Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....

People are so goofy. Below is an article about a "minister" (I use that term loosely) who allegedly stole funds from the Southern Baptist International Missionary Board. He has been allegedly caught stealing again. It appears that he was not prosecuted the first time.

Let me just say, fraudsters ALWAYS re-offend if they are not punished. Professional journals are replete with these kinds of stories. Churches or ministries who catch folks stealing from them want to show mercy to the guilty party a la Jesus' words to the adulteress "Go and sin no more". Trust me, you're not helping them. The only thing that is going to help a goofball like this guy is some time in a 6x8 cell with some big ol' boy named Bubba. That, by the way, is my professional opinion.

GULF SHORES, Ala. (ABP) -- The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention declined to press criminal embezzlement charges in 2005 against a man now accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an Alabama insurance scam.According to legal documents obtained by the Mobile Press-Register , the IMB won a judgment of $359,499.62 against Benton Gray Harvey on March 15, 2005. Associated Baptist Press has learned that Harvey, who went as a missionary by the name of Gray Harvey, was financial accountant for a Baptist outpost in Istanbul, Turkey.IMB trustees fired Harvey over allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for earthquake relief and reportedly decided against pressing charges citing concerns for missionary safety.

The board settled the case for the amount of loss that could be documented -- though some observers believe the amount actually missing could be larger -- and pledged not to talk about the settlement.Wade Burleson, a former IMB trustee who joined the board after fellow trustees accepted the secrecy pact, said he argued vehemently at his first trustee meeting that the IMB had "a moral obligation" to file criminal charges to no avail.

A receptionist answering the phone Monday at Starfish Insurance Agency in Gulf Shores, Ala., said the business owner had no idea about the IMB's judgment against Harvey when she hired him about two years ago and that if prosecuted he probably would not have been employed because he would be in jail.According to newspaper reports, Harvey and his alleged partner-in-crime, Jonathan W. Adams, cannot be located and may be out of the country. The two former Starfish employees vanished last summer from a condo they shared as roommates, leaving food in the refrigerator and toiletries in the bathroom.

Police say the duo swindled coastal residents by selling fake insurance policies for homes that most insurance companies don't want to cover because they are susceptible to damage by hurricanes. Police believe Harvey was the mastermind, forging documents that he downloaded from the Internet.Wendy Norvelle, an IMB spokesperson, said Monday that Gray Harvey worked with the mission board from November 1998 until September 2003, but she would have to speak with legal counsel and/or administrators before discussing details of the case."What gets my goat is that charges were not filed by the IMB,"

Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., said Monday. He said he argued unsuccessfully that Southern Baptists should have been informed of the embezzlement allegations, even if it meant shutting down mission work in a particular area. "We didn't want people to know," he said of the board majority.Burleson said IMB administrators stumbled onto the problem by accident, when a visitor to the building managed by Harvey decided to use an elevator for which he remembered approving funds, only to learn that it was never installed.

At the 2004 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., Ron McGowin, at the time youth minister at First Baptist Church in Fairfield, Texas, made a motion seeking an "external comprehensive audit" of funds handled by the IMB's Central Asia region between 1995 and 2005 because he had been told the IMB "at best could only account for $372,831.62 of embezzled monies."The following year the IMB responded to his referred motion by confirming "there was both an audit as well as supplemental procedures accomplished by a qualified certified public accountant regarding Central Asia finances."

"The results of these audit procedures were fully disclosed to the board of trustees of the IMB in November 2004, and appropriate action was taken, the official response continued.Asked last year in San Antonio why the trustees decided against an external audit, IMB President Jerry Rankin told McGowin and other messengers that that an internal audit had been performed, as well as an audit by an outside firm."The trustees were involved in the thorough review of this," Rankin said. "Policies have been put in place to prevent this from happening again."Rankin assured messengers that the board honored its "fiscal responsibility to the convention."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

II Peter 1:10a Christian Growth and Assurance

I can remember when I got saved that I wasn’t discipled very well. I don’t say that as a fault to the church that I got saved in because on the whole Southern Baptist Churches don’t do a very good job of discipling new converts. One of my problems when I first got saved is that when I would sin I would feel as though I had lost my salvation and that I needed to get re-saved. Of course, we know as we read scripture that believers are eternally secure in Jesus Christ and cannot lose their salvation. However, there are other Christians who face the same problem I did and need assurance of their salvation. Peter, in this verse, teaches that we can as Christians have a strong assurance of our salvation. In fact, we can participate in giving ourselves that assurance.

Peter, as we noted in out study of the previous verses, has taught these believers that God has given them everything they need to develop and mature in their faith in His word. They have the tools so they should get to work and do the job. They should seek to exercise their godly characteristics with the help of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Those who do not progress spiritually are proving that they are either not saved or that their spiritual growth has been stunted. In light of these two alternatives, Peter says “Therefore, brethren”. He speaks to them in loving tones and reminds them that they should respond to the truth that he has taught them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Instead of being like someone who is “blind or short-sighted” they should respond out of love as a result of the truth that has been revealed to them. Therefore, he gives them a command.

He tells them to “be all the more diligent”. The word translated “diligent” is “spoudazo” (4704). The word means to give regular, intense effort to a task—to work at something wholeheartedly. It was used to describe an athlete straining all the muscles in his body to win an event. Living a godly life is not going to be easy. To the contrary, it takes supreme effort and sacrifice. Instead of living a life of lazy Christianity, Peter calls these believers to exercise their spiritual muscles. The word is in the imperative in Greek. In other words, Peter isn’t making a suggestion here. This is a command. Don’t just sit there—let’s get to work, brothers and sisters.

What should we be diligent about? To what end should we exert this effort Peter has called for us to make? He says that we are to “make certain about His calling and choosing” of us. In the Greek, the phrase “make certain” is stated in such a way as if to say “you yourselves make certain”. We are called to begin and participate in the action. We are not to passively sit by but rather we are to be involved in obtaining this assurance Peter is speaking of in this verse. By exercising the godly characteristics that he mentions in the previous verses under the influence and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can have assurance of our salvation. Let’s face it, the qualities Peter describes in verses 5-7 and not things that are going to start showing up in our lives in increasing quantities on their own. If we see them, exercise them, and they are increasing it is due to the work of God in our lives. It doesn’t just happen on it’s own. We can tell in our own lives that we belong to God because of the kind of lives that we live.

While we can rejoice in the fruit we see in our lives based on the mighty work of God we can also be humbled when we recognize that our salvation and growth as children of God was not the result of our own choice to come to faith in Christ but rather it is a result of God’s “calling and choosing” us. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. Every human heart is bent on rebellion and does not want to nor can it come to God. We were the lost sheep. We were the lost coin. We did not go seeking for God but rather He called us to Himself for His own glory and because it was His will to do so. He chose us before the foundation of the world. Our salvation and growth as a Christian is ultimately the result of a Holy and Sovereign God who chose to show grace and mercy to creatures who deserved punishment in hell. Praise His holy name.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Matthew 5:23-26 Be Reconciled

Jesus, in Matthew 5:21-22, taught how sinful anger was the spiritual equivalent of murder. Certainly, that is a much higher standard than most people would care to have applied to them. Sin isn’t just something we do externally but it is a matter of the heart and our inner attitudes. However, anger is a two way street. Or more precisely, there are at least two parties involved-the person who is angry and the object of that anger. Ultimately, Christ teaches us in these verses that reconciliation is of paramount importance when a relationship is strained by angry feelings regardless if we are the angry party or the object of someone’s ire.

First of all, Jesus teaches us that unresolved anger affects our worship. Notice that He says “if you are presenting your offering at the altar”. The altar in the temple was at the heart of the temple and bringing an offering was required at times and at other times was freewill. However, both kinds of offerings were supposed to be brought with the right heart attitude. During any time of worship we should engage in some time of introspection. Are our motives pure? Do we have unconfessed sin in our lives? We should also ask “Are any of my relationships strained?” During this time of reflection, the Holy Spirit is able to bring to our mind things that might hinder our worship of the heavenly Father. One of those things is a broken or strained relationship.

We see that the Lord has in mind a broken or strained relationship in the word picture He paints. The scene He describes is of us preparing to worship when the Holy Spirit causes us to “remember that your brother has something against you”. See, here’s the thing that we must take notice of and this is something I don’t think I’ve ever thought about before I sat down to write this post. Jesus doesn’t say that we remember that we have done something to someone else but rather we remember that they have something against us. Does that mean that they have a legitimate claim? Not necessarily. I can remember when I served on staff at a particular church in Alabama that there was one member who only had two problems with me—just two little problems. They were “Everything that I did” and “Everything that I said”. Now were there times that I was wrong—I’m sure there were. But I feel quite comfortable saying that most of the stuff she got her knickers in a twist about were things that she assumed she could read my mind and know the motivation of my heart neither of which she could do. However, the point our Lord makes is not that we have actually done something but rather that we remember that someone has something against us. In this context, the term brother does not seem to indicate “fellow believer” but probably has more a sense “the brotherhood of mankind”. In any case, if we know someone has something against us we should not wait for them to come to us but we should take the initiative. Reconciliation is that important to God.

Christ then calls us to go and “be reconciled” to our brother. On the audit that I just finished, there were numerous financial schedules that I had to examine. Several times, the numbers that should have matched did not match, Total Additions to Buildings for example, should have agreed between two of the schedules but they did not. I had to find what the difference was between them so I could say they were reconciled. Was there still a difference when I finished? Yes. However, the disagreement between the two schedules was now resolved because it was explained. If someone is angry with you and you make the attempt to reconcile, they may not want to reconcile the difference. Also, you may have a difference where you simply have to “agree to disagree”. Observe that Christ here does not say that we are responsible for their reaction only that we are responsible for initiating the attempt to be reconciled. We should be willing to humble ourselves and do what we can do to bring peace back the relationship. When we do that, we can proceed with our worship.

In verse 25, Jesus moves from a religious arena to a civil one. He exhorts us to “Make friends quickly” with someone who has a legal claim against us. I have never been sued and I am grateful for that. However, I did have an occasion to sue someone once. A gentleman passed me illegally on a road and hit my vehicle. He promised to pay for the repairs but he never did. I went to the courthouse and took out the paper to have a suit brought against him. When he got the paperwork, he came to my house to attempt to make things right. I worked with him and we settled the matter out of court. It was less expensive for him and less time consuming for me.

Here, Jesus is saying that if someone has a legal claim on us for something, we need to get that settled as quickly as we can because there are going to be consequences if we don’t. He continues in verses 25 and 26 to describe what would have been the legal penalties in that day. The point of the matter is this—we need to live at peace with people to the extent that we are able and we need to be willing to sacrifice to achieve that peace if necessary. Failure to do so can bring consequences not only from man (legally) but from God (spiritually).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas-Luke 2:11

I pray that you are having a blessed Christmas time with your family and that you were blessed by giving and receiving gifts in the presence of your loved ones. However, let’s make sure as we celebrate this day that we remember what the real reason for the season is—the birth of Jesus.

In the 2nd chapter of his gospel account, Luke writes that an angel of the Lord announced to some shepherds that the Messiah had arrived right then-in the present tense, at that very moment. Notice in verse 11 the angel says “today”. The Jewish people had been waiting for years for the Messiah to arrive. On that blessed night so many years ago, those shepherds were told the waiting was over. Finally, after all those years the Lord had come just as He had promised. Redemption was no longer just some far off concept but now was a present tense reality.

Not only that, but the angel told the shepherds that that didn’t have to take some else’s word for it—they could go themselves and be in the presence of the Messiah. The angel told them the Messiah was in “the city of David” or Bethlehem. These men would not have to make a long, arduous journey fraught with peril to see Jesus but rather He was very near to them. They didn’t have to imagine what seeing the Lord would be like but instead they could be in His presence themselves since they were so close.

Furthermore, these men were told that God had given the world a gift—in my mind it was the first Christmas present. As Psalm 127:3 says “Children are a gift of the Lord” these men were told that in Bethlehem a baby had been born. There are people who are not able to have children. That is a difficult situation and is most painful. People in that situation come to realize that only God can give a couple children and that when someone does have a child that God has given them a wonderful gift. God, in sending Jesus, gave the world the most generous present He could give.

These shepherds were also told this gift was personal. The child had been born “for you” the angel had said. If you are going to accept this love gift from God, you must personally accept it. I had a good friend of mine in youth group when I was a young man. I asked him about his testimony and he said “Oh, I’m a Christian. My parents are real strong in the Lord.” Friends, that’s not how it works. If Jesus is your Lord you must personally submit to Him. You don’t have a saving relationship with Him because of how strong or weak your parent’s faith was or the faith of anyone else. You must come to Christ yourself.

And you must come to Christ for salvation. You need salvation from the sickness that is in your soul. Each and every person is born with an incurable spiritual cancer—the cancer of sin. There is nothing you or any other person you know can do. However, God has a prescription for your sickness. As the angel told these shepherds that this baby had been born as a “Savior”. He can to rescue people who were unable to save themselves. By living a perfect life and dying on a cross He paid the price for sin. The sickness of sin that is deadly to your soul can be cured. God, on account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection forgives sinners when they repent and place their faith and trust in Jesus.

Jesus was able to provide this salvation because He had the power to do so. The angel tells the shepherds that Jesus was “Christ the Lord”. As Christ, He was anointed by God to carry out the mission of salvation. But God had used people through all human history and continues to do so. While the position of Christ (the Greek word for Messiah) was special and unique to Jesus that is not the only title He bore. He was also Lord—God in human flesh. He was as much God as God ever was even though He willingly gave up the right to act as God apart from the will of the Father. Because He was fully God, He had the power to provide the cure for sin by becoming the atonement for sin on Calvary’s cross.

Friends, this is the story of Christmas. Not that we loved God but rather that He loved us. All people are called to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus for salvation. The true hope of the holidays is that God is a forgiving God and that Jesus is the one who died to provide that forgiveness.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Patricia!!!

Today is a very special day in our household. My wonderful, beautiful, sweet, smart wife is having a birthday today. Now, I'm not nearly stupid enough to post her age on here so you'll be in the dark about that but you can all still wish her a happy birthday just the same. We're going to do cake and let her have a day of it. Me, Annie, and Trey love her and think she is the bestestest in the whole wide world.

Happy Birthday, honey!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Post; Mathew 2:9-11

This is the final post in my series on Matthew 2. I pray just as the magi found what they were looking for and rejoice that you too will find joy in this season where we celebrate the birth of Christ.


There is nothing in the universe that will satisfy the human heart like Jesus. People try to find the ultimate pleasure in success, money, physical relationships, power, possessions, and many other things. However, the only way to truly enjoy life to the fullest and find true, lasting satisfaction is in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only when we humble ourselves and worship Him as our God will we ever truly feel lasting joy. In our scripture passage today, the wise men from the east find just that kind of joy when they find and worship the Lord Jesus.

As we read the scripture, we find that after they conversed with Herod the Great as to how long the star had been appearing, they left immediately. Verse 9 records that when they had heard the king, they departed. These guys were on a mission. They were focused and persistent. They had made a long, probably dangerous, journey and they were very close to their goal. As we read earlier in this chapter, these men had come on this journey to worship God. As impressive as Herod’s court likely was to these foreign dignitaries, it was not enough to delay them from their ultimate goal,

We also note in that verse that these men searched persistently. The verse records that the star which they had seen in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young Child was. These wise men had followed this star all the way from the east and knew it to be a supernatural sign from God that pointed to the birthplace of the Messiah. They persistently followed this sign. This sign was available to all the citizens of Jerusalem and certainly to the religious leaders. However, these Jews were not the ones to go and greet the Messiah. Instead, these Gentile astrologers were the ones followed this star to the King of kings.

Because they had found the One they were looking for, they were overcome with happiness and rejoiced with exceedingly great joy as Matthew records in verse 10. They weren’t just happy to have found Him. They had joy on top of joy. They were ecstatic. We can imagine these men having spent their whole life pursuing meaningless, empty truth. At some point, they must have been able to read and learn the Hebrew Scriptures because they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. At some point, they felt a desire to search for the Truth and find the God who would come as Messiah. While we do not have recorded the particulars of how or why they began their search, they must have gone in response to the Word of God. They found the fulfillment of the prophecies they had read and were overjoyed.

Their joy is ultimately expressed in their worship. Worship should be a natural expression of our love for God. These men, upon seeing God in human flesh, fell down and worshipped Him. We see in verse 11 as much as anywhere the true motivation behind the journey of these men. Yes, we had heard them say they were here to worship, but here we see them express their feelings by their actions. I know in churches sometimes people will stand with the congregation during the hymns and not sing. Perhaps they feel that singing is reserved for those who have beautiful voices. I submit to you that after what God has done for us by choosing us and sending His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins, we should sing no matter how we sound. We should worship through our giving, through our service, and through out attention as His Word is preached to us. Praise God for the example of these Gentile men who fell prostrate before our Lord and worshipped Him as God Almighty. We also observe that they gave Him gifts that recognized His Kingship, His Priesthood, and His role as sacrifice by giving him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should reflect on their sacrificial giving and recognize that worship is only truly worship when it is performed out of love from a heart that is thankful. When we remember the grace of God and how He drew us to Himself, our hearts should rejoice as these men’s hearts did and that joy should overflow into love and praise for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 22, 2008

James Dobson-A Christmas Fruitcake

You know, I've always thought James Dobson was a pretty goofy old dude. I mean that in the nicest way, of course. My wife and I have observed on more than one ocassion that the subject of his radio broadcast has turned more than once to pornography even when he was talking about something else. You're like "Where in the snot did that come from?" After seeing the article at this link, I'm pretty much done with him. Glen Beck, who is given exposure on the website which is maintained by Focus on the Family, is a mormon. Now, to say that Mormon's are Christians is about the most absurd thing you can say. They have a different god (their god used to be a man), a different jesus (their jesus was not god but was a created being), and a different gospel (you have to do good works to get to heaven). Further, the "angel" that revealed this stuff to Joseph Smith was called Moroni. Get it? Moroni. That has got to be Satan's idea of a practical joke. However, it's not funny but is sad. People that are members of that cult are lost and when they die they will go to hell. The fact that Dobson gave this clown some face time because he's a conservative politically tells me what Dobson is really about--and it ain't spreading the gospel.

Update: It appears James Dobson has taken that article down. Doesn't change the fact that you put it up in the first place, Jimbo. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that you put it up in the first place goes to show what you're really about.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Elf Yourself for Christmas

Ok, I know Santa and his elves aren't real but the dancing skills my family and I exhibit here ARE real. Ok, no they're not but they are funny. I saw this on a friend of mine's blog and my wife and I decided to do this with our kids. Too much fun. Merry Christmas!!!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Post: Mathew 2:7-8

I will be posting the exposition I did a few years ago of Matthew 2. I felt it particularly appropriate for this time of year. I pray that you are encouraged.
In Genesis Chapter 3, we read about the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When God pronounced His curse on the serpent, He said that the Seed of the woman would crush his (Satan’s) head while Satan would bruise the Seed’s heel. This conflict between Satan and God is carried on throughout Scripture. Time and time again, we find Satan attempting to thwart the plan of God to bring salvation to the world. Time and time again, we find Satan used the same means in his attempt to do so. Through various means, he tried to kill the Jewish people since the promised Messiah would be Jewish. We see in the book of Exodus, the wicked Pharaoh was motivated to kill all the Jewish males in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. In the book of Esther, we see Haman try to have the Jewish race killed by the King of the Medeo-Persian Empire. Although we know Satan has no way to be able to defeat the plans of God, we see examples in scripture of him trying to do just that. In Matthew chapter 2, we see this all too familiar strategy attempted again by this wicked Roman ruler.

We can see how carefully Herod the Great laid his evil plan out. We see in verse 7 of chapter 2 that he secretly called the wise men. Most of the time, if someone is trying to do something secretly, it’s usually not something good. Oh, sure, someone could be trying to set up a surprise party or hide a Christmas gift for someone special. However, most of the time, if someone wants something hidden it is because it is something they are ashamed for people to see. We know the end of this story and what Herod wanted to do to our Lord Jesus. Even if we didn’t already know that, however, the facts we know in history and what we have read so far in chapter 2 would cause us to be suspicious at his secret consultation with these wise men. We also observe the manner in which he questioned them about the star. The verse records that he determined from them what time the star appeared. In the Greek, the way determined is used indicates that he thoroughly questioned them to find out precisely how long the star had been appearing in the sky. This same word is translated carefully in the next verse. Herod wanted to make sure he knew not only where his target was but how long he had been alive. We see him methodically planning and plotting with a sinister precision that would even impress Lex Luthor.

In fact, his method of planning his crime is not the only way he resembles a comic book villain. He even employs henchmen. I imagine once he found out where the Child was born, he thought it would be too obvious or cause too much of a scene if he went there himself. Perhaps he was afraid the people would revolt against him in favor of this new King. Whatever his motivations, he did not travel to Jerusalem himself. Instead, verse 8 records that Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem with instructions to search carefully for the young Child and when they found Him he wanted them to bring back word to him. Again, he wanted no stone left unturned. His instructions were for them to make a thorough, accurate, exhaustive search to find exactly where this new King was living. This agent of Satan did not want to miss his intended target. In the ultimate act of hypocrisy, he tells them that he, too, wants to worship the Christ. We should remember that not every person who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. People use the name of Christ and the church sometimes to try to hide their less than pure motives. The epistles are replete with examples of false teachers who try to use their ministry for their own greedy purposes. I know that sort of thing still happens today. What we see in Herod, then, is just another example of a lost person trying to use religion as a cloak for his own sinful desires.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best of: Psalm 1:4-6 There is a payday someday

I posted an exposition of Psalm 1 in the spring of this year. Since that time I have gained some new readers. I thought this would be a good time to revisit this psalm. I pray that your are encouraged.


I read a bumper sticker one time that said “If you’re living like there is no God, you better be right.” Proclaiming that God is righteous and holy and will judge those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is not a popular message. As the book of Proverbs notes, most people are more than happy to proclaim their own goodness. However, regardless of how unpopular it is for us to proclaim that there is judgment for sin, the Bible is as plain and clear about that truth as it can be. People need to realize that there is a judgment day coming and that they don’t have unlimited time to get ready to face that judgment. There will be no grading on the curve. Punishment will be final and terrible. Those who reject Jesus will find that they are both helpless and hopeless before the righteous fury of a holy God.

First of all, they will find that they are helpless. We noted in the last lesson on Psalm 1 that ultimately a righteous person will prosper because he will have a home in heaven with all the saints. He will enter into the joy of fellowship with God’s people for all eternity. However, Psalm 1 verse 4 says “The wicked are not so”. There is no happy ending for them. As bad as trials may have been in their life, they are in no way prepared for the eternity that awaits them. The verse goes on to describe their helplessness. It describes them as “chaff which the wind drives away”. I am from the Gulf Coast originally. I have seen my share of hurricanes. That’s why I no longer live on the Gulf Coast. When the wind of a hurricane starts blowing, it picks up things and throws them willy-nilly. It uprooted a huge tree in the front yard of one of my aunt’s houses. That is why when people know a hurricane is coming, they tie up lawn furniture and pack up kids toys. There is no way to control where that stuff is going to go. In like manner, the ungodly will be scattered before God’s righteous judgment. They will be utterly helpless on that day.

They will also be hopeless. People who choose to reject Biblical truth and the offer of salvation from God through Jesus Christ are proud people. Basically, they are saying “I can handle this on my own” or “I will not submit to the Lord. I will not have Him as God over me.” However, verse 5 of this Psalm records that these proud, haughty people who think that they will stand up to God and show how powerful they are will in fact “not stand in the judgment”. Their defiance will eventually come to an end. They will not have the strength to face God’s judgment. He will overpower them and overcome them. He will also make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The wicked will be excluded and will not be found in the “congregation of the righteous”. Obviously, people who believe that everyone will make it to heaven are wrong according to this verse of Holy Scripture.

Someone reading this might ask “Why? Why is there a difference between the wicked and the righteous?” For all I know, someone reading this blog might have just stumbled on it and not know the reason for the distinction made in the judgment. Notice that verse 6 says that God “knows the way of the righteous but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” The ungodly perish because God does not “know” their way. The Hebrew word translated “know” is the word “yada” and it means to know in a relational sense. It is not the know of someone who knows that 2 times 2 equals 4. It’s the know of me knowing that spending quality time with my wife is one of the most important ways for her to know that I love her. That isn’t something I learned by reading a textbook. I came to know that because of our relationship. As Jesus said in John chapter 10, His sheep know Him and hear His voice. Because we are His sheep, He knows our way. The end for the ungodly, however, is a terrifying picture of judgment.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Post: Matthew 2:4-6

I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the new few weeks in anticipation of the celebration of our Lord's birth this season. I pray that you are encouraged.


We observed last week how the birth of our Lord Jesus caused uneasiness in the heart of Herod the Great and the people in Jerusalem. The advent of the Prince of Peace caused them to panic for different reasons. Herod was afraid of a political rival and the people were afraid of Herod. However, one would expect the religious leaders, who were fervently anticipating the arrival of the Messiah, to have a proper response. Surely, they would praise God for finally sending the “Consolation of Israel” and fall down to worship Christ. We will see, as we study God’s word that, sadly, this is not the case.

We read in verse 4 of the text that Herod gathered all the chief priest and scribes of the people together and he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. This was a fairly startling move for this man and it reveals something of his motivations. We know that the news that One had been born King of the Jews troubled him. We also know that he was not Jewish and from things we can read in history he was not a person of faith. We know, therefore, that the reason for his inquiry was not godly nor were his motives pure. In fact, being a Roman official and an outsider to Jewish life, he actually condescended himself in asking this information from the chief priests and scribes. Josephus records that when Herod was named the Roman provincial governor of Jerusalem, he killed many of the scribes that were in Jerusalem. He, like most Romans, felt these people in Jerusalem were beneath him. Therefore, it must have humbled him to have had to ask these people for this information. He appears willing to humble himself somewhat if it means that he can thwart the Messiah’s rise to power.

He certainly looked for the information in the right place. We observe that he inquired of the chief priests. There was only one chief priest ordained at a time so, in reality, this could have included not only the current chief priest but also so of his predecessors. The priesthood had become something of a political office and sometimes they were disposed of at the whim of the local governor. These men were responsible for the service and maintenance of the temple. As such, they were important figures in Jewish life and could actually only come from one family. The scribes were the lawyers. They were professionals who devoted their time to the study of the law. In short, Herod called together the religious and judicial leaders of the nation in his haste to find out where his rival was born.

The fact that he was able to find any of these men should come as a surprise to us. They had just heard the news that the star announcing the birth of the Messiah had been seen by the magi. They knew the scriptures. If anyone in the city of Jerusalem should have been running to greet the Lord, it should have been these men. Instead, we find them having been assembled by this godless, evil man to assist him in his attempt to find the Messiah. They were able to do this with no trouble at all. Quite simply, scripture records that they said to him “In Bethlehem of Judea” and they noted that it was written by the prophet. They quoted the substance of the prophecy. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. They also recognized the source of the prophecy was the revelation of God through His prophet. These guys could have made 100 on a Bible pop quiz. If they were on Jeopardy and the category was “Old Testament” and they hit the daily double, they could confidently say “I’ll bet all of it, Alex.” They knew, in a head knowledge kind of way, everything that a person needed to know to understand the significance of the birth of Christ. Instead of seeking Him our, they were indifferent. They were content to be called as consultants to this Gentile king who they hated rather than welcome their one, true King.

They even go so far as to quote from the Old Testament to substantiate their claim. In my day job, I’m an auditor. That is an accountant that has specialized in the task of telling other people how to do their jobs. Basically, when an auditee presents me with information, I never take their word for it. I always look for corroborating evidence. In a sense, that is what these men do here. They quote from Micah 5:2. We see in their quotation that is recorded in Matthew 2:6 that they knew the humble beginnings of the Messiah (You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah.) They also know from Scripture the character of the Messiah. They quote that the Messiah shall be a Ruler. The word ruler translates the Greek word hegeomai which means leader and has the sense of royalty. However, even though He would be the Messiah and would rule with a rod of iron, as noted in Revelation 19:15, He would be tender and compassionate with his subjects. These men further quoted that this Ruler would shepherd My people, Israel. We know that in the book of John, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in chapter 10 and David proudly proclaimed that the Lord was his Shepherd in the 23rd Psalm. There is no more selfless, tireless kind of caretaker than a shepherd and that is exactly the kind of Messiah that was revealed in this prophecy.

These men knew all these things. They knew where He was to be born and, after the visit of the magi, they knew when He was born. Instead of going to look for Him, they remained in their lofty positions of power and influence in Jerusalem. Friends, let us pay careful attention to this. A person can know a lot about Jesus and the Bible and be lost as a goose. I would dare say there may well be some very well educated theologians that go straight into Hell and not all of them may be liberals. It isn’t head knowledge that saves a man or a woman but a real relationship with Jesus Christ. These men, by their indifference to the Messiah, prove their lack of a true faith in God.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best of: Psalm 1:3 Righteousness and success

In the spring of this year, I posted an exposition of Psalm 1. Since that time, I have been blessed with many new readers. I thought this would be a good time to revisit that scripture. I pray that you will be encouraged.


When we look at the life of Joseph, Jacob’s son, we see a man supernaturally blessed by God. He rose from the ranks of slavery to the heights of being the 2nd in command of the nation of Egypt. Likewise, Daniel was extraordinarily successful as an administrator and adviser to the Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empire. Certainly, God allowed these men to succeed and enabled them to perform these great tasks. However, if you were to listen to most ministers on TBN, you would get the impression that success and wealth are results or even proofs of salvation. I’m afraid as much as I would like to be guaranteed success and wealth, the Bible does not promise those things to every believer as the world defines them. As we read this verse, we can get a clearer glimpse of what God does in fact promise those who have saving faith.

As we have read, persons who are true followers of Christ do not associate themselves closely with those who reject the truth. In fact, we have seen that a person who loves God also loves His word. In this verse, we see the result of this relationship. We are told this person “shall be like a tree planted”. Now, trees are completely dependant on someone else for their survival. They don’t, nor can they, work or save or exert effort to take care of themselves. Either they are taken care of by a man or by God. In much the same way, regardless of how we like to think of ourselves as self sufficient, we are totally dependant on God. God chose us before the foundation of the world. God numbered our days before we were even born. Like it or not, we are God’s property. We didn’t just happen to come into existence by chance but we were “planted”. We are where we’re supposed to be. We are tended by a loving Gardener who tirelessly provides for every need. For instance, we are not planted just anywhere. Rather, we are planted by “rivers of water”. Our loving Father wants us to be taken care of so we aren’t just planted near one stream but by “rivers” (plural). There have been times where I haven’t had everything I wanted and there have also been times where I wondered how a need was going to be met. However, my God has never once failed to provide for my or my families needs.

In addition to providing for my needs, He also provides for my growth. A person whom God has planted will, according to this Psalm, “bring forth [his] fruit in season”. Now, the last time I was around a fruit tree was the Bradford pair tree in my mother-in-law’s yard. I have never once heard that tree, or any fruit tree, strain with effort to bring forth fruit. They bear fruit because they are fruit trees. It is a result of their existence. We, as Christians, bear spiritual fruit. As Jesus said in Matthew 7 “No good tree bears bad fruit and no bad tree bears good fruit”. God may at times have to prune us to make us more fruitful, but the fact is that fruit trees bear fruit based on the kind of tree they are. Of course, none of us are on the same level of maturity spiritually. Therefore, we bring forth our fruit “in season” in keeping with the will of the Master Gardener.

Now, some people could read this Psalm and say “Hey, look at these next two verses. See. There’s proof that all Christians will have success.” However, let’s think about what these next two phrases and remember that this is talking about someone who has a right relationship with God. I live in Tennessee and here it is turning fall. Just barely but the leaves are turning none the less. I believe this is my favorite time of year because of the beauty of the falling leaves and the dead grass (I hate cutting grass). When I read this verse, I wasn’t exactly sure what it would mean that the subject of this Psalm had leaves that “shall not whither”. However, when I reflect on the fact that the leaves that are falling have died I remember that I will live forever in heaven with God and my Christian brothers and sisters. I’m going to die (or be raptured) physically but I will never die as far as eternity is concerned. Likewise, I may suffer loss and misfortune in this world. In fact, I have. Some things were due to my stupidity and some were not my fault. However, they were all in the providence of Almighty God. Even though I have had success and failure here in this world, ultimately “whatever [I do] shall proper” because I will eventually shed this mortal body and leave this sinful world for a perfect home in heaven. No matter how ugly things get here, I know that ultimately I will have true joy beyond anything I could ask or imagine when I come to live forever in heaven with Him who “planted” me in His garden not because of my worth but because of His grace and mercy.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas music-what a treat!

Our church choir did the annual cantata for this year tonight. What I was able to hear of it was really great. Personally, I love Christmas music. No, I'm not talking about "Rudolph" or "Silver Bells". I mean the Christ exalting hymns of the faith that we sing this time of year. One of my favorite is "Hark the Herald Angels sing". Below are the lyrics and a video of a choir performing the song. I pray that you are encouraged to share the truth of the lyrics "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity."

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Post: Matthew 2:2-3

In anticipation of the celebration of Christmas, I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the next few weeks. I pray that you will be encouraged.


I would like to have come up with a better title for this weeks study, Unfortunately, I’m not that creative. In any case, the single most important point that God reveals in this verse is how the Jews in Jerusalem and Herod the King reacted to Jesus’ birth. It is important for us as we study this not only to observe what their reaction was, but to think Biblically and determine why they reacted this way.

Matthew records that when Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled. The word, translated troubled is the Greek word tarasso and it means to agitate, disturb, or stir up. It is used to describe the emotional condition of the disciples when Jesus walked on the water to meet them in the boat during a storm. It is also used in John chapter 5 to describe water being stirred. One might say that the things he heard from the questioning magi caused him to fret. We should ask ourselves “Why?” Why would news of this sort cause this man to be agitated?

The answer lies in history. The Jews had been under foreign rule since about 500 years before Christ’s birth when the Babylonians invaded Judah and conquered the people, Rule passed from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece and, finally, to Rome. The Jewish people hated being under the control of a foreign ruler and, as such, were somewhat difficult to control. Occasional revolts against their rulers were not uncommon. So Herod was in a tense political environment, to say the least. He was a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Therefore, the Jews hated him and he knew that.

In addition to the tense political situation, we have to remember that Herod was a ruthless, power mad despot. He killed two of his sons and their mother because he feared they were a threat to his power. Upon being promoted to king in Jerusalem by the Romans one of his first official actions was to kill many religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Jews knew him to be ruthless. He was also wildly ambitious and jealous. Therefore, when he heard the magi were asking about the one who had been born King of the Jews, he was thrown into a jealous fit. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone else bearing his title and he feared the people of Jerusalem would support the usurper.

We see, however, the people did not have the reaction he feared that they would. In fact, Matthew records that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Of course, we know that they were aware of the evil this man who had been set over them as king was capable of because of his ruthlessness and cruelty. However, all Jewish people were expectantly hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. They knew His arrival was imminent because of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. Their hearts longed for what they expected to be a political emancipation from foreign rule. Instead of rushing out to find where this Messiah was born, we see that they are troubled. In contrast to Gentile philosopher kings who brought word that the promised Messiah had been born and traveled many hundreds of miles to do so, God’s chosen people, the Jews, wouldn’t so much as travel less than 20 miles to their south to find their true King. Their fear of this Gentile king led them to ignore their Messiah who was God in human flesh. Instead of turning in faith to God, they kept their eyes on their circumstances and robbed themselves of the joy of greeting their Messiah.

Which side do you and I fall on? Are we like the Jews who were so worried about their circumstances to seek after God? Or do we have the faith of the wise men who followed a star on a treacherous journey because they were desperate to find God. Do we allow worldly concerns to become more important than seeking God and His Truth, no matter how hard the voyage.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Best of: Psalms 1:2-What do you delight in?

I posted an exception of Psalm 1 back in the spring of this year. I have picked up several new readers since then. I therefore thought this would be a good time to take another look at this encouraging Psalm. I pray that God will bless you as we study this scripture together.


Some of the men at my church went through a Bible study called “The Exemplary Husband”. One of the points made by one of the guys was that how we spend our time demonstrates what we value as a priority. I would add to that statement that if we claim to be Christians and to love the Lord but our lives do no reflect that, we are deluding ourselves. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. In this verse, we see a practical observation about the reaction of a godly person to the word of God.

Scripture records in Psalm 1:1 that a godly person wants nothing to do with ungodly people or activities. Verse 2 informs us why a godly person has this mindset. To them, the Bible is not just a book. It doesn’t just sit on the shelf and collect dust or hang around in the car until next time they go to church (unless, of course, they have a copy in the house that they read). The psalmist writes “his delight is in the law of the Lord”. In our society, we are bombarded with a constant barrage of suggestions as to what will make us happy. We are told that more money, more power, or more prestige will bring true satisfaction. However, the Bible here tells us that a godly person’s “delight” should be in the law of the Lord, the Bible. The word “delight” translates the Hebrew word “hepes” which could be used not only as “delight” but also “treasure”. In other words, a godly person finds the Bible to be a treasure. Now, if some values something, they will treat it as special to them. When I was in school studying music, I had a tenor saxophone that my parents gave me. I polished it regularly. I treated it like a piece of jewelry. The way I treated it was proof of how much it meant to me.

A person who loves the Bible will spend time reading it, as the psalmist notes. “In His law he meditates day and night”. Now, if he is meditating on the Bible day and night, he is meditating on it all the time. There may be times when you cannot actually read through the scripture, but you can still meditate on it. I was the part time pastor of a small church in Northeast Alabama. For a full time day job, I ran a pizza restaurant. Many times, I would have to cover for drivers who didn’t show up to work. I didn’t have unlimited time to study. Most of the time, then, I would be working on a passage 2 or 3 weeks before I would preach it (one of the advantages of sequential exposition). I would be driving around delivering a pizza and thinking about a few verses that I had been studying. The psalmist paints the same sort of pictures here. This person is constantly consumed with God’s word. Now, let us imagine what kind of life this person must live. When someone treats him rudely, what kind of reaction would God’s word lead him to have? When he is fearful, what kind of comfort would it give him? How would our lives be different if we meditated on God’s word day and night?

Observe, however, that he doesn’t simply read the Bible. He “meditates” (haga-Hebrew) on it. The Hebrew word can be used for “study”. We are admonished that as we mature, we should move from spiritual milk (the elementary principals of the faith) to solid food (doctrine). We can’t expect to learn the Bible by simply reading it. When I eat a steak, I don’t just shove the whole thing in my mouth. Well, most of the time. I cut it up. I have to work to prepare my food for consumption. Even when I have a piece of steak in my mouth, I have to chew it before I swallow it or hope for someone to know the Heimlich. Now when I eat cotton candy, it dissolves on contact with my tongue. God’s word is spiritual steak. To study it and learn it is going to take some work. We have to read it, read commentaries about it, go and hear it preached, and study as much as we can of the original languages.

As we read in Hebrews 1, God spoke through the prophets. We know He spoke through the apostles as well. Therefore, when we delight in the law of the Lord and focus on studying it, we grow closer to Him because He is reveled in each and every verse. To study the Bible is to study God. Or love of the Bible demonstrates our love for our Lord who inspired it to be written.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blog Link-"Servant" in the New Testament

Alan Knox has written a very thought provoking post on the use of the word "servant" in the New Testament. I encourage you to read the entire post here.

Here is a quote that I found the most interesting in the post:

Of course, now we reach the crux of the issue. If we called "ministers" and "deacons" by the term "servant", then they would lose their "official" status in the eyes of the people. And, of course, there are many, many "ministers" and "deacons" who do not act like "servants" - which means they should not be called "minsters" or "deacons" either.

Boy, wouldn't that ruffle a few feathers for those who feel like they've won the M-Div Lottery? Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of pastors who have seminary training and are humble servants of the congregations they serve. But I've seen several who feel like the church is obligated to pay them above what the church's budget can afford. It's a good thing to take care of a pastor but that pastor should have the attitude of a servant, not of a CEO.

Holiday Post: Matthew 2:1-2

The celebration of the birth of our Lord is just around the corner. I will be reposting over the new few weeks exposition that I did a few years ago of Matthew Chapter 2. I hope you are encouraged.


Matthew records events that occurred after Christ’s birth to give us a clear picture of the kinds of responses people had to His birth. In chapter 2, we see Christ sought after, feared, ignored, and worshipped. We ever see innocent people murdered in an attempt to kill Him due to jealousy.

In verse 1, Matthew records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was south and slightly east of Jerusalem. It was a small town but it was important for several reasons. First of all, it was the birthplace of King David. Secondly, the town had prophetic importance. As noted in Micah 5:2, the Messiah would be born in this town. Therefore, the location of Jesus’ birth was significant.

Additionally, Matthew records the ruler who reigned at the time. Herod the king was the man assigned to govern this area by Rome. Essentially then, he was a governor. The Jews hated this man. First of all, he was not Jewish but a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Secondly, he was known for ruthlessness and cruelty. Because the horrible man was set over them as king and he represented Roman rule, he was a constant reminder that Israel was under the political rule of another country.

Into this tense political climate came wise men from the east. The word wise men is magios in the Greek. It referred to men who were devoted to the study of the sciences of that day as well as philosophy and religion. Since these men came as the result of seeing a star, it is reasonable to assume that they spent at least some of their time studying astronomy or astrology. We also know the general location these men came from because Matthew records that they came from the east. Many Bible scholars believe these men were Persian. In any case, it was fairly obvious that these wise men “weren’t from around these parts.” These men left their homes and went on an arduous, possibly even dangerous, journey to follow this phenomenon. Very likely, it had taken them a long time to reach their destination. They were obviously motivated by some intense driving force. As our Lord noted in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” The faith and persistence of these men is an example to us.

We find further evidence that these men were people of faith as we examine the inquiry they made when they arrived in Jerusalem. They went around to people saying “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Again, we see these men were persistent in the manner in which they asked. As John MacArthur observes in his study Bible, the word saying is a present participle in the Greek text. This indicates that they were probably asking everyone they met this same question. They were also fully cognizant of Whom they were asking about. They identified Him as the king of the Jews. Evidently, they were aware of the position of royalty this baby boy was born into. They also must have read and been familiar with the Hebrew prophecies and knew the Messiah would be born under a sign; a star. While this star looked like it might have just been a heavenly body, it was probably supernatural since it led these men here and would eventually settle over the house where Jesus was living. They knew the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 60:3 and Numbers 24:17 that the sign of the birth of the Messiah would be a star. Finally, we see their faith further evidenced by the purpose of their visit. They came not as political envoys or curious men, but as people who were in fact seeking God. They were Gentiles and, therefore, outsiders to the Jewish community. They were not seeking religion nor were they Jewish proselytes. Instead, these men went on this long journey to find God in order that they might worship Him. Let us pray for God to draw us even closer to Himself as He drew these wise men. Let us also pray that he would give us a heart to seek the truth as persistently as these men did.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Best of: Psalm 1:1-What does the Bible say about true happines?

I originally posted this in the spring of this year. Since I've picked up a few new readers since then, I thought I would take this opportunity to repost this exposition of Psalm 1. I pray that you are encouraged.


I don't really enjoy watching TV preachers as a general rule if I'm intersted in learning something. However, I do watch TV preachers sometimes. Why, you ask? Because it is so side-splittingly funny. It is literally like watching a comedian. You have people teaching doctrine that is absolutely heretical and some people actually believe what they themselves are saying. “It isn’t God’s will for you to be sick.” “God intends for all believers to live with an abundance of money.” They preach that Christianity exists to make people happy. The pastor of America’s largest church has written a book that appeals to peoples self esteem and greediness. These people purport to tell people how they can be “Happy”. However, what does the Bible say about true happiness and fulfillment? Does it line up with what these used car salesmen who pass themselves off as teachers of God’s word claim? Let’s look at Psalm 1 and find out for ourselves.

Psalm 1 verse one begins by saying “Blessed is the man”. The word translated blessed is the Hebrew word esher and can be taken to mean “how happy”. We will study the specifics of what causes one to be happy according to the verse, but we do notice that the state of being blessed or happy is not the result of having things. People are not happy because of their home, their car, or their job. In fact, true Biblical happiness doesn’t have anything to do with material possessions. It has to do with our relationship with God. Notice, therefore, that this verse also talks about the absence of situations in a person’s life that make a person happy. It doesn’t talk about what a person who is happy has or does but, rather, what they do not do. We should note as Paul teaches in the book of Romans that we, as Christians, were once slaves to sin. Now, in our redeemed state, we are slaves to righteousness. Therefore, we have been set free from sin in order to serve God. Because of that, there are some things that a Christian should not do. This does not mean that we keep a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts but because we have a new nature inside of us we will live differently.

Notice the verse says someone is happy who does not “walk in the council of the ungodly”. Throughout scripture, “walk” is used to describe the course of our life. How we conduct ourselves is a direct reflection of what we think and what we believe. A happy person, in this verse, is one who does not let his actions be controlled by ungodly advice. The world and its wisdom will always be contrary to the wisdom of God. This is because, as Paul notes in Ephesians chapter 4 the ungodly people in this verse have “futile” minds. Therefore, they have an inaccurate view of the world in which they live. In that case, a person is better off not listening to worldly wisdom and ideas but, instead, should turn to God’s perfect holy word and godly preachers/teachers for council. As the apostle notes in Romans 12, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds”. To fail to do so invites folly into one’s life.

Next, the author writes that a person is happy if they do not “stand in the paths of sinners”. It is instructive to note that the action in this verse progresses from walking to standing to sitting. The Hebrew word for path is derek. This word can be used figuratively to mean “course of life” or “mode of action”. As I said earlier, how we live proves what we think or believe. If a person fills his or her mind with the thoughts and teachings of this world, it will show in how they live. They will find themselves standing with those whose mode of life conflicts with the teaching of God’s word. The Bible teaches here that those who are happy do not have the same “course of life” or “mode of action” as those who are unredeemed. Certainly, all of us fall short of the standard that God sets from time to time. However, if a person is truly a Christian they will live differently than the rest of the world because they have been reborn and filled with the Holy Spirit. Happiness, then, is a result of being separated from this evil world system.

Finally, the author says that those who are happy do not “sit in the seat of the scornful”. As the action progresses in this verse, so does the godlessness of the people with whom we should disassociate ourselves. They have gone from ungodly to sinners to people who are scornful. Now, they are pictured not only as ones who sin but who mock the righteousness of God and His holy word. People who live contrary to scripture should be avoided as close companions. However, we should be even more careful to avoid those who speak and teach against the word of God. As this verse notes, those who are happy will not “sit (abide) in the seat (dwelling place)” of those who contradict God’s word. When people disregard and verbally mock God and the Bible, we need to remove ourselves from their influence (council), forsake their behavior (path), and remove ourselves from their abode (seat). When we do that, we can focus on the word of God. The study of the Bible and fellowship with other Christians is what produces true happiness.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, December 4, 2008

II Peter 1:8-9 The Necessity of Christian Growth

If a person is a Christian, they have been made alive spiritually. Until that point, their spirit is dead. Oh, they’re walking, talking, living, breathing being on the outside and every person that knows them or sees them would affirm that they are a living being. Truthfully, they are alive physically but the Bible teaches that they are completely dead spiritually. One of the clearest evidences of life in a person is growth. A baby grows and develops into a toddler and eventually grows into an adult. If you or I met a person that never grew or developed we would probably think that something was wrong. In much the same, a Christian who has not matured beyond spiritual infancy should be unusual. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. In fact, as Peter observes in these verses a lack of spiritual maturity should be a cause for concern.

Peter writes in verse 8 that a Christian should be indentified by godly living. He writes “if these qualities are yours and are increasing”. The qualities he speaks of are the ones listed in verses 5-7 of this chapter. He writes that these qualities “are yours” (Greek hurparcho [5225]-this means to legitimately possess something). Because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are now enabled to live differently. These qualities are not something that we should hope for or strive for but they are qualities that we now possess in this present reality and we should live them. In fact, not only should we live them but they should be “increasing”. As we exercise these qualities we will see more of them and the more we see of them the more we should exercise them. As an apple tree bears apples a Christian should bear Christian fruit. Our fruit is evidence of being a Christian.

In fact, Peter makes that same point when he says these qualities cause us to be “neither useless or unfruitful” in our Christian lives. The word “useless” translates the Greek word “argos” (692). The word argon, one of the Noble gases on the periodic table, comes from this Greek word. The Noble gases are known as inert—they don’t react with anything. That is the basic idea behind this Greek word. Peter here is saying that a growing, maturing Christian will not be idle or inert. When we see people who need to hear about the love of God we will seek opportunities to share that love. We will want to be involved in ministry. There are no cheerleaders in the Christian faith—we’re all called to “get in the game”. Peter also says a maturing Christian will not be “unfruitful”. Jesus Himself said that if we abide in Him we would bear fruit (John 15:5). It is by exercising the qualities listed in verses 5-7 that we bear fruit. It is simply the natural outgrowth of being a new creature in Jesus Christ. However, Peter says that if someone claims to be a Christian and is not bearing fruit, there are two possibilities.

Peter says in verse 9 that “he who lacks these qualities is blind (Greek tuphlos-5185). This is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 23:16 to describe the Pharisees and as it is used here it also means spiritual blindness. Peter is saying that if a person claims to be a Christian and they lack these qualities in their life one possibility is that they may not be a Christian at all. Perhaps you are reading this and outwardly people see some of these qualities and think you’re a Christian but you know deep in your heart you’re just putting on a show—an academy award performance. Brother or sister, let me exhort you that you might fool some people but you’re not fooling God. Peter declares here that someone who does not exhibit these qualities and is not growing in Christlikenes may, in fact, not be saved at all but they might, in all reality, be spiritually blind and unredeemed.

Peter says the second possibility is that the person is “short-sighted”. They can’t see past the nose on the end of their face. This person is saved but their spiritual growth is stunted. They are not progressing in holiness. They are not being obedient to the commands of the Bible and, quite frankly, are in a position where they are inviting judgment by God. God disciplines His children when they are disobedient. He disciplines them out of love. A Christian who is not growing is one who is not witnessing or studying the Bible. They are not involved in ministry is any substantial way. Their disobedience is a sin and God will judge that sin. However, Peter gives here the root cause of this lackadaisical approach to the Christian life. A person who does not grow in godliness is one who has “forgotten his purification from his former sins”. That is the key. You and I need to remember what God saved us from when He called us to Himself. Now, maybe you weren’t an outlaw and you might not have been that bad, comparatively. However, from God’s perspective you were an outlaw and you were incapable of saving yourself or making yourself right with God. You were doomed. You were helpless. You were God’s enemy. However, because God is so merciful and on account of His Son’s death, burial, and resurrection God saved you when you repented and placed faith in Jesus. If you ever need motivation to serve the Lord, I exhort you to remember what He saved you from. When you meditate on that, I believe you will be motivated to serve Him out of a thankful heart filled with love.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A True Honor

Today, at 1 pm, I became an award-winning blogger. Heidi, over at Candid Chatter, gave me the "I big-red puffy heart your blog" award.

I am speechless. Honestly, the fact that anybody reads this stuff is pretty astounding. And to think she gave me this award for "breaking it down" is truly humbling. I mean, I'm pretty much just a big time goober. Anything that anyone reads on this blog that is of benefit to them has EVERYTHING to do with God and NOTHING to do with me. I give all praise honor and glory to Him for allowing me the opportunities to teach His word. And I'd like to thank those of you that follow this blog--all 3 of you. Just kidding!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Matthew 5:21-22 “Sam, it was mur-dah”

Do you enjoy a good mystery novel or TV show? I always have. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s watching shows like Matlock and Quincy (that’s where the quote in the title came from). Usually, somebody would commit a murder and the detectives would spend the show trying to solve the crime. Honestly, I just enjoyed seeing the crook get caught. I think there is something inside of most people that wants to see justice prevail and crimes like murder punished. We know that it is wrong to unjustly kill another person. However, in these verses we find that Christ teaches us that the prohibition against murder goes much deeper than the physical act of taking another persons life.

As we prepare to study these verses (21-47) over the next several weeks, I suggest that you should keep verse 48 in mind. Jesus tells His audience that they are to be “perfect” even as God is perfect. That is the target these verses are pointing to as we study them. We should remember that the law is not a burdensome list of do’s and don’ts that a Christian tries to keep to earn salvation but rather it reveals to us the character and righteousness of God and it is our joy to live it out. As we have seen in the beatitudes, we see here our complete inability to keep the law apart from the supernatural indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus teaches here, He reveal the full, spiritual character of the law and demonstrates the hopeless impossibility of producing a righteousness that is acceptable to God through human effort.

First of all, Jesus states the letter of the law. He states it in the way the religious leaders of the day had taught the truth. “You have heard that the ancients were told ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court’.” Both of these statements are true, biblical, and would be affirmed by most people, much less by most Christians. If this was the standard that God used to judge most people would pass this test with flying colors. I’ve never murdered anyone and I would imagine that most of my blog readers would be able to say the same. If that was the extent of the requirements of that commandment, then I could easily be declared “Not Guilty”.

However, Jesus reveals that God’s standard is much more stringent. God holds us accountable for the evil that we have present in our hearts. Jesus says that “everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” Jesus was not abolishing the law here but was rather revealing the full, spiritual character that had always been present in the law. A person who harbors hatred in his heart toward his fellow man may not be criminally liable before a human court of law but before the throne of God this person has committed a sin and is guilty. Now, we should stop and point out not all anger is sinful. When I see things in my life and I recognize that they are not godly or fitting for someone who is a Christian and I am angry with myself, that anger is not sinful. When I hear about people aborting a baby and I think about the people who helped make that legal in this country and those who want to keep it legal I feel angry. However, that anger is not sinful. When Christ cleansed the temple during his ministry with a whip because He was angry at their hypocrisy, that anger was not sinful. The anger that Jesus equates with murder is called “orgizo” (3710-the root word of the English word Ogre) which describes a simmering, festering kind of anger. You might describe it as holding or nursing a grudge. I picture this describing the kind of anger that you feel toward someone who you swear to yourself that you’ll get back at if you ever get the chance. You hold onto the anger but keep it beneath the surface just waiting for the chance to pounce on your adversary. It is easy to imagine this is the kind of anger Cain had toward Able when God accepted Able’s sacrifice but rejected Cain’s.. This may not be punishable by any law on the books, but the person is still guilty when they hold this kind of anger in their hearts.

However, Jesus goes on to say that it’s not just the heart attitude that a person holds that can be spiritually equivalent to murder. Jesus says the words a person speaks can make them guilty of murder. He says that “whoever says to his brother ‘You good-for-nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court” The phrase “good-for-nothing” translates an Aramaic word “Raca” which really doesn’t have an direct equivalent in English. We might call someone “numbskull”, “dufus”, or to quote Archie Bunker from TV in the 70’s “Meat-head”. Basically, it was a term of derision that was meant to insult someone’s intelligence. When anger that we hold in our hearts comes out of our mouths it is sinful but when that anger is a deep seated, nursed, smoldering anger that has poured forth into a verbal expression, Jesus says that is the equivalent of murder. It is from the abundance of the heart that our mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). Jesus says that people who express their anger verbally can be guilty before the Sanhedrin (the supreme court). People who choose not to control their tongues run the risk of breaking the law but they certainly are in violation of God’s moral law. For instance, Genesis 4:8 records that “Cain told Able his brother”. The Bible doesn’t record the conversation but I have the feeling it wasn’t a warm, friendly brother-to-brother talk. It is not hard at all to imagine Cain venting the anger in his heart with loud, angry words.

However, insulting words are not the only words that Jesus equates with murder. Jesus says “whoever says ‘You fool’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” The word “moros” (3474) is translated as “fool” and relates to the spiritual character of the person. It’s not just saying that they’re stupid but more like saying they are godless and deserving of hell. Basically, it is like passing a moral judgment on another person. The anger that once simmered in the heart and produced an insult like “dimwit” now pours forth into an expression of utter contempt for a person. Jesus says that those who make this kind of judgment are guilty enough to go into “the fiery hell” or literally “the fire of hell”. This is a picture of the horrible judgment that awaits unrepentant sinners. They will burn forever in a lake of fire.
Jesus gives these examples to reveal that murder happens in the heart long before the actual act takes place if it ever takes place. Have I ever used my words to cut another person or express a simmering anger that lay within my heart. Yes, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I have. Therefore, even though I haven’t physically murdered anyone I am spiritually guilty of the crime because of what went on inside of my heart. Now we see clearly how impossible it is for us to be right with God under our own power. It’s not just what we do. That’s pretty easy to fake or avoid getting caught doing. There are plenty of unsolved murders in real life. But we cannot fake what goes on it our heart—God sees it and knows it. Therefore, when we sin in our hearts, even if no one else knows about it, we should go humbly to our Father in heaven, repent of that sin, and ask His forgiveness. Praise God that He is faithful and will forgive us of even our secret sins.