Wednesday, June 30, 2010
There are three fascinating things going on in this passage of scripture that will surely encourage both the strong and faint of heart. It is Caleb that has spoken these words. The occasion is the distribution of territories in the promised land. Caleb is requesting his parcel.
The first interesting thing to note is that Caleb is one of just two survivors that began the Hebrews' wilderness trek at the age of 20+. This was accomplished by the grace of God through Caleb's faith. He and Joshua were two of the 12 spies that went into Canaan. While 10 brought back a negative and pessimistic report filled with fear, it was Caleb that spoke up and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it," Num 13:31. God rewarded this faith by blessing him live and to go into the promised land.
Then, at the age of 85, Caleb was still desirous to fight the enemies of God. He states in Joshua 14:11, "I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me' as my strength was then, so my strengh is now, for war and for going out and coming in." You see beloved, though the land was surely promised to the children of Israel, it was occupied when they arrived there. It was necessary to evict the tenants. Despite his advanced age, Caleb was ready to continue doing the Lord's will.
Finally, one might think because of what he had been through and because of his advanced age, he would collect as his reward the choicest most fertile fields on which to retire. In fact, he chose a very hilly terrain that was occupied by a fierce people and heavy fortifications. It was Caleb's plan to rid the land of the squaters and ultimately give an inheritance of the land to his daughter, Achsah. Eventually, he did just that. How many of us feel entitled and less unwilling to work as we see our age advance? Caleb is an example of remaining on the battlefield of the Lord despite the most difficult circumstances.
As you consider the life of this man, consider the status of your faith at your current age. Is there room to grow?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The 13th chapter of 1 Kings contains a fascinating story of failure. I encourage you to take a few moments to read it. In it you will find that God blessed a prophet to deliver His word to a king that was defying him. God delivered this word directly to the prophet with specific instructions not to linger after his work was done, but to go home by a different path without eating or drinking. A person claiming to be a prophet himself told him that God instructed him to bring him back to his place. Unfortunately, the prophet of God was convinced and went back with the lying prophet where he ate and drank.
Beloved, it is critically important that you know God's truth for yourself. It is available to each and every one of us in the form of the Holy Scriptures. Many of us have several copies of it lying around the house but seldom read it outside of morning worship when we are directed by the preacher to "turn in your bibles to..." Failing to know what "thus saith the Lord" subjects us to hearing it through the interpretation, filters and perhaps even the lies of others.
To be sure, it is important to attend worship and hear the preached word. It is important to attend bible classes. Preachers and teachers are a gift from God according to Eph 4:11-13. But it is also important that you "search the scriptures daily to see that the things you are being told are so," Acts 17:11. You see at judgement, "Well the preacher said," or "The teacher said," will not be acceptable excuses. God will surely ask, "What did I say?"
The prophet of God lost his life because he followed the word of man rather than God. If God instructed you directly and specifically, why would you ever let anyone tell you anything different than what He has said? Who do you trust with your eternity, God or man?
Monday, June 28, 2010
"That I may know him." Think about that phrase for a moment. Paul had just outlined his impressive resume and stated that he counted the loss of it all as rubbish that he might better and more intimately know the Savior.
What would we be willing to give up in order that we may know him? Be thoughtful about your answer. Much of our lives are spent focused on the blessings rather than the "blesser". Though working or going to school, spending time with our families and contributing to the community are all important and needful things, our relationship with the Lord often suffers because them. This is not to mention the many hours of leisure we spend on various pursuits. Most simply asked, would we be willing to count as loss even our time in order that we may know him?
Beloved, it is not enough to just know him intellectually, but we must know him experientially. Paul goes so far as to vicariously and perhaps personally desire to not just know him but to know his suffering and even his death. This may be difficult for us to reconcile in this day and time but something else is not: for what we give up, we gain the resurrection. Let us re-adjust our priorities, that we may know him.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Beloved, we must all take a serious look in the mirror. To be sure this can be a difficult and sobering thing to do when done in sincerity and openness of heart. Only we and God truly know what is in our hearts and minds. Truly we spend so much time managing others' impression of ourselves, we sometime forget who we really are. We buy in to the mask we construct for ourselves and experience self delusion.
This is a very dangerous thing for Christians. Look around and see how the moral standards of society have fallen so precipitously. Could it be that the same is true of us as a church and as individuals? Are we convicted by what we allow? Let it not be said of us what Christ said about the Pharisees: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," Matt 15:8.
Our precious relationship with the Lord is not in the telling. It is in the living. Let us constantly examine ourselves to see that the things we profess are the things that can truly be found in our lives, not by others, but by the Lord and ourselves. Our very eternity depends upon it.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Verse 32 is popularly misconstrued to mean that if we Christians would "lift" our Lord up in praise, others would become aware of him and be drawn to him. Thanks be to the Father that things concerning Jesus are not dependant on us. John 1:3 reminds us that all things came into being by him and by extension, without us. Jesus is more than able.
We obtain the true meaning of verse 32 by reading and understanding verse 33. His being lifted up was about the method by which he would sacrifice his life for everyone who ever lived and ever would; he was hung up on a cross after a very public trial at a major thoroughfare in all of his humiliation for everyone to see. This was the most shameful death possible at the time and he did it in and of himself.
John 3:14 compares this "lifting up" to that which was done in the book of Numbers when Moses was commanded to fabricate a brass serpent to heal all who had been bitten by snakes sent to punish them for their disobedience. The brass serpent was placed on a staff and held high so everyone who chose to look could see. If they wanted to be saved, they had to look upon the death meant for them.
The same is true for us today. Christ physically died the death that was meant for us spiritually. If he was not lifted up on the cross, we would have no hope and we would have no life. It was this lifting that is still drawing mankind today. Surely he is worthy of our praise, misconstrued or otherwise.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
For the casual observer, this can be a difficult passage of scripture. Surely we want to be united with our Lord, but how do we do so in the likeness of his death? Contextually, the apostle Paul is talking about baptism.
Baptism, my beloved, is a burial. We are immersed in water simulating the covering of Christ at his death. When we accept Christ as our Lord and savior, we give up the life we counted as our own. In essence, we die. Being dead, we are buried. This is illustrated by Paul when he says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Gal 2:20. Through our death, we receive spiritual life.
We come up out of the water in the newness of life just as Christ did when he was resurrected. We are new creatures, dedicated to living Christ-like lives. Our old fleshly lives deteriorated us day by day, but our new spiritual lives renew us the same way. We come out of the water clean and having done so, it is the blood of Christ that cleanses us as long as we walk in the light as God is in the light, 1 John 1:7.
Why baptism? Because it was commanded, because Christ himself was baptized, because it cleanses, because it is the changing point from our old sinful life to our new holy life, because it puts us in touch with God's grace through this demonstrated act of faith that saves. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." Matt 16:25
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians in an effort to address the fact that many of them had ceased to work due to what they believed was the imminent second coming of the Lord. During these times, there were those who evidently ceased to obey the will of God.
Everything we have been taught as Christians lends itself to reaching out to others, giving of ourselves, practicing forgiveness and bearing one another's burdens. This is certainly where the majority of our spiritual efforts should lie. It is just as important, however, to protect the body.
When a brother turns from the Lord and begins to have an influence on others, it is time for drastic action. Paul also wrote in 1 Cor 9, 11, "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people...But actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one."
It may seem harsh, but "a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough." The amount of bad influence it takes to do a great deal of harm to the body is relatively small. Unchecked, it grows and grows until it is out of control. Nothing should be allowed to put souls in jeopardy. This is why something you hear very little about, church discipline, is so critically important. It can surely be painful, but surgery often is. The benefit to the health of the body should always outweigh our aversion to discomfort.
Beloved every effort should be exhausted to bring a reprobate brother or sister back into the fold. In fact many of these measures are designed to make them feel so ashamed and so isolated that they will repent and return. But if they do not, we must, as Paul once did, "give them over to Satan," 1 Tim 1:20. Sometimes the truth hurts but it will always make us free.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
In what do we place our confidence? What institution do we trust? On whom do we rely? To follow the metaphor, are we more comfortable placing our funds in a mattress, a bank or in stocks? The mattress allows us to keep our funds close and experience the ultimate in liquidity, but no return. The bank gives us security and interest but could also cost us through fees and other charges. The stock market potentially gives the greatest return but is easily the most risky and could cause us to lose it all.
Beloved, God offers us a better alternative. He encourages us to have a heavenly mindset about all in which we find value. In bible times, these consisted of fine clothing that were subject to the moth, precious metals that were subject to corruption and homes, usually made of mud brick that were easily breached by thieves. Should we value that which is heavenly and place our affections there, we would be in no danger of ever losing.
It is certain that the earthly, temporal and secular will pass away. God, however, is everlasting as are the treasures that only He can offer. Let us shift our gaze from these temporary and tentative things that so often and easily distract us and place our confidence in the security and fidelity of the Lord. There we are already wealthy in every sense of the word.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Contextually, Jesus was talking about actual children that had been brough to him to receive his blessings. His disciples rebuked those who brought the children but were themselves rebuked by him.
I believe this passage also serves as a metaphor for how people are brought to and received by Christ. Think about children. They are so innocent, so believing, so willing to take any and everything on faith. As parents, we feed into this with stories of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Our little blessings believe it with the same certainty as their knowledge that water is wet and that beds are for sleeping. They require no proof. They just accept it because the information came from someone they trust.
Jesus says that our faith is to be as innocent and as certain as theirs. When we come to him believing that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, he will receive us and bless us. Being an adult, with our jaded minds, our suspicions and demands for proof, can certainly be over rated. It is this rationality that will cause some of us to miss the kingdom all together.
Beloved we are the reason that we sometimes struggle so much to believe. We have been deceived by one another, thus causing us to be skeptical about everything we cannot control. The Lord, however, has never lied, never broken a promise and never failed to do exactly what he said he would. Let us suspend our man made doubt and return to the understanding and knowledge that God simply is. Approach Him with a child's belief and be lovingly accepted as one.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The truth is that bad things do happen to good people. In this passage, Joseph, having been sold into slavery by his brothers, now finds himself in jail after having been wrongly accused by his master's wife. Particularly tragic is that the scripture records no instance of him doing wrong nor having a bad attitude about his plight.
Beloved, it is the way of life to have both good and bad occur in your life. We celebrate the good and lament the less than fortunate things. The admonition is to trust God, come what may. Likewise, should we find ourselves suffering, let it not be for doing wrong, but for doing what is right.
Though Joseph found himself in slavery, then jail, God was always with him and used these difficult circumstances to prepare him for His work. Throughout his life he developed a talent for administration, wisdom and the communication of God's will. He was loyal, brave, steadfast, honorable, trustworthy and committed. In the end, God rewarded him by elevating him to the highest heights of Egyptian life and through him, saved and grew a nation.
Let us follow his example. Let us not become weary in well doing. God has promised to lift us up as well.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The young King Saul was given a charge by God through the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy His enemy the Amelikites and their king, Agag. Though he carried out part of the task, he kept the king and some of the choicest animals alive. It was tradition to preserve the monarch and his thought was to sacrifice the animals to Yahweh. When confronted by Samuel, he even blamed his people for the decision.
The problem (for Saul) was that God meant what he said. Saul made the mistake so many of us make while trying to live this Christian life. We tend to make alright the things we want to do regardless of what thus saith the Lord. Tragically, we substitute that which we believe God will be pleased with in place of what He has commanded. This ultimately cost Saul his crown, his comfort, his happiness and his life.
Beloved let us take our example from our Savior, who himself, "being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Phil 2:8. If Christ was obedient to the point of giving up his life, not for his own sake, but for ours, how could we be so deluded to think that God would have any interest whatsoever in our rationalized substitutions?
Sacrifice is good, but since we serve a God who means what He says and says what He means, obedience is better. Know that with us or without us individually, the accomplishment of His will is a certainty.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Living on this planet can be tough for believers and non believers alike. It represents a special difficulty for Christians, however. We are called to be different. We are called to resist the base pleasures of this world while living our lives in a way that would cause others to develop and maintain faith in God.
We are to transcend our worldly natures by taking on the mindset of the Lord. He came to seek and save that which was lost. It is among our responsibilities to do likewise. We are to serve as the ambassadors of heaven rather than natives of the planet. Consider what Jesus said on the subject in his prayer to the Father: "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. " They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." John 17:14-16
Beloved, while we are in the world and not being of the world, our desire must be that which Christ has for us; to not be overtaken by the evil one. In order to do this, we must not conform ourselves to the thinking and the ways of the world, but transformed to the mind of Christ. The will of God is that we share this with others.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Jesus had just shared the hard truth with his disciples that they would need to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to live. Failing to understand the meaning of the words, many of them ceased to follow him.
Beloved, there are many things that we do not understand about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and a variety of things in the spiritual realm. We do not understand why bad things sometimes happen to good people. We do not understand why loved ones are sometimes allowed to suffer and then are taken from us. We do not understand why the innocent are allowed to be victimized. Sometimes we just do not understand what the Lord is saying to us even today.
The tragedy is that some answers are available. Recall the Ethiopian eunuch, who while reading, yet failing to understand Isaiah 53, received understanding from one sent by God who was knowledgeable of the scriptures. Recall Jonah who was taught an object lesson in the belly of a fish after he fled from God which caused him to get back on course. Recall the tragedy of the rich young ruler who was told all he needed to know to inherit everlasting life but allowed his earthly position and possessions to cause him to walk away from the Lord.
None of us can say that all we need to know is not available. Our problem is that the information is not just lying around. Sometimes we actually have to do somethings to obtain it. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper than what meets the eye to gain understanding. The best advice of all, however, is to stay with the Lord, for it is he that has the words of eternal life.
[Memory verse of the week: Matt 7:13-14]
Thursday, June 10, 2010
In this day and age of skepticism, fact checking has become the national pastime. During the last presidential election, cable news networks and internet sites were buzzing 24 hours a day checking, verifying, rechecking and reverifying claims and statistics by those who were running. It seems that we don't want to take anyone's word for anything and that we want to know it all for ourselves.
Why is this mentality so prevalent regarding all things secular, but so noticeably lacking in the spiritual aspects of our lives. Put another way, why do we not study our bibles (more)? It has become our habit to be lazy when it comes to the word. This leads to biblical illiteracy. The end result is that we rely totally on what we think and what we are told rather than what we can learn for ourselves. In fact, we are more likely to look into the church finances and demand an accounting for every penny, than to spend an hour studying the holy writ of God.
Beloved, Heb 9:27 states, "...it is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgment." Our entire lives will be judged by the things found in the word. Does it not make sense to be as familiar and compliant with the bible as possible?
It is good to have knowledgeable men of God as preachers and teachers, but even they (we) will be judged out of the book. When it comes to your eternal soul, it is best to know it for yourself. Judgment will not be like an IRS audit at which you can call your tax preparer to come and answer questions on your behalf. We will all stand for ourselves. If we are wise, we will stand on the word.
For this reason, Jesus has said, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39
[Memory verse of the week: Matt 7:13-14]
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
In this day and age, it seems that everything is about obtaining more. We hang on every word and action of celebrities that live opulent lifestyles. We attend ourselves to Forbes' latest list of billionaires. We look up to the people who have what we want and are motivated to put great sums of energy into getting an approximation of it for ourselves.
Perhaps your particular desire does not lend itself to wealth or material gain. Perhaps obtaining a spouse, a certain level of education, a measure of health or a certain status among your peers is what drives you.
Beloved, there is nothing wrong with wanting things out of life (as long as it does not become covetousness or causes you to enter the realm of sin). Most of us are Christians because we desire to spend an eternity with the Father. The admonition today, however, is to consider and yes, pursue contentment. Our lives may not be ideal but we were never promised that. In fact we were told to expect trials and tribulations. Our contentment must be rooted in our faith that despite our situation, we still have Jesus and with Jesus we have everything.
Paul said, "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need," Phil 4:12. The secret? Verse 13 of the same chapter and book reveal that he could do anything through Christ that strengthened him. You can too.
We have every reason to be content. Count the blessings that you already have and you will see. Add to this that we can have the ultimate faith and trust that despite our circumstances, we can one day look forward to rising above them. The Divinely inspired scriptures have directed us to, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, " I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," Heb 13:5. If there was ever a reason to be content, surely this is it.
[Memory verse of the week: Matt 7:13-14]
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
What a tragedy to be almost saved. How sad to have every opportunity to pass from death to life, only to allow distraction, unpopularity, sin or unbelief to cause us to inherit destruction.
- Despite personal knowledge of God, Cane would not be persuaded
- Despite 120 years of great preaching, the people of Noah's time would not be persuaded
- Despite being delivered from their Egyptian enemy by the one true God, the golden calf worshippers would not be persuaded
- Despite witnessing the power of God on multiple occasions, King Nebuchadnezzar would not be persuaded
- The Sanhedrin court who had irrefutable proof that Jesus was the son of God, would not be persuaded
- Judas, who walked with the Lord and cast out demons in his name, would not be persuaded
Beloved, having been exposed to the truth of God's word, having seen His glorious creation, having experienced His goodness and His blessings throughout your life, having had the gospel shared with you, will you be persuaded?
[Memory verse of the week: Matt 7:13-14]
Monday, June 7, 2010
It would be easy to take the negative approach and discuss the dangers of missing heaven. Surely it is a concern to which every person should attend themselves. It is equally if not more important, however, that we celebrate the promises of the Lord and look forward to receiving them.
There are so many who claim Christianity. It is said that there are 2 billion of us in the world. That leaves quite a number in the balance and even those who claim Christ are not assured of a heavenly destination. This makes our walk that much more precious. Jesus has said, "I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me," John 14:6. There is but one doorway to heaven and that way is exactly one Savior wide.
Beloved our responsibility is twofold. We must make sure that we stay on the straight and narrow and that we guide as many as possible to this path. Let us never forget what a privilege it is to have the gate available and open for us.
[Memory verse of the week: Matt 7:13-14]
Friday, June 4, 2010
One of the most difficult things in life is to be a true friend. Without a doubt, everyone has their own take on friendship. While we all refer to many as friends, when asked specifically about the concept of friendship, most would say that majority of their "friends" are acquaintances but real friends are few and those highly esteemed and closely held. Here is where the conversation must begin.
Even among those to whom we feel closest, what does being a friend really mean? To be sure, it involves companionship, good times, trust and reliance, but is that all? What about the other side of friendship? When your friend, your brother or sister in Christ, begins to participate in activities outside the tenants of the faith, are you the type to join in, keep silent or attempt to correct in the name of friendship?
Beloved we all appreciate the positives of familiar relationships, but the responsibility to provide assistance to maintain obedience to God is even more important. Consider the following:
- "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." Gal 6:1
- "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20
It will be a terrible thing to see anyone at judgement pass to destruction. How much more profound will be the hurt if a friend is among the unfortunate ones? As difficult as it may sometimes be, there is too much at stake to apply kisses where faithful wounds are required.
[Memory verse of the week: Phi 4:13]
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Many today have a warped sense of Christianity and by extension, what it takes to achieve salvation. During my own evangelistic efforts, I have heard many say things like "I'm a good person," I try to do what's right," "I don't go to church but I have good morals and I believe there is a higher power" or things along that line.
No mistakes should be made about something as important as where one will spend eternity. Every believer must "believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," Heb 11:6. God is real, God is true and God is active in our lives.
One of the ways He is active is that he generously distributes grace to us. Grace is favor with Him that is unearned and undeserved. Despite our sin, rebellion and disobedience, He loves us and provides for us. In fact He made the ultimate provision to our sin sick world by allowing His absolutely unique son to die a cruel death on the cross for our benefit. This He did without requiring any payment or work on our part. The necessary sacrifice was indeed a free gift to us but cost Jesus his life.
It was this free, grace given gift for which none of us can claim credit that allows us to look forward to an eternity with the Father and His son. The only thing that is required for us to do is to accept it. Through returning the love to Him that was shown to us, we work out our soul salvation. We do this not because being good, obedient, giving and moral earns salvation for us but we become and live those things because salvation was given to us as a gift.
[Memory verse of the week: Phi 4:13]
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It was the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who described part of the human condition when he immortalized the words, "Into each life some rain must fall." Without a doubt storms come into all of our lives, whether they be gentle and quiet or raging and thunderous. None of us escape life's more challenging times.
The apostles were particularly frightened by their storm. You will recall that they woke Jesus who was asleep on the ship transporting them. They asked if he cared whether they perished or not.
Beloved during our worst and lowest times, we can sometimes feel that Jesus is asleep at the switch and does not care about our suffering. We would do well to remember three things. First, Jesus is with us as he was with them. He is right there in the middle of the storm with us. Second, he is the master of time, space, the elements and your circumstances. Remember, he is the creator of all things and nothing that was made was made without him, John 1:1-3. He has the ability to deliver you from your storms just as he delivered the apostles.
Lastly, Jesus' followers asked themselves what manner of man he was once they saw their deliverance. We as Christians must know and have faith in our hearts exactly what manner of man he is. He is our deliverer, the resurrection, the way, the truth, the life, the Son of God and our salvation from every storm. Let this knowledge bring you peace and calm in the middle of your storms.
[Memory verse of the week: Phi 4:13]
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Surely this represents one of scripture's most rhetorical questions. The prophet Amos was relaying a message to God's people that he was angry about their rebellion.
Beloved, too many of us feel that God is made in our image rather than the other way around. We therefore then feel that we can live life on our terms rather than His. We so easily and often pick and chose the parts of His word that are most advantageous and agreeable with the lives we want to live, leaving out the portions that are not so agreeable. We are sometimes so presumptuous as to pervert the word to fit our lifestyles.
Let us always endeavor to walk with the Lord. Our urgent desire is to be pleasing to Him. This can only be possible when we are in agreement with His way and not our own. "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it." 2 John 6
[Memory verse of the week: Phi 4:13]