Psalm 33:18)

Aren't you glad our God is merciful! Aren't you glad He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10)! Aren't you glad that our God doesn't mark iniquities, But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared (Psalm 130:3-4)! Aren't you glad that our God holds back the judgment He could rightfully execute upon us! Aren't you glad He does not give us what we do deserve! That's mercy. And our God is plenteous in mercy (Psalm 103:8).

Now, there are two ways in which sinful, fallen men react to the mercy of God. The proper reaction is revealed in Psalm 33:18. The improper reaction is seen all around us.

The improper reaction first. Is it not evident that because God often forbears His judgment, because He is longsuffering, because He allows men to continue in sin in hopes they will one day repent, sinful men become disillusioned and are deceived into thinking that the holy, righteous, judgment and indignation of God upon their evil deeds will never fall.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

God's mercy actually leads some to continue in their sin. They simply do not realize that just because God's judgment did not fall today does not mean it never will. Yes, God is merciful. But He is also holy. Yes, He is a loving God, but that does not negate the fact that He is also a God of judgment.

Now, the proper reaction to the mercy of God. Psalm 33:18 says that God's mercy is a cause for a confident assurance the Bible calls hope. God could judge us for our sins. He'd rather forgive us. He could damn us. He'd rather save us. We deserve hell. He'd rather take us to heaven. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed (Lamentations 3:22).

A proper understanding of these facts would lead a man not to continue in his sinful ways, but to repent and FEAR GOD. In Psalm 33:18, the man who hopes in God's mercy is the same man that fears the Lord. And God's eye is upon him.

Those who properly know and understand who God is do not take advantage of His mercy or strain His mercy by seeing how much they can get away with before His judgment falls. They see God's mercy not as an excuse to sin, but as their only hope of redemption.

Consider for a moment today, how do you react to the mercy of God – not with your words, but with your actions and attitudes and thoughts?

Self-Esteem – 6.24.08

How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

The above quotation is from Job 4:19. I doubt you'll find it in the latest Christian literature or the modern day pulpit, but it's straight from the Holy Bible.

Now, to tell the truth, it doesn't make me feel all that great about myself. Does it you?

I've read in Genesis 2 how God formed man of the dust of the ground. But to me, that's speaks more of God's power than my own worthlessness. I've read Genesis 3 where God told Adam, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. But I can associate that statement with the curse and read it as a description of the inevitable brevity of life.

Job 4:19, however, seems to be more personal, and speaks of OUR present condition. We dwell in houses of clay. This body is founded in the dust. Crushed before the moth! Ouch. I'm no better than a mud hut. You're no better than a mud hut. Can someone remind me just why it is that we spend so much time and attention and effort pampering and pleasing and catering to the flesh? Remind me, why do we fulfill its lust and desires? Why do we bend to its every whim? Christian, are you really brought under subjection by something that can be crushed by a moth!

I believe it'd be a healthy thing for us to have this perspective of ourselves. We're nothing. God is everything. Let's do what He wants. Better yet, let's surrender our "want" to Him by ignoring the desires of each his/her own dust-ball, and allow what He wants to be what we want.

Now, the blessing in this passage comes by way of the contrast – 2 Corinthians 5:1-2. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.

One day we'll trade this mud hut in for a mansion house (John 14:1-3; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3). We'll trade this earthly tabernacle in for a heavenly temple. We'll trade our temporal dwelling for our eternal abode.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (Matthew 6:20)

Nehemiah 9.26 – 6.20.08

The events recorded in the book of Nehemiah center around a Jew who has returned from captivity in Babylon to rebuild the now desolate city of Jerusalem. Its ninth chapter could be included in a long list of passages that recount Israel's national history – beginning with the call of Abraham, moving on to Egyptian bondage, the exodus, wilderness wanderings, the eventual conquest of Canaan, the glorious kingdom, the divided kingdom, the captivity, and so on.

The record seems to climax in verse 26, Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.

This vicious cycle repeated itself over and over again. God gave Israel the law. They covenanted to keep it with all their hearts. Before one generation had passed, the people were worshipping idols. God would send a man to warn the people of impending judgment. The people would ignore him. The judgment would fall. The people then got mad at God but eventually they'd figure out they had no one to blame but themselves. So they'd repent, return to the Lord, and renew their dedication to the law of God. And then it'd start all over again.

I hope that same cycle doesn't aptly describe our own Christian lives, but I'm afraid many times it does.

Personally, I found the description found in Nehemiah 9:26 to be very interesting. The Bible says that when faced with warnings from God in the mouth of His prophets, the people of Israel rebelled and cast God's law behind their backs. In the midst of the disobedience that brought such judgment on their nation, God's way was the furthest thing from their minds and hearts. Why? They wanted to go their own way. The commandments stood in the way of their "progress."

And so the very law that would be the source of their success and prosperity and peace and longevity as a people became discarded and disrespected and disregarded. And this could only provoke the righteous fury of Jehovah.

Now, compare Israel's actions with the words of Psalmist in Psalm 18:22 & Psalm 119:30. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.

Which would better describe the condition of your heart? Do you always have God's pleasure in sight? Or is His way set aside when it crosses what you'd like to do? I implore you, don't cast God's law behind your back; set it always before you.

Creation & Preservation – 6.17.08

Recently discovered a great verse on creation stuck right in the middle of the book of Nehemiah. Chapter 9, verse 6 says, Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.

Here are some other great verses on creation to cross reference with this one. Exodus 20:11; Psalm 33:6; Jeremiah 32:17; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 3:4; Hebrews 11:3; Revelation 4:11.

The phrase that stuck out to me in Nehemiah 9 was and thou preservest them all. Note how this matches the wording of Hebrews 1:3.

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Quick, very simple review on the structure of an atom, the basic building block of all matter. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. There's a nucleus containing protons and neutrons. There are electrons spinning round about the nucleus. The protons have a positive charge, the neutrons a neutral charge, and the electrons a negative charge.

If I remember correctly, no physicist can explain what holds the positively charged protons and the negatively charged neutrons together in the nucleus. And maybe I do remember correctly. I found a guy on the internet to agree with me (so it must be true). "Mutual electrostatic repulsion between the like-positive protons would drive the nucleus apart if it were not for the 'strong force' which binds the nucleus together." (article) In addition to that, no physicist can explain what causes the negatively charged electrons to orbit the nucleus in the manner in which they do. "Similarly, accelerated electrons circling the nucleus should quickly radiate all their energy away and fall into the nucleus unless there exists an invisible energy source to counteract this."

Truly, God's hand is seen at work in his creation (Romans 1:20). He didn't just wind this great big clock we call the universe and then leave to let it run however it would. No, He upholds all things. He preserves all things. By Him all things consist.

Now, according to the Bible, there is a day coming when God will remove His upholding, preserving, sustaining hand from His creation, and this whole thing will end in a BIG BANG. 2 Peter 3:10 describes it this way, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Back to Nehemiah 9 for a quick moment. The end of the verse says, the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Considering Who He is and what He's done and what He continues to do, is that not what He deserves? And it's also what He desires (John 4:23-24). Take some time today to worship the Almighty Creator of the universe. And be sure to thank Him today that He's your Savior!

Jehoram’s Departure – 6.13.08

2 Chronicles 21 tells the sad tale of Jehoram, king of Judah. His father was Jehoshaphat, his grandfather Asa. Both were men who the Bible says did what was right in the sight of God. Unfortunately, Jehoram did not follow in their footsteps. He began to reign at the age of 32, and the first thing he did was kill all his brethren. Then he went and married the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, Athaliah (she took the throne when hubby Jehoram died and tried to kill all other heirs to the throne, including their own children). He forsook the God of his fathers, worshipped other gods in the high places, and promoted immorality.

Obviously, the Lord was not happy with this king. He sent Elijah to go and deliver a message, Thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day. Now, I'm not sure exactly what that means or how it happened, but there's no doubt in my mind it was quite a painful and uncomfortable situation. Sure enough, it came to pass, and king Jehoram suffered for 2 years before he died of sore diseases.

Verse 20 of 2 Chronicles 21 is the verse that caught my attention. It says, Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchers of the kings.

Jehoram departed without being desired. Sounds like no one cried at his funeral. Sounds like they didn't even care to give him a proper burial but knew they were obligated to do so.

In all we read of king Jehoram, it's obvious that he was the most important person in his life. It's obvious that he poured his life into himself. It's obvious that his own good and well being was THE driving force of his life. Then at the end, God smote him with an incurable disease, and it doesn't look like there was anybody in all Judah who felt sorry for him.

The point that the Lord directed my attention to is simple. Man's problem is his short-sightedness. He cannot see past the moment. When people act in their own self interest, as many people do, it actually turns out worse for them in the long run. But when people act out of care and concern for others, in the long run, they're blessed and happy because of it. Our problem is we just can't see that. Maybe that's why the Lord encourages us just to take his word for it.

So, is your life driven by self interest of others' benefit? Is your life directed by self interest or God's glory? Live for self, and you run the risk of departing without being desired. Live for others and the glory of God, and you get to enjoy life more abundant through Jesus Christ. Shouldn't be a touch choice to make. Hope you make the right one.

Preparing the Temple – 6.11.08

It was David's desire to build a house for the Lord to dwell in (2 Samuel 7). This desire was pleasing to God, but He would not allow David to do it. The Lord told David that his son Solomon would be the one to build the temple. So for the rest of David's life, he made preparation for the temple that Solomon would build. He had plans and patterns and blueprints and wood and gold and silver and precious stones and nails and workers – all lined up for Solomon to begin as soon as he took the throne.

In 2 Chronicles 28, David is getting ready to pass from the scene and is giving one last charge to his son. This passage, especially the verses below, takes my mind to 2 Peter 1:3. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who hath called us to glory and virtue.

Our King, Jesus Christ, before leaving this earth, gave us a charge to build His church (1 Corinthians 3:9-10; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). And just like David did for Solomon, our King has left us with everything we need to carry out that task.

Let's note some particulars from the Chronicles passage and line them up with our situation as NT believers.

1. The word of God

Verse 19, All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern. Verse 11, Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch…Verse 12, And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit…

The word of God is pure (Psalm 12:6). It is preserved (Psalm 12:7). It is perfect (Proverbs 30:5-6; Psalm 33:4). And it is powerful (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). If we abide in his word, we will be clean, and we will bring forth fruit (John 15:3-8).

2. The abiding presence of God

Verse 20, And David said to Solomon…the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.

Before Jesus left, He promised to send another Comforter (John 14:16, 26). He told his disciples, Lo, I am with you always (Matthew 28:20). He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). The full indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given the believer at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:12-14), and it is through His power that we can be made perfect in every good work to do his will, working that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20).

3. The people of God

Verse 21, And, behold, the courses of the priests and the Levites, even they shall be with thee for all the service of the house of God: and there shall be with thee for all manner of workmanship every willing skilful man, for any manner of service: also the princes and all the people will be wholly at thy commandment.

Every member of the body of Christ is given some spiritual gift for the purpose of profiting, perfecting, edifying, building up every other member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7-16). That's why it is so important for us to be in fellowship with God's people (Hebrews 10:23-25). There's something lacking my life that you can help me fix. There's something lacking in your life that I can help you fix.

David's final instruction to Solomon was, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed. We as NT believers have been given all things pertaining to life and godliness. All that's left is for us to have a little bit of strength, a little bit of courage, a little bit of determination…enough to appropriate, to put to use, that which we have been given.

Aren't you glad the Lord didn't leave us "high and dry," but equipped us for the work He left us to do! Let's put the equipment to use and get busy building His church.

Solomon’s High Places – 6.6.08

King Josiah reigned towards the final days of Judah's existence prior to the Babylonian captivity, and he was one of the best kings Judah ever had. It was in his days that the temple was repaired and the law of God recovered. It was in his days that the land had real revival and observed the Passover feast like never before.

In chapter 23 of 2 Kings, King Josiah is purging the nation of its idolatry. And it's a really fun chapter to read. The chapter is listing all the images, groves, altars, etc. that Josiah broken down. We'll pick it up in verse 13.

And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.

Solomon, the young king who asked God for wisdom above all else…built a high place for Ashtoreth. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, the man who wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,500 songs…built a high place for Chemosh. Solomon, the man who was responsible for the construction of God's temple in Jerusalem…built a high place for Milcom before the city gates.

How sad it is to read and be reminded of such a double-minded man (James 1:8). On one hand, he served the Lord. On another, he followed all the abominations of the heathen. He was a member of the Hebrew nation, God's chosen and special people. Yet he acted just like the people of the nations round about.

It was hundreds of years later before Josiah came on the scene. And what did he have to do? He had to repair the house of the Lord…because it had been ignored and desecrated for so many years. And he had to break down Solomon's high places…because the people were entrenched in their idolatry.

Young person, your halting between 2 opinions (1 Kings 18:21) will eventually catch up to you. Solomon died a man who had and experienced it all, but was unable to see the meaning or significance of any of it (Ecclesiastes – all is vanity). And Solomon's double-minded ways not only affected his life, they harmed his nation for hundreds of years.

A Christian ought not follow the fads and fashions of the world. A Christian shouldn't be excited about the things that the devil's children are excited about. A Christian should devote his time and energy to something different than the lost man does. Our lives ought to be wholly dedicated to the pursuit of God's pleasure, of His will.

What has a "high place" in your life today? What's most important to you? What occupies your mind? Where are your priorities focused? Around what are your activities centered? May Psalm 86:11 be our prayer today.

Teach my thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

Blasphemy – 6.3.08

In 2 Kings 18, Judah is in big trouble. Or so it seems. Assyria has taken Israel (the 10 northern tribes) captive and now the king has his eyes set on Judah (the 2 southern tribes). He has already taken all the fenced cities and has now sent an army to lay siege to Jerusalem.

The leader of this host is a man by the name of Rabshakeh (have fun pronouncing that one), and he begins his campaign by delivering a message of doom to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Then, in verse 25, he offers this most interesting apology (reason) for the havoc he intends to wreak…

Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.

What an excuse for seeking to destroy the people of God – the Lord told me to do it! Come on, really?

Now, it's obvious to us that Rabby was a liar. But God takes it one step further. Here's what the Lord had to say about Rabby's statement. 2 Kings 19:6…

Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.

This man in 2 Kings 18 accused God of saying something He never said, and God called Him a blasphemer. I don't think I need to cite any references to convince any of you that is a serious offense.

But what we're forced to ask as we consider this account is this: Am I guilty of doing the very same thing?

We do read of very limited instances in the Bible when God spoke audibly to man. But those days are long gone (Revelation 22:18-19), and Peter said we have a more sure word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19). Modern Christianity is much too wrapped up in "God speaking to me" while ignoring the 66 books that He wrote and preserved for us to read. He's not talking out loud anymore, but He's done a lot of talking in the past and had it all recorded so we could know His will.

Now, how often has someone you know justified their blatant disobedience to the word of God because of something "the Lord told them?" It goes on all the time. How often have you justified your disregard for the clear statement of scripture because "God spoke to your heart?"

We need to get this and remember it all the days of our lives…if we didn't read it in the Bible, then it wasn't God talking. He's got a lot to say, but He's already said it. Read it, study it, believe it, and live it. And the voices in your head are not God. According to 2 Kings 19, to say so is to BLASPHEME.

Now, there is flipside to this. John 14:26 says, But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Here's the blessed truth for the New Testament believer. If you're saved, then you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. And if you have saturated your mind and heart with God's word, then it is the Holy Spirit's job to bring those things to your remembrance. In an hour of need, in an hour of temptation, when you're witnessing to the lost. The Holy Spirit is there to remind you of God's truths you have hidden in your heart.

Don't be guilty of accusing God of saying something He did not say. Line up your life with what He has said and allow yourself to be blessed.

Replacing the Brazen Altar – 5.30.08

Just this morning I read the interesting narrative of Ahaz, king of Judah, recorded in 2 Kings 16. I'd ask you to take a few minutes to carefully read the 7 verses below, then we'll focus in on how it applies to our lives today.

10. And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.

11. And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus.

12. And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon.

13. And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar.

14. And he brought also the brazen altar, which was before the Lord, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of the altar.

15. And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brazen altar shall be for me to enquire by.

16. Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded.

Did you catch what happened? King Ahaz is on a business trip in Damascus. He's holding peace talks with the king of Assyria. While there, he sees this heathen altar he really likes and sends back word to Urijah to build him one just like it. Urijah gets the word and has the altar built before the king returns.

It'd be bad enough if the story ended there. But it doesn't. Ahaz proceeded to take this heathen altar into the house of God AND replace the brazen altar with it.

But notice that he didn't get rid of the brazen altar. He set it aside…just in case he might need to enquire of the Lord.

Now, God had given Moses the pattern of this brazen altar back in Exodus 27. It was on this altar that the priests were to offer the various offerings and sacrifices as prescribed by the law. And I believe Ahaz knew all of that. If there was nothing special about the brazen altar why keep it to enquire by? Why not enquire by the Damascus altar you're using for the sacrifices?

Do you see the application to our lives? God has given us specific instructions in His word. He has revealed HIS WILL to us in the pages of the Holy Bible (Ephesians 1:9; 5:17). We do know, or at least we can know, what's right. We do know, or at least we can know, God's way.

But don't we oftentimes do just exactly what Ahaz did? Don't we replace God's way with our own…because we like our way better? But we'll not throw the brazen altar (God's way) in the scrapheap. We'll keep it close by somewhere just in case we need to "enquire of the Lord." We'll do our own thing and go our own way and ignore what God said. That is, until trouble comes. Until difficulties arise. Until we're in special need of direction. Then we'll bring back in the brazen altar. Then we'll seek the Lord. Then we'll walk the straight and narrow.

Young person, it's wrong. It's wrong. It's wrong! And God does not accept it. To get His blessings, you've got to go His way. Amen.

And one more note. Verse 16 says, Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded. Probably the most troubling aspect of this whole situation is that THE religious leader of the nation of Israel went along with all of it. Likewise today, there are "men of God" who have replaced the Bible with business models and psychological theories and will condone just about any way you want to live as long as you say you love the Lord and are doing it for God (Ahaz was offering sacrifices on his Damascus altar). But that didn't make it right back then, and it doesn't make it right today.

God's way is perfect. Stick with that.

The Ultimate Cause – 5.27.08

And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? (1 Samuel 17:29)

For hundreds of years Christians have rallied around the question David asked here in 1 Samuel 17…Is there not a cause? And for the believer, the definitive answer is a resounding, "YES!" There is a cause. And what a blessing, what a privilege it is to be part of the greatest "cause" in history – the cause of Christ – the evangelization of the world, the exaltation of the Son of God, the edification of the saints of God, etc., etc.

Now, when we read the above passage, I believe most of us assume that the "cause" David refers to is the defeat of that giant Philistine by the name of Goliath. At least that's what I've assumed every other time I've heard this passage preached or read it for myself. But that actually does not seem to fit the context of the statement.

Here's the preceding verse, 1 Samuel 17:28…And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? And with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.

So in the context, when David answers in verse 29 with his famous question, Is there not a cause?, he is actually defending himself in response to Eliab's accusation that he was there at the battle scene that day for the entirely wrong reason. Nothing more. Nothing less. David is being accused by his elder brother and pleading his own innocence.

A reading of the entire chapter would reveal the real reason David was present. He was doing as his father Jesse had commanded him (v. 20). He was there to take some food to his brothers and to see how they were doing (vv. 17-18). And he had indeed left the sheep with a keeper (v. 20).

Here's where I'm going with this...

The "cause" David referred to in verse 29 was not necessarily taking down Goliath…it was obeying his dad. Contrary to whatever Eliab might have said, David was there that day because he was doing what his father had told him to do.

And that is the ultimate cause. The cause of OBEDIENCE. We read it not long ago, To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Young person…old person, God requires nothing more and nothing less than your OBEDIENCE.

And…when we are OBEDIENT, God will put is in the right place at the right time to do the job He has for us to do…just like David here in 1 Samuel 17. Think about it, we would never have learned about David and Goliath in Sunday school had David not been faithful to complete the small task his father had given him. And we'll never fulfill God's intended purpose for our lives if we're not faithful to the little things He commands.

Don't waste your time worrying about missing the "unknown" will of God for your life. Busy yourself being OBEDIENT to what He has already told you to do. And if you're faithful to do THAT…then make no mistake, God will direct your steps. He'll lead you and guide you and bless you and keep you.

This is what the Bible means when it says, In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:6). This is what the Bible means when it says, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). This is what the Bible means when it says, Order my steps in thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me (Psalm 119:133).

Obedience – the ultimate cause.