Monday, December 31, 2012

Matthew 1:18-35 Joseph, An Example of Godliness

Here is the link for the audio of a sermon I preached at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church earlier in 2012.  I pray that you are encouraged.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Philippians 3:1-2 The Security of Sound Doctrine Part III


Paul’s Caution

Paul, when writing to these believers, gives them a word of caution in verse 2. Even with the safety provided by his God inspired epistle, Paul instructs the believers to “Beware” three times. As Christians, we should beware of false doctrine. It promotes disunity, causes confusion, and undermines evangelism. Quite frankly, it is a spiritual poison and must be avoided along with anyone who teaches it. The Greek word Paul uses which is translated here as “Beware” is blepo (991), which is translated elsewhere as take heed (Mark 4:24, Luke 21:8). In Greek, the sense of the verb is that the believers should keep being aware. They should be vigilant and always on guard. There is no room for middle ground. False doctrine cannot be tolerated or permitted in the church. Compromise is not an option.

In identifying those who would corrupt the church and lead people astray with false doctrine, Paul uses three different terms. First of all, Paul calls these people “Dogs” which is kind of funny because Jews used this term for Gentiles. Here, Paul takes their own slur and turns it around on them to describe their character. We must remember that these are not cute little furry pets that sleep at your feet at night and play fetch with you when you’re playing in the front yard. These are snarling, vicious, carnivorous, disease ridden, filthy, nasty, mean creatures. They were quite dangerous. In Vincent’s Word Studies, the author writes about these animals that “[t]hey lie about the streets in such numbers as to render it difficult and often dangerous to pick one's way over and amongst them - a lean, hungry, and sinister brood. They have no owners, but upon some principle known only to themselves, they combine into gangs, each of which assumes jurisdiction over a particular street; and they attack with the utmost ferocity all canine intruders into their territory. In those contests, and especially during the night, they keep up an incessant barking and howling, such as is rarely heard in any European city.” They roamed in packs and were guided by their own hungers. In much the same way, a false teacher is more dangerous than any foamy mouthed dog. The false teaching they spread is worse than any disease spread by these mangy mutts, and they also follow their own lusts. As Peter notes in 2 Peter 2:12, these false teachers are “like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.” These people lead others astray for their own selfish gain. They truly are vicious “dogs”.

Paul also tells these believers to “beware of evil workers”. If you were to look at the website for the National Council of Churches, you would find that they have lots of activities going on. They work to feed starving children. They work to bring disaster relief to storm damaged areas. These are worthwhile activities. Certainly meeting people physical needs is one way to minister to them. I would have to imagine if you asked most of the people involved in these activities why they were doing them, their answer would be something like “For Jesus, of course.” However, the NCC represents churches that deny the virgin birth of our Lord, the inspiration of the Word of God, and they allow homosexuals and women to serve in pastoral roles. These people are doing things that they call ministry. They are quite active and work hard at what they do. However, since their heart is not right with God, they are not good workers but “evil workers”. The word “evil” translates the Greek word kakos (2556) which can mean worthless, injurious, or evil. The Greek word ergates is translated “workers” and literally means a toiler. When Jesus Himself spoke of these people in Matthew 7:22 that “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” In much the same manner, Paul reminds the Philippian church that these people, because of the wrong condition of their heart, are not actually performing good works but evil works. We must remember, as Paul here warns these Christians, that activity is never a substitute for a relationship.

Finally, Paul tells the Philippians to “beware the mutilation”. Jewish people placed great spiritual significance on circumcision. They are even called the Circumcision by Paul in Ephesians 2:11. According to rabbinical tradition, for a Jew to go to hell, his circumcision would have to be undone as John MacArthur notes in his commentary on the book of Romans. Some false teachers taught that a Christian had to convert to Judaism before they could become a Christian. Therefore, these Jewish legalizers taught that Christians had to agree to become circumcised. However, they failed to see that the circumcision that God would perform would be a circumcision of the heart (Deu 30:6). Paul uses a Greek term here katatome (2699) that is translated as mutilation. The same word is used in the Septuagint in Leviticus 21:5 when the nation of Israel is forbidden to make any cuttings in their flesh. Paul was probably using a play on words here by calling them the mutilation (katatome) and in the next verse referring to those who are truly saved as peritome (the circumcision). Paul realized by attempting to require these believers to be circumcised, the false teachers were actually trying to force them to submit to their legalistic observance of Mosaic code and their tradition rather then relying on faith in Jesus Christ to save them and transform them. In Galatians 4:10, Paul writes that those Christians were attempting to follow Jewish law in regards to feasts. Paul admonishes them that they were leaving their faith in Christ to turn to “weak and beggarly elements” in order to be saved (Galatians 4:9). Paul says they should not do this. In fact, in the book of Galatians, Paul goes further and says he wishes that those false teachers who troubled those believers with their insistence on ritual circumcision for salvation would simply go ahead and cut themselves off (Galatians 5:12). These false teachers had completely misrepresented the truth of salvation and were attempting to compel others to follow their legalistic standard of righteousness.

Even as they did in Paul’s day, we still encounter false teaching today. The only sure defense that we have against false teaching and false teachers is the truth. The only source we have for divine truth is the Word of God. Let us faithfully and boldly proclaim God’s powerful truth in this dark, perverse world.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Philippians 3:1-2 The Security of Sound Doctrine Part II


Paul’s Concern

As Paul writes asking these believers to join with him in rejoicing, he also writes to reaffirm doctrine he has taught them before. With the heart of a true pastor, he writes these believers in verse 1 that “For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” Paul, in all his epistles, wrote a consistent doctrine as revealed by God through the Holy Spirit. While it is not clear if Paul is referring to another letter he may have written the Philippian church (not a lost book of the Bible, just possibly another letter he wrote) or simply other epistles that he had written that they had obtained copies of, Paul includes doctrine in this epistle that is found in other of his epistles. However, at no time does he feel like “Here we go again. I thought I had already taught you this. Haven’t you already learned your lesson by now?” Paul tells them that writing them about doctrines he has already written about is not “tedious” or tiresome. The word that is translated “tedious” is the Greek word okneros (3636). According to Vincent’s Word Studies, this word reflects “the vexation arising from weary waiting”. When I read that, I got the picture in my head of a person waiting for another person to get ready to go somewhere. Because he loves these people and wants to help them grow and mature in Christ, Paul brings the Word of God to the people of God. To do so is not a source of frustration to him nor is it the feeling of having to wait on somebody to finally catch up.

He brings God’s Word to God’s people because, as a shepherd, he is responsible for the safety of sheep. The surest protection for the flock of God from the deadly poison of false doctrine is to teach God revealed truth. Paul says to the believers in Phillipi that “for you it is safe” when he talks about writing the “same things”. The word translated “safe” is the Greek word asphales (804). This word is translated certain in the book of Acts (21:34, 22:30, and 26:26) and as sure in Hebrews 6:19. Therefore, the idea that Paul is trying to convey seems to be that he writes these same things to provide them security through a solid foundation of doctrine that they can be certain of. The churches Paul wrote to did not have a New Testament, commentaries, or seminary trained pastors. They didn’t the luxury of studying the work of great preachers and teachers of God’s Word throughout the centuries who have taught the true doctrines of our faith. They had the apostles and prophets who had been given to them and God’s Word as revealed in the Old Testament. However, as Paul and others brought new revelation that would become the New Testament that shed light on the Old Testament, believers were learning things about God and salvation that had never been revealed before. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul continually and consistently taught these doctrines in his writings. He didn’t view it as laborious or tedious because of his love for his fellow Christians.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Phillipians 3:1-2 The Security of Sound Doctrine Part I


Roach poison is made of over 98 % dog food. Less than 2% of the substance used is poison. When I found that out, I was quite surprised. A little bit, so the saying goes, certainly goes a long way. In much the same way, false doctrine, if tolerated in the church, doesn’t have to rise to the level of outright heresy to be deadly. People can mix in a little pop psychology, secular business models, or culturally relevant ideas and create confusion among Christians. In the world today, it is paramount that the Bible be taught as meaning what it means and saying what it says. To fail to do so leaves people vulnerable to the trappings of false teachers who have as their goal to lead people away from the truth to destruction.

Paul’s Celebration

In verse one of chapter 3, we find Paul concluding a thought that he had begun in chapter 2 verse 18. In verse 17, Paul asks the Philippians that even if he was “poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith” to “be glad and rejoice” (v.18) with him. Paul called for the believers to model Christ’s humility in serving (2:5) just as he (2:17) and his companions (2:22, 30) also serve sacrificially. Because of these examples, Paul calls them to “rejoice” with him in verse 18 and again in verse one of chapter 3.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Be Encouraged!!

Living as a child of God has never been an easy thing to do in this world. However, it seems now it is more difficult than ever before.  As a Christian, it is easy to feel discouraged and want to give up contending for the faith (Jude 1:3). However, you and I can find encouragement in the word of God to stand strong as we strive to live as salt and light in this sin filled world.

Writing to churches that were under persecution, John the apostle penned the book of Revelation. To encourage these believers, he writes that this letter was not only from him but also from Christ. In chapter 1 verse 5 of this book, John writes that the letter is from “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (NASB). John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to describe Christ with these titles because he was writing to men and women who were facing government sponsored persecution. Reminding them of who Christ was and what He faced on this earth was a way for John to encourage these believers.

First of all, notice that he calls Christ “the faithful witness”. The Lord came and declared boldly the message of God everywhere He went and proclaimed the good news of the Gospel. He never backed down from the task in spite of being threatened, rejected, and ignored. He did exactly what God the Father sent Him to do and did it exactly the way God directed Him to do it. He was our example by being completely faithful (Hebrews 3:2). When we face persecutions and difficulties in this world, we can encourage ourselves and one another by remembering that our Lord completed His mission. Because He was a faithful witness, we should seek to follow His example.

Furthermore, we see the extent to which He was faithful. Not only was He a faithful witness but he was also “the firstborn of the dead”. Now, in some parts of the world being a witness for our Lord may be a matter of life or death. There are brothers and sisters in other countries who have died and will die proclaiming the good news of Christ and living out their faith. The situation in the day that John lived was very similar. People were killed for professing faith in Jesus. That is not the case in this country today. However, people might choose to not associate with us at school or work. If we take a bold stand for Jesus, family or friends might very well shun us or label us “Bible thumpers”. However, we know that just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we also will live forever in heaven. His resurrection from the dead proves that God is also going to resurrect us (Romans 8:11). Therefore, whatever happens to us in this world, we can be encouraged that we have a home waiting for us in heaven.

Lastly, John reminded these believers that governments of this earth do not have the final say. These believers were suffering from officially sanctioned, legal government persecution. John reminds them, then, that the king does not have the final say but in fact Jesus Himself is “the ruler of the kings of the earth”. They may have power and authority over us for a time, but in the end they, like everyone else, will answer to our Lord. We may see people in authority on this earth make decisions that are sinful according to the word of God but we can be encouraged that God is ultimately in control of them. He does not cause anyone to sin but, in some mysterious way, He is able to use sinful men and women to accomplish His purposes in spite of their rebellion. As we see laws made and policies enacted that we know are wrong, let us remember that God is still the Lord over the entire universe.

We face a time in our nation that is similar in many ways to the situations that the early Christians faced. We can be encouraged by these words just as those early Christians were.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Notes On Grammar-Galatians 6:1

It's important when interpreting the Bible to remember two things.  Well, more than two things, but these are two things you should try to remember.

1)  The Bible was not written in English.
2)  The rules of English grammar don't apply to the original languages of the Bible.  But the rules of Greek grammar do apply.

For instance, in the following verse
Galatians 6:1-Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

you can't take the words "spirit of gentleness" and claim that is a direct object and therefore the present imperative verb "should restore" is no longer a command.  First of all, the words "spirit of gentleness" describe how you should restore.  They are describing the manner in which the clear command of God "...you....restore" should be carried out.  Second of all, the presence of a direct object does not change the fact that katartiz┼Ź (the word translated "should restore") is anything other than an active (you're the supposed to act) present (an action taking place now that is repeated) imperative (a command).  Claiming that the verb "should restore" is not an imperative would be as silly as saying "You were a new comer in class and you questioned my interpretation but when I blogged about the incident and I wasn't blogging about you" or "Process these transactions after lunch" as if the phrase "after lunch" all of a sudden made it an optional request rather than a command.  Lastly, the English word "should" is not translated from a Greek word, but is added to emphasize the fact that the verb is an imperative--a command.  Therefore, the word "should" does  not suggest or imply that what the verse is talking about is optional.  Rather, it is still a command because it is a present imperative.

Silly rabbit.  Biblical interpretation doesn't work that way. 



Encouraged By The Gospel

Yesterday morning, my pastor was preaching out of Acts 22, and while he was preaching the text he took the time to explain the gospel.  It was a clear, simple presentation that anyone could understand.  My family and I were so encouraged because, as the old hymn says, "...those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest".

The gospel is not something that you believe and then move on from it.  No, friend.  What I've found is that the gospel is something you need just as much after you have repented and placed your faith in Christ.  It is the only thing that makes this world make sense--the only thing that gives life meaning.

What is the gospel, you ask?

The gospel is that God is holy, but man is utterly sinful. Because God is perfectly just, He must punish and condemn all sinners eternally to hell. Because God is so loving, He sent Jesus to earth. Jesus lived a perfectly obediant life, perfectly fulfilled God’s law, and was punished for sin on Calvary’s cross. He suffered God's wrath against sin in our place.  He was punished as our substitute.  He rose from the dead 3 days later. Now, if anyone repents of their sins and personally, consciously places their faith in Christ, God will forgive them of their sins and they’ll go to heaven. If someone does not repent and doesn’t personally, consciously place their faith in Christ in this lifetime, they will go to hell no matter how sweet they were, how sincere they were in another faith, and how kind they were to others.

Friday, September 7, 2012

That hurt your feelings? Good!

I'm glad that caused you pain and made you suffer.  That brings me a great deal of happiness knowing that I did that.  Thank you for encouraging me.

Truth hurts, huh Doc?
Now, that's not what Paul said in II Corinthians 7:8-12, but it's a pretty good summation of his attitude.  He had written the church to confront a sin, which is what Christians are commanded by God to do, and his letter made them sorrowful.  I suspect when they first read it, they thought his words were disrespectful and unwarranted.  I mean, they might have even thought "Way to proverbially kick someone when they're down, Paul".  Ultimately, though, the genuineness of their faith was proven.

It was proven by their repentance.  You see, when a Christian is shown that they have sinned, they don't argue "Well, no I didn't write that about you" or "I didn't have that attitude" or even "You must have misunderstood me".  The response of a Christian is "You're right.  I'm sorry". 

Let's all pray that God will give us a repentant heart that is sensitive to sin in our lives.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Matthew 9:32-34 Evil Motives Can Blind Your Eyes

When someone who claims to be a Christian is shown what God’s word says and they reject it (because they don’t want to obey it), you can pretty well bet (a) they’re not a Christian or (b) they are rebelling against God and will be punished (Hebrew 12:6).  Oh, you’ll see them do all sorts of verbal gymnastics (i.e. Galatians 6:1 isn’t a command) but when they can’t prove through what’s said in the text on the page, they’ll resort to name calling.  In our text today, we see the same sorts of things happening—the Pharisees see evidence of who Jesus is but because of the evil motivation of their hearts, they reject the truth.

First of all, notice with me that again that people brought someone who needed to be healed to Jesus (Matthew 9:32).  I think we can conclude from the times we’ve read in this gospel of Matthew where people brought sick folks to Jesus to be healed that word had spread about the miracles He performed.  This didn’t spread as fast as Twitter or a viral YouTube video, but none the less, people knew that if they or someone needed to be healed, Jesus could do it.  In fact, he’d made lame people walk, blind people see, raised the dead all in the span of this chapter.  He didn’t seek to draw attention but the miracles were so spectacular that people took notice.  I guess that’s part of human nature.
So, when these people brought a “demon possessed man who was mute” to Jesus, Jesus cast out the demon.  Healings were rare.  I think the only recorded instance of an exorcism outside of the New Testament was when David played to soothe Saul (I Samuel 6:13).  So, what Jesus did was extraordinary not only for the time that the Pharisees and the people lived; it was extraordinary for any time and place.  Now, knowing this, the people rightly concluded “Never was anything like this seen in Israel”.  I don’t mean to suggest that all these people had saving faith, although some of them might, but certainly some of them realized that Jesus was the Messiah (Isaiah 35:5-6).  The implication of their statement is “We know the prophets came from God and were empowered by God.  This Man is doing greater things than they did.  He must be sent from God too”.
Now, the Pharisees who knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, knew what the crowds knew and saw what the crowds saw.  Their conclusion—“But the Pharisees said, ‘He casts out demons by the prince of demons.’”   Friends, they had all the truth they needed to conclude who Jesus was and because of their foolish pride they ignored the truth and decided He was from Satan.  It is a very, very dangerous thing to reject the truth of Christ—that He was the substitute, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, and that it is only by faith in Him and repentance from sin that anyone can be saved.  If you reject that, as the Pharisees did, you reject it to your eternal doom.
Look at the evidence, friend.  If you haven’t trusted Christ, do so today.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Command From God Is A Lie From Satan?


Some people just don’t learn very easily.  For some people, it’s not their fault.  For others, they have painted themselves into a corner and aren’t man enough to admit they were wrong.  They have feet of clay.  How ellementary, oops I spelled that wrong, elementary of a reading ability do you have to have to read a single command from God and understand that you are obligated to obey it.

Commenting on my explanation of what Galatians 6:1 teaches, someone called God’s clear command “…you who are spiritual restore…” a lie of Satan.  Silly rabbit!!!  That’s the subject (“you”) and verb (“restore”) of the sentence.  It’s a present imperative. That means it’s a command.  That means you have to do it.  That means to not do it is a sin.

I mean, it would be a command if it was a present imperative that said “When your feelings are hurt because you are embarrassed when someone disagrees with you, you blog about it.  Then, when you are confronted and even more offended, continue to blog about it.  Then, when you are again confronted, imply violence and say ‘I’m going to decide not to take that as a threat’ because you have black belts and know the person won’t confront you physically.  Then, when you are dragged in front of the pastoral staff, lie and claim you were not blogging about the person when they and both pastors say ‘You were blogging about him’ because, of course, when he disagreed with you when you were substituting in the class that was him attacking you.  I mean, he started it.  How dare he question you when he's a newcomer and YOU are the one teaching.”  Now if scripture said that, then going and blogging about being offended rather than acting like a man and saying something to the persons face first would be the right thing to do because it would be a command.  However, in this completely hypothetical scenario**, the Bible doesn’t say that so you’re not commanded to do it.

The Bible, however, does say the following in Galatians 6:1-

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

That’s a command of God, not a lie of Satan.
**I mean, who would be childish enough to behave like that, huh, Bugs?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review--The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

I'm not going to lie-sometimes reading through the Old Testament is hard for me.  That, of course, says more about me than it does about the scripture.  After all, we know all scripture is God breathed and useful for a multitude of purposes (II Timothy 3:16).  Still, I've always had a hard time making it through the first 5 books, particularly Exodus through Deuteronomy.  So, when I was sent this book by Crossway to review and comment on, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Therefore, let me stop right here and tell you to go order this book NOW.  Stop what you're doing and go buy the book The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy by Nancy Guthrie.  It's ok.  I'll wait.

Ok, you're back now.  Good.  This is a fantastic book.  Quite simply, I can't think of a better, more clear, thorough, readable explanation as to how the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy reveal Christ.  Ms. Guthrie does a great job of pointing out how everything from the life of Moses to the wilderness Tabernacle points toward Jesus.

Not only that, but since this is a Bible study, the book provides opportunity to interact not only with the text but with other people if you're studying this in a group.  Of course, I read through the book without working through the study (yet), but the questions are thought provoking and sure to provoke thoughtful discussion.

Much scholarship (so-called) in the past 150 years has centered on the thesis that the Old Testament is best interpreted without reference to Christ.  However, as you read Ms. Guthrie's book, it becomes clear that the only way to truly understand the Old Testament is to read it the way Christ read it:

John 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.



I believe this book will be a great blessing to you and would be a wonderful Bible study for any small group to use. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Command From God Isn’t The Point Of A Verse??

The other day, I posted an analysis of Galatians 6:1 and noted that the point of the verse is that we are commanded to go to someone who we see in sin and restore them gently.  This is obvious because the subject of that verse is “you” and the verb is “restore”.  The verb “restore” is a present imperative which means it’s a command which means to not do it is to disobey God.

Then, I read something side splittingly funny—someone wrote saying that this command, which Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, is not the point of the verse.  So, simply by asserting  “This is clearly erroneous…” and “The clear intent of this verse….”, they think they’ve proven that God didn’t mean exactly what He inspired Paul to write.  I guess when you read something you don’t like, you ignore little trivial things like grammar and syntax and just insert your own meaning in there.  Haa.
I mean, that would be like someone substituting in a Sunday School class and during the class when someone disagrees with them, they feel offended.  However, instead of doing what a grown man would do and going to that person (since they felt “attacked” when that person disagreed with them) and talking to them about it, they sull up and pout.  Then two weeks or so afterwards, they write a blog post about the incident, again instead of saying the stuff to the persons face first, but claim that it wasn’t about that person when the Sunday School teacher and two pastors both recognize that it was.  Of course, that’s just a hypothetical situation and would never happen, but in order to justify such infantile behavior, a person would have to do the same sort of theological and grammatical gymnastics as someone claiming a command of God (present imperative) is not the point of a verse.  Too funny!!!

What Does It Mean? Matthew 5:23-24

Recently, I noticed someone using sloppy exegesis to determine the meaning of some scriptures.  That got me to thinking that it might be a good exercise to post not some exposition but rather analysis that I would use to determine the meaning of the text so that I could exposit it. 

Take the following verses out of Matthew. 

Matthew 5:23-24 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  

Now, I don’t remember the exact words the guy used, but when talking about what this verse meant he said something like verse 22 is talking about being angry with your brother (or whomever), so clearly (clearly to him, anyway), verses 23 and 24 are speaking about if that anger is coming between you and God. More particularly, it discusses not harboring anger. 

Hmm, that’s interesting.  Let’s take a look at the passage and see if that’s what it means.  What does the verse say you are doing?  Well, it says “…you are offering…” and that you “remember”.  Both verbs are in the active voice, which just means that you personally are performing the action.  What do you remember?  Well, you remember your brother has something against you.  In other words, he is angry.  What is your brother doing in this verse?  He “…has something against you…”  The verb in this phrase is also in active voice, meaning that he himself is angry.  Therefore, in this verse, are you angry?  No.  Obviously then, it couldn’t possibly be talking about your anger coming between you and God since you’re not the one angry. 

“But wait” someone might say.  We didn’t consider verse 22.  Perhaps that might change the interpretation just like this guy says.  So let’s also look at verse 22. 

Matthew 5:22  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  

So, who is Christ talking to?  Well, this passage is in the Sermon on the Mount, so He’s talking to His disciples, not just His apostles.  He’s also not indicating any specific individual, but He says “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”  The word “everyone” would mean “any person”.  So he’s not just talking about you being angry, as this person states.  He’s talking about any person being angry.  Now, there is nothing to suggest or imply that this means that the person in verse 23 who is presenting his gift at the altar is the one angry since verse 23 very clearly says the brother is angry and that you are the one presenting the offering. 

Therefore, what these verses mean is what they say.  If you know someone is angry at you, then you are supposed to attempt to initiate reconciliation.  That would involve you going to that person and discussing the issue face to face.  In fact, because verse 24 says that you are supposed to “leave your gift at the altar”, to fail to do this is sin, since “leave” is an active imperative—in other words, it’s a command not a suggestion.

We have a few more verses to examine.  I pray you are encouraged.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Does It Mean? Galatians 6:1

Recently, as I mentioned the other day, I noticed someone using sloppy exegesis to determine the meaning of some scriptures.  That got me to thinking that it might be a good exercise to post not some exposition but rather analysis that I would use to determine the meaning of the text so that I could exposit it. 

As an example, look at this verse from Galatians.   

Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Again, I regret that I don’t remember exactly what the person said about what this verse meant, but it was something along the lines of that the verse is not about the confronting, but about when confronting, to do so with a spirit of gentleness so that one is not tempted to sin himself.

Ummmm, I believe we might need to look at this verse and see if that’s in fact what it’s saying, cause I’m thinking “Not so much”.

I think the first question we have to ask is what the subject of this sentence is.  The subject is “you”.  Of course, the “you” is the “Brothers” but the word “brothers “is being used to identify the people Paul is addressing.

Next, let’s ask “Ok, well what is the verb” because, remember, the assertion we’re testing here is that “the verse is not about confronting”.  So, in Greek, the subject and verb of a sentence have the same person (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person) and the same number (singular or plural).  So, we’ve got “is caught”, “restore”, and “keep watch” as our suspects in this mystery. 

The verb translated “keep watch” (skopeo-4648) is a participle so it can’t be the verb (a participle is a verbal noun—thanks Granny Dawkins).  The verb translated “is caught” (prolambano-4301) is 3rd person singular.  The verb “restore” is 2nd person plural.  The subject of our sentence (“you”) is also 2nd person plural.  Therefore, the subject of the sentence is “you” and the verb is “restore”.  Also, the verb “restore’ is a present imperative.  What that means is that it’s a command.  If it’s a command, that means you’re being told to do it.  If you’re being told do it, then to not do it is sin.  So, in direct contradiction to what was asserted above that the verse is “not about the confronting”, very obviously the verse is certainly about the confronting because Paul is here commanding that they do it.  In fact, since the verb is in the present tense, it doesn’t mean just go do it once and say “Hey, I tried”.  It means to continue to go doing it, presumably until the person is restored from whatever sin they are involved in.

Someone might counter though “Wait, I’m not called to point out other people’s sins.  That’s not my job.  That’s not what I’ve been called to do.  In fact, look, it says ‘you who are spiritual should restore’.  That means this is a job for the leaders in the church, not me.” 

Well, let’s just see about that, shall we.

The word translated “spiritual” is pnuematikos (4152).  it is used in the New Testament in 20 verses in addition to the passage here in Galatians (in the NASB—sorry, Angie J ). 

Romans 1:11, Romans 7:14, Romans 15:27, 1 Cor 2:13, 1 Cor 2:15, 1 Cor 3:1, 1 Cor 9:11, 1 Cor 10:3, 1 Cor 10:4, 1 Cor 12:1, 1 Cor 14:1, 1 Cor 14:37, 1 Cor 15:44, 1 Cor 15:46, Eph 1:3, Eph 5:19, Eph 6:12, Col 1:9, Col 3:16, 1 Peter 2:5

None of these verses indicate that the term applies only to leaders of the church.  So therefore, there is no reason to restrict the meaning of this word here in this verse in Galatians. 

Therefore, what this verse means is that if we see someone caught up in or overtaken by sin, we are to go to them, since that is a commandment, and gently attempt to help restore them while being careful to avoid temptation ourselves.

Friday, August 24, 2012

You Can Tell A Live Body From A Dead One

The only time I've ever seen a dead body in person is at a funeral, but I'm pretty sure if I saw someone who had been dead for hours, certain signs would clue me that they were dead.  No, I don't mean "No pulse" or "Not breathing" because the person might have had something happen within a few minutes of me finding them in that state and could possibly be revived.  I mean something more obvious, like blue skin, blueish lips--you know, things that let you know the body hasn't gotten oxygen in a good, long time.  I'm pretty sure most people would not have to be told that a person in that condition isn't coming back from it.

So, when we read the following passage in Colossians 2:13

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (ESV)

and this one in Ephesians 2:1

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (ESV)

we should realize that dead doesn't mean sick, or about to die, not does it suggest that people can be resuscitated by religion but they need to be resurrected by a Savior.  Our attempts to use church programs, man centered evangelistic strategies, gimmicks, or feel good self help will not lead anyone to a right relationship with God.  They're as foolish as trying to do CPR on a corpse that is cold to the touch with blueish skin.  It's only when we preach gospel that people can know what they must do to be saved.  We must prech that God is holy but mankind is sinful.  However, because God is so merciful and so kind, He decided to send Jesus, His Son, to live a fully obedient life without any sin.  God sent His Son to the cross where Jesus suffered the punishment for sin that we deserve.  Because He was our Substitute, if we have faith that He died on the cross and rose again for our sin and we repent of our sin, God will save us.  He will  save anyone who repents of their sins and trusts Christ.

Have you done that?  Do you realize you are a sinner?  Do you want to be freed from your sin?  Trust that Christ died and rose again and repent--call out to God and tell Him you've done this and He will save you.  He will resurrect you from spiritual death and make you spiritually alive.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bereavement....nah!!!!

Wednesday morning, I read something so funny I almost broke a rib laughing.  Anyway, what I read isn't important nor is when I read it.  Once I got composed again, which took several minutes, I was reminded of a scripture verse.

Psalm 17:22 (ESV)--A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

And I got to thinking, there's nothing more important in the life of a believer than understanding what the Bible means, but maybe, just as a break for today, maybe someone needs a laugh and I can give them one.  Here's some funny stuff to encourage you to have a good laugh today.

 

They still use cellphones in the 24th century?


Well, duct tape does fix everything, right?


The funniest part of this is I went to a church where the youth director took the kids on a trip to see a service at Steven Furtick's church.  Ok, that's not so funny after all.

 
"I thought you said you were watching them!"
 
And last but not least......
 
 
Thank you, Captain Obvious!!!!
 
I hope you got a good guffaw out of those.  Or at least maybe a chortle.  :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Habakkuk 2:18 The Foolishness of Idolatry Part I

I’m a diabetic.  My grandma (paternal) and both of my parents were as well, so I come by it honestly.  I probably could have staved off the disease longer by making smarter choices when I was younger but, well, it is what it is.  Thankfully, though, God in His providence allowed for the invention of Splenda.  Oh, how I love me some Splenda.  It doesn’t replace sugar, but it gets close enough for this old boy.  It’s a fine substitute.  Some substitutes are nowhere near as good as the real thing.  A man who cheats on his wife, for instance, and nearly wrecks his marriage and loses his son as a result (despite his protests of “She made the indecent proposal”) finds that substitute for love can’t compare with the real thing.  I would say idolatry falls into that same category.  Setting up something in your life as a substitute for God can bring a kind of comfort and assurance, but those are only temporary and shallow at best.

In fact, as we read through our passage in Habakkuk, there are things that God says about idols that I think hold true for all of them, whether they’re made of gold like a statue or brick and mortar like an office.  First of all, notice with me that idols are worthless.  In verse 18, we ready the rhetorical question “What profit is an idol?”  The answer, of course, is that there is no profit.  For that matter, there is no “prophet” in the idol either, but we’ll get to that later.  Anything that we make into an idol costs something, whether it’s wood, gold, or silver like the Babylonians or a job, power, or a boat like we do today. In order to worship and serve God, we have to spend our time:  in Bible study, prayer, ministry, and other things.  Well, if you’re serving anything in the place of God you’re going to do the same thing.  You’ll need to work one more week of late nights, make yourself look better at the expense of others, or wax and polish that boat just a few hours more.  The fact is, as human beings, we’re going to worship. 

Furthermore, observe in Habakkuk 2:17 the truth that idols are manufactured.  In fact, I would go further to say that sometimes people manufacture their own idols.  We find that to be the case in this verse because the maker “shaped it” and “trusts in his own creation”.  To illustrate the absurdity of those statements read with me the following passage in Isaiah 44:14-17.  I won’t reproduce the entire passage here, but the short version of the long story is some guy goes out, cuts down a tree, takes one log from that tree and makes a fire to warm himself and cook his food.   He fashions the other log into a wooden idol and worships it.  Now, that wooden idol that he is worshipping had a 50/50 chance of being the wood that he burned to cook and warm himself.  So he could have just as easily burned this thing that he is now calling “god”.  If that doesn’t make you want to guffaw, I don’t know what will.  The fact is, idols are not creators, and they are always creations.  And if I create something, it must, by definition, be less than me.  So what kind of silly person would I be to bow down to something I just made?  Exactly.

Finally, we know that God is a truthful God.  We He speaks, what He says is true and we can trust it.  People that trust an idol trust in a lie.  The text refers to idols as “teacher[s] of lies”.  While it doesn’t specifically say what lies are being taught, I would imagine some of them include “You’re ok”, “Everything will be alight”, or “Live for the now and take what you want”.  In any case, in contrast to our God who speaks truth, these idols lie even though they themselves are “speechless”.  I think that means they help the makers lie to themselves.  They tell themselves that everything is ok when in fact their soul is in mortal danger because of their sins.

As we look later at the passage, we’ll see more evidence of the foolishness of idolatry.  As we remind ourselves of that, we should also be encouraged to faithfully follow, worship, and obey God rather than idols.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review-Am I Called? by Dave Harvey

Occassionally, I receive books from Crossway Publications and they ask me to review the book.  I enjoy that part of blogging because, well, I'm addicted to books like some people are to coffee.  I recently received a book about the summons to pastoral ministry called "Am I Called?"  The author, Dave Harvey, is a pastor and he writes to men considering the call to pastoral ministry.  Therefore, his primary audience is pretty specific.  However, I wold commend this book not only to men who believe they may be called but also to all Christians who desire to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

I think Dave Harvey does a good job of trying to articulate both the subjective, interal experience of being called by God to service and the objective, external factors involved such as people recognizing your gifting and aptitude for ministry.  The book is practical and ultimately points the reader back to the most important thing any Christian needs to be reminded of--that any call from God is first and foremost intertwined with the call to salvation.  In other words, the most important thing in the ministers life is his relationship with Christ.  Hense, the reason one of his first chapters is titled "Summoned to the Savior".  His second section offers a series of questions that any man thnking about entering the pastoral ministry must ask hmself.  The biblical qualifications for being a pastor are high and therefore a good deal of personal iintropection and examination by others in various contexts are important, to say the least.  I think my favorite chapter, however, was chapter 10, which covered what to do "While You Wait".  The time between you realizing God has called you, he says, and you being able to use that call in a church should be a time for growth and reflection even as you're chomping at the bits to get to work.

In short, I think you ought to get a copy of this book regardless of whether you're a man who believes he is called to ministry or you're a man or woman who just wants to think more deeply about the gospel.  I believe this book would be a great benefit either way.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Matthew 18:15-17 Dealing With Offenses

This is just a short note to remind us that when we believe someone has attacked* us, we should follow the prescription for dealing with offenses in Matthew 18:15-17 rather than behaving like a junior high school girl and doing something childish like blogging about it.

*Becauase if we claim that someone attacked us (December 7, 2011 "...Grouchy took the offensive...") then we are saying that person has sinned against us.  Claiming anything else is just verbal gymnastics similar to what children do when caught with their pants down doing something they shouldn't.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Habakkuk 2:15-17 Shame, shame, shame!!

I’ve never really enjoyed watching reality TV.  I guess that’s why I haven’t watched much first-run television in probably a decade because that’s all that’s on.  You can watch people’s hearts get broken on dating shows, you can see people compete in groups against each other to see who is going to be told “You no longer have a job here”, and you can watch people embarrass themselves in all manner of contests to try and avoid being shipped off of an island.  I guess we’re following the same pattern as the society of Babylon because, as we read in this text, they enjoyed watching people embarrass themselves as well.  I submit to you that if a society finds enjoyment in the humiliation of other people, that society is sick.  In the case of Babylon, it was just one more example of why God was going to judge them for their wickedness.

First of all, Habakkuk 2:15 gives us the fifth “Woe” in this song about the Babylonian empire.  They are told they will be punished because of how they manipulate people for their own enjoyment.  Specifically, we’re told the Babylonians “make [their] neighbor drink…in order to gaze at their nakedness”.  Now, obviously there is an aspect of lusting in what they’re doing, but the basic thrust here is the same as today in reality television.  They view people as objects to be used as fodder for entertainment.  They enjoy seeing them in positions that we all would find embarrassing—in this verse specifically we’re told it is so the Babylonians can “look on their nakedness”.  Now, if you or I were to be seen by most people without our clothes, we would be embarrassed.  However, for the Babylonians, and for many in our entertainment culture today, that’s not really important.  When we devalue men and women who are made in the image of God, we reveal something about how holy we think God is—so in the end these Babylonians, in their lust, were really giving further evidence of their profane, anti-God attitude.

Instead of being able to sit around and enjoy the shame of other people, God tells them that they themselves will be shamed.  In fact, Habakkuk 2:16 says they will be shamed in the same sorts of ways that they embarrassed other people (…show your uncircumcision..).  They made others drink wine so that they could watch them put on a show for their amusement.  God will, in His time, make the Babylonians drink from the cup of His wrath.  While judgment would not come where the prophet Habakkuk could see it, it would come and when it did those who had lived in comfort because they were in power as world conquerors would find that they were the ones suffering shame.

The Babylonians ascended to world dominance through violence—they conquered a whole lot of people, killed some, enslaved others, and lived high on the hog as a result.  However, as we read in Habakkuk 2:17, the chicken, metaphorically speaking, will come home to roost.  All of the violence they had spread and the blood that they had shed would be returned on them.  Now, we know from reading history, that it was the Persian army of King Darius that attacked Babylon, but in the end, it was by the word that God spoke in the prophesy that judgment came upon that nation.  No matter how long it takes, God will execute His wrath on sinners for their sinfulness.

Friday, August 3, 2012

They think they so smarty... they think their brain so big.

I moved to Tennessee in 2006.  I didn’t move to get away from anyone, the church I served as pastor loved me and they invite me back pretty regularly, and I certainly didn’t move to try to find a pastorate where no one knew me—I’ve made no attempts to contact any church about an open position.  When I’ve talked to a church it’s been because they called me.  I work a full time job as an auditor so I'm not remotely interested in a full time pastorate.  I’m perfectly happy to just take opportunities to share the gospel and the truth of God’s word where I find them.  Some people, though, crave prestige.  It’s usually because they feel so small inside they have to do something to make themselves feel like they matter.  They love the position of being “The Teacher” because it makes them feel important.  As an aside, when someone says “I never wanted to be a teacher.  It’s not something I look forward to doing but I do it when I asked” you can be 100% sure that they most certainly do enjoy it and are on the lookout for anyone they perceive as a threat to their position.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem are a perfect example of this kind of mentality.  As we read in Matthew 2:4-6, we see they are abounding in knowledge but it hasn’t made any difference because their eyes are blind to the truth of God’s word. 

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, July 30, 2012

Colossians 1:3-5 [Insert Sermon Title Here}

I was asked to come preach this past Sunday at a church near where I live.  I preached from Colossians 1:3-5.  Click here for the audio to play in your browser (or right click on the link to download to your computer). 

The sermon title is a joke--I couldn't come up with a good, catchy sermon title, so......there's that.  :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hebrews 7:4-10 The Greatness of Melchezedek

This ia bible study I taught about 2 years ago out of Hebrews.  I pray that you are encouarged.  Click here for the audio to play in your browser or right clck to download..

The Gospel and The Dark Knight Rises

Why does that clown playing me sound like he ate gravel, Robin?
The shootings that happened last week at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises are the stuff of nightmares.  Just as nightmarish have been the responses in the wake of that tragedy.  As one would expect, those on the political left cried for tougher gun control laws because, as we all know, criminals obey the law scrupulously.  I'm not in favor of further gun control laws and I think the constitution protects our right to own firearms, but for a Christian, this isn't the time to bellyache about laws concerning guns or to proclaim "You can take my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers".  Christians have a responsibility to respond to this senseless tragedy with the gospel, not with political posturing. 
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5 ESV)
Folks, life is short.  Eternity isn't.  Have you repented of your sins and trusted God to save you on account of Christ's sacrifice?  If you recognize your need for a savior and pray to God to save you, it doesn't matter what you've done, where you're from, or who you are, He will save.  He won't turn anyone away who repents of their sins and trusts in Christ's sacrifice on Calvary for salvation.  You have no idea when time will run out for you.  Please don't put it off.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sociopathy?

Lie
Deny
Make Counter Accusations

Silly rabbit, just look in I Samuel 15!!

Are these the actions of a serial sociopath?
Well, I think that’s what psychologists would call it. But, they actually describe someone from scripture pretty well.
King Saul, when he was ordered to go slaughter the Amalekites in I Samuel 15, did most of the job.  He was obedient—up to a point.  He was ordered to kill everyone and destroy all their property.  Instead, he killed most of them and kept some of the best of their animals for spoil.
When Samuel confronted him, he lied and said he had been obedient.  When Samuel pressed him,  he denied he kept the spoil for himself but that he intended to offer it on the altar to God.  When Samuel continued to press him, Saul claimed the people pressured him to do it.
Seems to me we could learn a lot by just studying the mistakes that Saul made.

I mean, all that over some sheep?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Habakkuk 2:12-14 You’re bellyaching about doughnuts?

We’re all familiar with the poem The Nail. 

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost.
So it was a kingdom was lost - all for want of a nail.
 

Priorities, people!!!!
While it’s true that sometimes the smallest things can make a big difference, some people will whine and complain about something as inconsequential as a nail, or a doughnut, or whatever when their refusal to repent of their sins when they’ve been pointed out is the problem they really need to address.  For instance, in the passage we’re going to look at in Habakkuk, the sinfulness of the Babylonians is evident, but so is their stubborn heart which refuses to repent. 

Observe with me the manner in which these Babylonians go about their conquest.  In Habakkuk 2:12, we’re told the tools of their trade are “blood” and “iniquity”.  The Babylonian army was violent, as we saw when we studied Habakkuk 1:5-11.  They killed without pity and were savage in their treatment of the survivors.  In fact, they dehumanized them in many ways, but in particular in verse 13 we notice they enslaved them.  A worker earns his wages.  A slave is lucky to get anything at all.  They treated them no better than a rake or a mule.   

That’s not how God intended for people to treat one another.  If someone works for you, you should pay them.  We don’t “own” any other person.  God created each of us as individuals and we are accountable for how we treat one another.  In contrast to how the Babylonians enslave, kill, rob, and mistreat people, in Habakkuk 2:14, we read that God, Who is in control of everything, will ultimately be glorified.  No matter how awful things are on this earth, regardless of how we treat each other, and no matter the pains and sorrows we experience, we can trust and know that God is sovereign over time, history, and all of creation.  He will be glorified in all things, even in the midst of our pain, and He will be known even by those who reject Him.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Moron....or Oxymoron??

So a wannabe teacher says to you at one point that he doesn’t need to be saved.
Then later he says that you are wrong in your doctrine.
Then later he lies about you to authority.
He accuses you falsely of multiple things.
And at the same time, he expects respect.
 

Sound like anyone you know? 

The Persian Empire did all these things.  They believed their god was the mightiest because they had conquered Israel.  The jealous leaders told King Darius that Daniel had defied his order and prayed to God.  They lied about Daniel suggesting he was not a faithful servant of the king.  They did all these things because they were jealous of Daniel.  But God was with Daniel so in the end what they thought or said didn’t matter. 

Funny, things haven’t changed in the last 2,200 years.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“Aww, did you cry to Andy about it? Did he make it all better?”

“Did he fix it and make you feel all safe because you were so threatened?  Bless your little heart—so mistreated and bullied.  Did he make everything ok, little bunny?”

The title to this post was supposed to be Habakkuk 2:9-11 Malicious Motivation.  However, as I was studying this text and preparing to write, I let my imagination run a little bit.  I tried to picture what it would have been like to have been an Israelite and have the Chaldean army come in, conquer, and take all your belongings.  I pictured a young Israelite who had lost everything they had to that terribly vicious army saying to himself (or herself) “I know, maybe my kinsman-redeemer could help me.  Maybe he can convince them to give me my stuff back”.  So, I imagined this person’s kinsman redeemer, who I randomly named Andrew, going to the Babylonians, getting his clock cleaned, and going back to his relative to tell him it was hopeless.  Then, I could see the giant of a soldier going to the man and mocking him.  Can you imagine how humiliating something like that would be?  Trying to put myself in that kind of place and imagine what it would have been like to be helpless certainly made the text more real to me.  Ultimately, the hearts of the Babylonian army were utterly wicked and their motivation for conquest was purely evil.

First of all, notice in Habakkuk 2:9 the desire behind their conquests—“to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm”.  In other words, they saw themselves as a “self-made man”.  In contrast to those who trust God and rely on Him for everything, including their salvation, the Babylonians plundered other people and robbed them of their possessions for the purpose of enriching themselves.  To them, it was a kind of insurance policy—a nest egg, if you will.  They felt safe because they had enough stuff to weather whatever sort of storm life threw at them.  Such self-reliance is celebrated in our culture, but the fact is that as Christians we rely on God not on ourselves.  We have faith that God will provide for us and carry us through whatever we face in this life.  We have the hope that this life is not the end and no matter how hard life is, we can trust God to keep us safe, not our own strength and possessions. 

The Babylonians thought that they set themselves above other people.  They saw themselves as honored because when one army conquered another army in the ancient world, the people interpreted that to mean that the god of the winning army was more powerful than the god of the losing army.  However, in reality that is the exact opposite of what they would experience in the long term.  They thought they were honored because of their conquest but Habakkuk 2:10 tells us because of their conquests they had “devised shame” instead of gaining honor.  And, as would be the case years later when the Persian Empire conquered them, rather than being safe they would find they had “forfeited [their] life”.

The fact is, what they had done was evident to everybody.  People saw the Babylonian Empire go out and conquer nation after nation with impunity.  People saw what was happening—they knew how they treated people I think that’s the idea being expressed in Habakkuk 2:11—the stones and the beams of their lofty homes would cry out against them.  There’s no place to run or hide.  You can live “high on the hog” and flaunt sin in God’s face for so long, but eventually there is a judgment day.  One day, these merciless men would be punished for what they did.  They would suffer like they’d made others suffer.

The root cause of this and their other sins is pride.  They were too proud to cry out to God and seek Him.  They preferred to live life on their terms.  If that describes you today, pray to God that He will break you of your sinful pride and grant you repentance.

Friday, July 13, 2012

II Timothy 3:14--Christian Discipleship

I preached this sermon back in 2009.  This was an AWANA awards ceremony.  Click this link and it should play in your browser or right click to save to your hard drive.  I pray that you are encouraged.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Matthew 9:27-31 Coming Out of the Darkness

I told you that you shoulda used Lifeboy.
I was born with cataracts so I spent about the first 18 months of my life blind as a bat.  Two other times over the years I’ve had eye surgery and had to be led around by other people to get anywhere, so when I read the healings in the gospels involving blind folks, it warms my heart.  Because, one day, in heaven I will get a new resurrection body and both of my eyes will see clear as day and let me tell you I am looking forward to it.  The men we read about in these verses were blessed because not only did they get their sight because of their faith in Christ; they got their sight in this lifetime.

Notice with me that after Christ walked by them in verse 37, they cried out to Him for mercy.  In particular, observe the title they used to call Him—“Son of David”.  Now, from this we can assume these men had saving faith.  They believed Jesus was the Messiah sent from God and likely knew, as was prophesied in Isaiah, that the Messiah would open the eyes of the blind.  Unlike what is taught by Word of Faith heretics, their genuine faith did not cause them to be healed miraculously.  Rather, it drove them to seek out Jesus and appeal to Him for mercy and healing. 

Being blind is a limiting disability now but being blind back then meant you had to depend on others—family, friends, and strangers.  It was impossible to work.  Instead, you had to beg.  You were at the bottom of the social and religious totem pole, so to speak, and many people would assume you had been cursed by God (John 9:2).  But physical blindness is less severe than spiritual blindness (II Corinthians 4:4) and in many ways it is a picture of what spiritual blindness is like.  A person who is spiritually blind is helpless and hopeless, unable to see their sin and need for a Savior.  These men had their physical eyes opened and sought the Messiah to have their physical eyes opened. 

In Matthew 9:28, after Jesus entered the house, they followed him, demonstrating their faith with their persistence.  Giving them an opportunity to verbalize their faith, He asked them if they believed He could heal them.  He didn’t ask if they thought He was willing, but rather was He able—“Do you believe I am Who you say that I am?”  When they answered “Yes, Lord”, He compassionately touched their eyes and they were healed.  Of course, He could have healed them without touching them, but perhaps, because they were blind, He gave them a touch so they could know that He did respond to their faith. 

In any case, their eyes were opened.  I can imagine their excitement.  During my recovery from my last eye surgery, I was unable to see much of anything for two weeks.  I was scheduled to preach and bought a Giant Print NASB so that I could see.  I remember the sheer joy of being able to open that Bible and read God’s word after having been worried I’d never see again.  These men had been blind, probably from birth, so their joy even eclipsed mine.  A whole new world opened right before their eyes, literally.

Of course, as we read in Matthew 9:30, Jesus knew what could happen as a result of their excitement.  These men, likely as not, were going to go shouting as loudly as they could to everyone they could tell what Jesus had done.  And, as we’ve seen in this gospel and others, when Jesus heals people, crowds form.  These crowds of course had some people who had genuine faith in the Messiah.  However, some of the people were just looking for a good show or a free meal.  Because the gawkers would pose an impediment to His ministry, Jesus wanted to avoid them so He commanded the men to keep quiet about this healing.  Of course, as we see in verse 31, these men, who had enough faith to be healed by the Messiah, disobeyed Jesus.  In the end though, are we really that different, brothers and sisters.  God reveals Himself to us in His word and calls us to repent of our sins, trust Christ, and walk in a manner consistent with our faith (Colossians 1:10) but we still struggle with sin and disobedience.  Praise God, however, that just like these blind men who were healed, God still loves us and forgives us when we sin because we are His children.