31 March 2009

Beneficial Displeasure – 3.31.09

1 Kings 1:6 And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.

The above statement is made regarding a man by the name of Adonijah – a son of David who got ambitious as his father drew near to death and made an attempt to claim the throne (Solomon was the rightful heir). And what a sad statement it is.

Reminds me of a man named Eli. He was a high priest in Israel not long before the days of King David, and he was father to two wicked sons by the name of Hophni and Phinehas. The Bible says they were sons of Belial. According to 1 Samuel 3:13 God told him that He would judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

With that in mind, I've just got a quick thought for today. I want to thank God for parents who weren't afraid of displeasing me. I want to thank God for a mom and dad who restrained me – whether I liked it or not – instead of letting me do my own thing and make myself vile. Praise the Lord I was brought up in a home where my parents didn't "love" me so much that they failed to chasten me while there was still hope (Proverbs 19:18). I'm so glad that the way my parents raised me didn't give me the idea that God's love meant that He would not judge my sin.

There were definitely many times when I despised and resented the rules, the restrictions, the standards, what I perceived as missed opportunities, and blamed my parents for what I looked at as a deprived adolescent-hood (no, I didn't just make up that word). But today I regret the grief and the gray hairs I'm sure I caused and thank God for all the things I was deprived of.

So parents hang in there. And young people, realize that one day you'll thank God for the things your parents do that make you roll your eyes or grit your teeth – and the sooner the better.

27 March 2009

Samuel’s Sermon II – 3.27.09

1 Samuel 12:24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Some further thoughts on Samuel's sermon. Reasons I ought to sell out to God:

  • Everything I have comes from Him (Acts 17:28; 1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:17; Psalm 145:16). I'm simply a steward of the blessings He's bestowed upon me.
  • Jesus Christ gave His all for me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:14-15). He left the glories of heaven to spend 33½ years walking this sin-cursed earth then laid down His life willingly on a cross – not for His sin (He had none) but for mine. Why? Because He loved me and wanted to forgive me and allow me to enjoy eternity with Him in heaven.
  • He richly rewards those who follow Him – both in this life and the next (1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Corinthians 2:9-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
  • All else is vanity – empty, meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:14; Mark 8:36; Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). The devil's a liar and a destroyer. What he offers just doesn't last long, and it'll hurt you in the end (Hebrews 11:25; 1 Peter 5:8).
  • He's a lot smarter than I am (Job 36:4, 17; Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 55:8-9). He knows and wants what's best for me (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30; Matthew 6:8; Hebrews 4:14-16). I'd be best off following Him (Proverbs 3:5-6; Ephesians 1:11).
  • There's a world full of people – including your friends, your relatives, people you care about – who are lost and dying and going to hell (Psalm 9:17; Luke 13:3; John 3:18-19; 2 Peter 3:9). Somebody has to warn them (Ecclesiastes 3:17; Amos 4:12; Mark 16:15; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Colossians 1:28)!

What's holding YOU back?

24 March 2009

A Good Question – 3.24.09

Been thinking about a good question that was raised a couple weeks ago as our Sunday school class studied the account in Luke 7 of a woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her hair and her tears and anointed His feet with precious ointment. Below is a summary of the account in each of the 4 gospels.

MATTHEW 26:1-16

  • Two days prior to Passover
  • In Bethany at the house of Simon the leper
  • In the house of Simon the leper
  • A woman with an alabaster box of very precious ointment pours it on His head
  • The disciples' indignation because much money could've been given to the poor
  • Judas agrees to sell the Lord and begins seeking opportunity to betray Him

MARK 14:1-11

  • Two days prior to the Passover feast
  • In Bethany at Simon's house
  • A woman with an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard brake the box and poured the ointment on Jesus' head
  • Some had indignation at what they perceived to be a waste
  • Judas agrees to betray Jesus and begins seeking a convenient time to do so

LUKE 7:36-8:3

  • Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to supper
  • A woman in the city, a sinner, brought an alabaster box of ointment
  • She stood behind Jesus weeping then washed his feet with her tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head
  • Kissed His feet then anointed His feet with ointment
  • Simon offended that Jesus allows a sinner to touch Him
  • Jesus tells the story about the two debtors
  • Jesus forgives the woman's sins
  • Jesus goes throughout every city and village preaching, followed by Mary Magdalene

JOHN 12:1-20

  • In Bethany they made him a supper and Martha served
  • Mary (of Bethany) took a pound of ointment, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped His feet with her hair
  • Judas (Simon's son) is indignant not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief
  • Jews came to see not only Jesus but Lazarus, the man He raised from the dead
  • Triumphal entry the next day
  • Greeks are present to worship at the feast
  • Chapters 13-17 in the upper room on the eve of Jesus' crucifixion

The timeframe, the location, and many of the details line up in the Matthew, Mark, and John accounts. The main difference would be – as was pointed out in class – that in Matthew the ointment is poured on Jesus' head and in John His feet are anointed. While both could definitely be true of the same event, it is instructive to recognize why Matthew would choose to record the anointing of Jesus' head (his gospel shows Jesus as King of the Jews) and why John would write of Mary's anointing Jesus' feet (his gospel shows Jesus as the Son of God – deserving of worship).

It seems to me, however, that what we read in Luke is, in fact, a separate account. Remember that Luke – like Mark and unlike Matthew and John – is written chronologically (Luke 1:1-4). And though Jesus is at the house of the same man, and a woman anoints Him with precious ointment, the events recorded fall far prior to 2 days before the Passover. You will also notice that Judas' indignation at the "waste" and his agreement to betray the Lord are missing. Rather the indignation is on the part of Simon (probably Judas' father) and is due to the fact that Jesus allowed a sinner to handle Him in such a manner. Also, only Luke mentions the tears of the woman, which were used to wash Jesus' feet. In John, the ointment is what Mary wipes with her hair.

While John makes it clear that the woman in the Matthew and Mark accounts is Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, the identity of the sinner woman in Luke 7 is unclear. Many have linked this woman with the Mary Magdalene mentioned in 8:2, but with no conclusive evidence to support the claim, we can only consider it an interesting possibility.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

20 March 2009

Bible Rejecters – 3.20.09

1 Samuel 15:22-23 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

You know the background. Saul is commanded by God to completely destroy the Amalekites. But when Samuel pays a visit, he finds that the best of the sheep and oxen – as well as King Agag – have been spared. Saul tries to excuse his incomplete obedience by saying that the sheep and oxen were kept so they could be sacrificed to the Lord.

Of course, Samuel responds in verse 22 with the famous statement, to obey is better than sacrifice. In verse 23, he equates rebellion and stubbornness with witchcraft and idolatry.

But what jumped out at me last time I read this passage was what Samuel equated Saul's partial obedience with – thou hast rejected the word of the Lord.

Now, I assume that the great majority of those who read this believe strongly that the Bible is the word of God and would quickly contend with anybody who would deny it – and rightly so. But the question we have to be careful to ask ourselves is this: Is that something we say we believe, or is that something we really believe?

You see, if we really believe the Bible is the word of Almighty God, and we really believe that He is Who He says He is – all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful – then we'll obey what He says. Simple as that.

But ignoring the clear commandments and principles we find in scripture (BOTH what we ought to do be doing and what we ought not be doing) says to God that we just really don't think He knows what He's talking about.

Romans 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie… Most of us would never dream of using a version that deletes some 64,000 words (like the NIV). We might even go so far as to label those who would defend such a (per)version of the scriptures a Bible rejecter, and I'm not saying we shouldn't. What I'm saying is that we need to be mindful of the fact that God views our incomplete obedience much the same way.

Are YOU a Bible rejecter?

17 March 2009

Samuel’s Sermon – 3.17.09

The prophet Samuel was God's faithful servant all the days of his life. For the greater part of his ministry, Israel was still a Theocracy – God ruled over the nation. Samuel provided leadership during that time and is often considered the last of the judges. But in 1 Samuel 8, the people expressed their desire for a king to reign over them "like all the other nations." When Samuel took the matter to the Lord he was told that the people had not rejected him but had rejected God's rule over them.

God warned the people what their desire for a king would lead to, but the people ignored Him, and God gave them what they wanted. Saul is anointed in chapters 9-10 and leads Israel into battle in chapter 11.

In 1 Samuel 12, Samuel addresses the nation and reproves them for rejecting God's rule over them (v. 12). He calls down thunder and rain on the day of wheat harvest, proving to Israel their great wickedness (vv. 17-18). The people become fearful and ask Samuel to pray for them (v. 19).

Samuel's response is instructive, and it'd do us well to familiarize ourselves with the simple, all-important truths laid out in his sermon:

1 Samuel 12:20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;

Samuel reminds them that past failures are no excuse to go on failing but provide reason to get up and keep pressing toward the mark (Proverbs 24:16; Philippians 3:14).

1 Samuel 12:21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.

Samuel reminds them of the emptiness, the vanity, the meaninglessness of following anything or anyone but the Lord (Ecclesiastes 1:14; John 6:68; 2 Corinthians 4:18; Mark 8:36-37).

1 Samuel 12:22, 24 For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people…Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

Being mindful of the Lord's love, His provision, and His promise to never forsake us are enough to make us want to keep giving Him our all (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 4:19).

1 Samuel 12:23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:

May we be faithful to pray for one another, to encourage and exhort one another – that God would plant these simple truths in our minds and burn them in our hearts and keep us walking in the light of His truth (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 25; Hebrews 3:13; 1 Timothy 4:12).

12 March 2009

It Just Makes Sense – 3.12.09

Jeremiah 7:8-10 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?

As I read through books like Jeremiah that describe the horrible spiritual condition the Jewish people were in, I am often shocked to realize how often we as Christians are guilty of the very same things.

Take this passage for instance. The Jews Jeremiah preached to thought that being one of God's chosen people and showing up every now and then in the right place of worship justified the wicked lives that they were living.

I believe it's safe to say that such an attitude is prevalent in the churches of America. And it shouldn't come as any surprise. The church has failed to heed the warning in Jude 1:4 about certain men who would creep in unawares and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness – that is, use God's free gift of salvation as an excuse to live whatever kind of life you want.

There may not be much we can do about the sad state of "Christianity" in America, but what we can do and what we need to do is determine whether or not there any traces of such an attitude in our own hearts.

Now, you ought to be a Christian, and you ought to go to the right kind of church – one that believes and preaches the word of God, without apology. Not only that, you ought to be involved in the outreach ministry of that church just as much as possible.

But God's not OK with your just being a Christian, going to the right church, and participating in the evangelism every now and then – IF you think that means you're OK and/or use it as an excuse to pursue the course you've charted out for your own life.

Young person, I'm so glad you're in the right kind of church, and I praise God for every time you join us in spreading the gospel message to your community. But God wants more than that. God deserves more than that. He wants your heart. He expects and He accepts nothing less than absolute surrender to HIS WILL for your life.

The fact that God Almighty sent His Son to die for our sins so He could offer us a free gift of eternal life and put us into His church is not an excuse to do whatever you want with your life. When you think about it, it's actually a really good reason to do whatever HE WANTS with your life.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

11 March 2009

On Taking Correction – 3.11.09

Jeremiah 8:4-6 Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.

Jeremiah is one of my favorite Bible characters. He prophesied during the final days of the kingdom of Judah. The nation had long ago forsaken their God and His law, and the consequences for doing so were just about to fall. Before the end of Jeremiah's ministry, the nation was taken captive into Babylon.

The sad thing is that it didn't have to be that way. As we read through the Old Testament and watch God's chosen people drift further and further away from Him, we also read of how God in His grace and in His mercy sent His prophets to warn the people and urge them to repent so His judgment would not have to fall.

Problem was 2 Chronicles 36:16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.

Now, I hope you won't misunderstand what I'm about to say, but I believe we as Christians must understand this. I believe that God anticipates our failures and our shortcomings. I don't think the fact that we fall flat on our faces – often – takes Him at all by surprise. Psalm 103:14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

Yes, He hates sin. Yes, He must deal with sin in your life and in my life. But know that God is not sitting up in heaven with a lightning bolt ready waiting to strike it down in your direction should you happen to step out of line. He knows you are going to step out of line, and He'll definitely chasten you for it. But like He did with Israel, what He's going to do FIRST is give you some space to REPENT.

He's going to send some correction through His word, through His Holy Spirit, through your pastor, through your parents, through a Christian friend. He's going to give you an opportunity – many opportunities – to get your shortcomings straightened out and to make things right.

Why was Judah's backsliding perpetual? Why did they sink deeper and deeper into sin – to the point of no return? Why did God's judgment fall upon them in the harshest of ways? Because in their pride, they refused to repent. They simply could not – rather they would not – take correction.

Brother, sister, God knows you're not perfect. He's commanded you to work at it, and He expects you to involve yourself in the process. But He knows that you're human. He knows that you're going to fall. That's not an excuse to sin. That's a good reason to humble yourself and decide that you need correction, and when God sends it, you're going to respond the right way. Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again...

The number one factor in your Christian growth will be your ability to properly take correction. Bro. James made that statement in a sermon he preached on Cain not long ago (click here to listen), and I believe he nailed it. God knows we're not perfect. The sooner we recognize that and quit excusing that and allow Him to help us remedy that, the better off we'll be.

06 March 2009

Balaam – 3.6.09

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is full of examples – both good and bad – for the purpose of showing us, among other things, God's judgment on the wicked and His blessing on the righteous.

One such example on the negative side is found in the (true) story of a man named Balaam in Numbers 22-24. His error is obvious to anyone who reads the account. Jude 1:11 identifies it as as running greedily after reward. 2 Peter 2:15 says he loved the wages of unrighteousness.

His story is a perfect illustration of the truth of 1 Timothy 6:9-10 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Here's the gist of the record. The nation of Israel is advancing on their way into Canaan, and Balak, the king of Moab, wants to hire ($$) Balaam the prophet to pronounce a curse upon them. Balaam took the matter to the Lord and had to refuse the offer because God had already blessed Israel.

But Balak wouldn't take no for an answer. So he sent to Balaam a second time and stepped up the pressure by sending more honorable princes and offering a more sizable reward. When Balaam takes the matter to the Lord again in Numbers 22:18-20, he is told that he can go with the men unto Balak, but he can only speak the words that God gives him.

Then the Bible says that when he got up in the morning and went with them, God's anger was kindled against Balaam (vv. 21-22). I didn't quite understand why that was so when it seemed that God had given the OK in v. 20.

But what I failed to notice was that the approval God granted (v. 20) was a conditional one – If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them…

In v. 21, Balaam rises up and goes, BUT THERE'S NEVER ANY MENTION OF THE CONDITION OF GOD'S APPROVAL BEING MET. And so God's anger was rightly kindled.

It's pretty obvious that Balaam's mind was made up as to what he wanted to do (get the reward $$), and he was looking for any excuse to go forward with his own desires.

He got the excuse he was looking for, and there's not much doubt that he was compensated for his service (he couldn't curse Israel, but he did help Balak Revelation 2:14 cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication).

In looking to this example, may we be reminded to approach God and His word with an honest and humble heart that says Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. And may we be reminded the rewards God grants to the faithful far outweigh the destruction (1 Timothy 6:9-10) that comes with the wages of unrighteousness.

03 March 2009

The Man God Hated – 3.3.09

Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

A Calvinist is one who believes that before God ever created man, He ordained some to salvation and eternal life and others to damnation and eternal death. Such a doctrine is obviously not supported by scripture but is simply a belief system forced upon the word of God by a misinterpretation of certain passages, such as the one above (which is a quote from Malachi 1:2-3).

God did not make a sovereign decree of hatred toward Esau before time began. In fact, His reasons for doing so were anything but arbitrary.

Deuteronomy 7:9-10 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.

We love God because He first loved us, right (1 John 4:19)? Do you know why God hates certain people (Psalm 5:5)? BECAUSE THEY HATED HIM FIRST! He repayeth them that hate him to their face.

Let me show you why God hated Esau.

  • Hebrews 12:16 says he was a fornicator and a profane person.
  • Genesis 25:34 says that he despised his birthright – that is the blessings to which He was entitled as a result of His grandfather's (Abraham) covenant with GOD – and sold it for a mess of pottage.
  • Genesis 27:36 says He was only concerned about the physical blessings he thought he had coming his way.
  • Genesis 26:34-35 says that Esau took 2 Hittite wives unto Himself, which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
  • In Genesis 28:6-9 he took another Canaanite wife simply out of spite to his parents.

Nice guy, huh?

Now, I said earlier that God hates those who hate Him first. And now I've showed you what a rotten slob Esau was. But I don't have any verses that say Esau hated God. What I do have is a statement made by Jesus Christ in John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. Based on that statement, I would argue that Esau's pattern of rebellion against the commands of God was evidence of the condition of his heart – one that warranted a return of God's hatred toward him.

Cross-reference Deuteronomy 7:9-10 with 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

According to both promises, God is not slack concerning His promise – that is He cannot and He will not withhold rightful judgment from the sinner – but it is never His desire, it was never His plan for any to perish in the flames of eternal hell.

Esau could've been forgiven. Esau could've been restored. But he sought the blessing, not repentance (Hebrews 12:17). In like manner, the wicked people God hates (Psalm 7:11) could be forgiven if they'd only turn back in repentance to the One they've offended (Acts 3:19). Problem is they refuse to do so.

Psalm 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.