Monthly Archives: May 2012

Is “Jesus Loves Me” a Song for Children?

The song titling this article, written by Anna Warner in 1860, has been a favorite of children for generations. Because of the beauty of its tune and the ease of its words, it has often been the first song learned by a child. Unfortunately, there is a problem with the perception of this song. The song itself is wonderful, and its message to children precious; it is with adult responses to the song that the problem lies.

I have heard song leaders get up to lead this song and make the disclaimer that they are going to “sing one for the kids,” as though for an adult to sing the song would be somehow silly or beneath one. I have seen adults who will belt out the words to their favorite songs barely open their mouths when this song is sung, apparently embarrassed to be seen singing a “kids song” in public. Such attitudes and approaches are shameful and show a terrible lack of understanding of both the song and the purpose of singing.

This beautiful song is a wonderful tool to teach children about the love of Christ, but this is not a song for children ONLY. Though the words are simple, the concepts of this song are deep and should be loved and bring joy to the faces of all who sing them. Consider the words of this song as they are found in our songbook: Church Gospel Songs and Hymns and the depth of emphasis they present for the Christian.

Verse 1:

Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so;

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Gal. 5:8)

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 19:14)

Verse 2:

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide;

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mat. 16:18)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Rom. 1:16)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

He will wash away my sin, Let his little child come in.

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 18:3)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Verse 3:

Jesus, take this heart of mine, Make it pure and wholly thine;

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phi. 4:8)

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (2 Pet. 1:5-7)

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Tit. 2:14)

Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. (1 Pet. 2:21)

Jesus Loves Me is a beautiful song, but it should mean even more to the Christian than it should to the child. It should be sung with all of the joy of Victory in Jesus, all of the comfort of ‘Til the Storm Passes By, and all of the determination of I’ll Never Forsake My Lord. No Christian should ever be ashamed of singing this song, because it embodies the greatest sentiments that must drive all Christians: the love of Christ, the salvation available through his blood, and the dedication of service to him.

Let us never consider this to be just a children’s song.

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It was Just a Rock

When one reads the account of Moses striking the rock in Numbers 20:1-13 there are often mixed emotions. The people had once again been complaining because of the lack of water. Moses went to the Lord and was told that he was to take his rod, gather the assembly together, and speak to a rock to bring forth water for the people. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck it with his rod (as he had been commanded on an earlier occasion in Exodus 17:1-7). The water still flowed forth, but Moses was rebuked by God and told he would not be allowed to lead the people into the promised land.

People will often look at this event and become a bit perturbed, for it was just a rock. It was not like Moses had killed someone, committed adultery, or unjustly carried out judgment against someone; so what was the big deal? It is after this same type of attitude that the arguments flow on many other topics: it was just a dress, it was just a movie, it was just a drink, it was just a missed service, it was just a little white lie, and on it goes as the question is asked, “What’s the big deal?” It doesn’t seem to be all that bad, so why did Moses’ actions cause such a reaction from God, and what lessons should we learn?

It was a big deal because it was disobedience. Unfortunately, we often lump actions of disobedience into big infractions and small ones. By human standards this was a small infraction: Moses took the right rod, the right stone, and was in the right place, he just approached it in the wrong way. Nevertheless, God had told Moses what to do and how to do it. He had given explicit instructions that did not leave room for interpretation or revision by Moses. When Moses chose to do it his way, he rebelled in just as disobedient a manner as those whining Israelites who were wrongly accusing God of not taking care of them.

When God has commanded us to act a certain way, do a certain thing, or present ourselves with a certain attitude and appearance, the failure to implement those commands is disobedience. Whether we consider them to be that important or not is irrelevant, because God has shown in this context how he feels about such actions and that all such decisions will bear consequences. Those consequences may be physical by means of problems that arise, influence that is lost, or rebukes that are given; but they will definitely be spiritual by requiring repentance to repair our relationship with God.

It was a big deal because Moses put the focus on himself instead of God. In verse 10 of the chapter, Moses approaches the people and says, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” Moses’ statement was doubtless made out of anger and exasperation with these people whom he had led for almost 40 years and yet they were still complaining. The psalmist wrote, “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips” (Psa. 106:32-33).

Moses did not give God the glory for what was occurring, but instead took it for himself. He caused the people to focus on his actions over the command that God had given. Moses sinned in his actions, it is equally possible for an individual to do something that is good, yet do it with an approach that brings the attention and glory to self instead of God. When we are working in the service of God, we must never present ourselves in such a way that by appearance, deed, or attitude we divert one’s focus from the purpose of what is done and the One who commanded it.

You see, it was far more than just a rock. It was the disobedient actions of a man who had allowed his anger and frustration with the people he led to mar his judgment and disobey God’s commands. It was a living lesson to every generation of the importance of every command of God, no matter how small it may appear to us. It should give us pause the next time we think of responding to the teaching of one of God’s commands by rationalizing, “it was just….”

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Godliness with Contentment

As Christians strive to walk the path of godliness there are many areas of discussion and encouragement needed along the way; but sometimes areas that should be of great focus are set on the back burner. Such is often the case with one attachment to godliness that Paul discusses in First Timothy 6. He tells the young preacher, “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

Christians strive for godliness, but oftentimes I am convinced we have forgotten contentment. The word thus translated comes from the Greek word autarkeia meaning “self-satisfaction, contentedness, sufficiency” (Strong).  The word means being satisfied with yourself, who you are, and what you have accomplished. The association of godliness and contentment is truly an important one to the life of the Christian.

Certainly, it is not being advocated that the Christian should ever reach the point where they no longer desire to grow and develop as a servant of God; the focus here is on one’s place in this physical world. When a person becomes a Christian and adapts his life to the will of God, thereby forming godliness, that individual has reached the pinnacle of success on this earth. He has fully and completely formed his life around God’s commands and expectations, he has accepted the responsibilities placed upon him, and he is presenting himself worthy of the promised rewards for the faithful; there is nothing greater that can be accomplished by man on this earth.

Unfortunately, godliness is not often examined with such a long-term frame of focus in mind. Therefore, there are many Christians who do not see godliness as sufficient, but desire physical wealth and position as well. They focus their life’s efforts on their rank within their business, their salary, or their perceived importance. They constantly worry about the next step up the ladder, the next raise, the next purchase, the next want, and it consumes their efforts. This is not contentment, this is a mindset geared toward physical accomplishment and status. Consider what Paul said in the same context of chapter 6: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:7-10).

Christians need to be cognizant of the dangers present with a lack of contentment. When being God’s servant and obeying his will are not enough for us, we are telling God that his grace is not sufficient for us (2 Cor. 9:12-13), that his care and comfort do not compensate sufficiently (Mat. 6:30-33; Psa. 37:25), that he is not enough. Is it then any wonder that many members of the Lord’s church are always “too busy” to do the Lord’s work? It is not because they cannot,  but because godliness is not sufficient in their lives.

Are we content being God’s people? Are we content in the knowledge that we are serving God acceptably and he is pleased with our service? Are we content knowing that he loves us and will take care of us? Can we honestly state as Paul did, “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phi. 4:11)?

Contentedness is not something that is naturally retained; it is an attitude that is consciously enacted in our lives and actions. It is easy to allow the physical desires of the world to take away contentment and replace it with ambition, pride, and lust; but the Christian must remember that he who has godliness with contentment has the greatest acquisition on earth.

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What Matthew 19 Teaches about Marriage

When Matthew 19 is referenced it is almost always with regard to verse nine, and it is generally regarding the subject of divorce and remarriage. However, in all of our discussions on this very important context, we often overlook the most important aspect of the first nine verses of the chapter: what Jesus says about marriage itself. I honestly believe that if men understood and enacted Jesus’ teachings on marriage in Matthew 19, the questions about the acceptability in areas of divorce and remarriage would largely die away because marriages would be as God intended. Consider what this great passage imparts concerning marriage.

Marriage is between one man and one woman (Vs. 4-5). It is deeply troubling that this conversation even has to take place in our society today, for in generations past any other notion would have been proclaimed ludicrous, and rightfully so. But in today’s society where down is up, up is down, and truth non-existent, the question regarding for whom marriage is intended is at a fever pitch. However, the answer from Scripture is immediate and unwavering. Jesus stated, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mat. 19:4b-6).

God created man and woman and gave them to each other as a married unit. Interestingly enough mankind is arguing about marriage as though man formed it, he did not. God formed marriage; he created man and woman, and placed them in that bond. Man does not have any say in what marriage is because he did not create it, nor does he have the right to separate and destroy what God joined together.

Husband and wife are to be one flesh (Vs. 5). Oftentimes people read this phrase and automatically think of the sexual relationship. While certainly that is an element of the point being made here, it is not the whole. The statement, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, is an idiom reinforcing the fact that they are to work as one unit, as if they were one body. They are to leave their parents to establish their own bonds of unity outside of the previous family unit. They are to cleave to one another, literally meaning “to be glued together.” There is to be nothing that separates the husband and wife, they are to be as one body.

In today’s society, many individuals desire to be married separately. By that I mean that they want to be married, but they want to retain their previous freedoms, focuses, and lifestyles. The husband and wife is not one unit, working toward the same goals with the same desires and the same focus; but are instead two beings trying not to get in each other’s way as they go through their separate lives. Such is not marriage as God intended and is one example of why divorce rates in our generation are so high; we do not understand what Jesus meant when he said “one flesh.”

Divorce was never included in God’s plan. God intended marriage to be a lifelong commitment; a molding of two lives together for the development of family, society, and righteousness throughout life. God expected man to understand, appreciate, and dedicate himself to the plan that was put in place. Jesus makes this statement concerning divorce in verse 8: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” God did not want divorce, in fact, he hates it (Mal. 2:16). Divorce is a perverting of the marriage bond; it takes what is supposed to be the greatest attachment in this physical world and dilutes it with sin and selfishness. There has never been a divorce where at least one party has not committed sin. Even in the case of “no-fault divorces” both parties have sinned because they have reneged on the oaths and promises they made to God and each other.

Divorce was never in God’s plan, and it should never be considered a forefront option in the mind of any married individual. Divorce was intended as an option of last resort when an individual violated one’s sexual faithfulness to their mate and physically bound oneself to another through fornication. In our society, it has become the option of first resort, but even in cases of fornication it should not be so. Divorce is final and it is always devastating in its consequences.

There are many things we should learn about marriage from this great chapter. Jesus was trying to show the Pharisees that if man understood marriage the way he should, the question of divorce would never enter into the equation. Such is definitely true. If a man and woman are devoted to God and one another as they should be, to be united in purpose, desire, focus, and relationship; then divorce will never be a thought. It is only when one or both parties pull away from the marriage that divorce ever enters the picture.

Teach the principles of marriage. See that your children learn them, understand them, and serve the God who gave them. Doing so will return marriage to its properly sanctified state and reverse the course of ungodly divorces and sinfulness in our society.

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Learning about the Pharisees

The Pharisees are, for many people, one of the most intriguing groups of the New Testament. They play a prevalent role in the accounts of the ministry of our Lord and a central role in his crucifixion; but there is no record of such a group of people in the Old Testament. Therefore, it behooves us to consider where this mysterious group of people originated and for what purpose they existed.

The Pharisees are first mentioned by name during the time between the Old and New Testaments, during the reign of John Hyrcanus in the late second century B.C. Therefore, by ancient standards, they were a relatively new group at the time of Jesus and the apostles, having only been in existence for a little more than an hundred years.

The name “Pharisee” means “separated ones.” Although there is much discussion over the issue of that from which they were intended to be separated, there is one reason which seemingly stands above the rest. At the time the Pharisees began, there was a great cultural battle occurring in Jewish society between those who were seeking to hold to the Old Law completely, and those who were seeking to incorporate aspects of Greek life (otherwise known as Hellenism) into the culture of the Jewish people. Because of this battle, two distinct groups formed: the Sadducees (who sought to incorporate the cultures of Hellenism into Jewish society), and the Pharisees (who fought to retain the integrity of the teachings and lifestyle of Judaism). Because of their categorically opposite views, these two groups despised each other, and even fought each other physically in the years leading up to the time of Christ. It is for this reason that the Jewish Council (made up half of Pharisees and half of Sadducees) began to fight verbally in the presence of Paul in Acts 23:1-10. Therefore, the indication seems to be that the Pharisees were seeking to be separate from the Hellenistic teachings of many among their people.

It is because of their desperate fight in this regard that other problems occurred for the Pharisees. In their zealous adherence to the Law of Moses they also took as being absolute law all of the traditions of the elders. By doing so they were binding where God had not bound and had added to the Law in their zeal. Though they are described accurately by Paul as “the straightest sect” of the Jews (Acts 26:5), they were still incorrect about their approach to Judaism. Jesus would condemn them with these words, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat. 15:8-9).

By the time of the preaching of Christ, the Pharisees had also become a very powerful political party. The acquiring of that power also brought a love and desire for more power and prestige among the Jews. It is because of this mind-set that many of the Pharisees turned against Jesus, for they said, “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). Their love for power and prestige brought them to their final decision to murder our Lord and Savior.

The Pharisees are a very interesting group to study, and one which we need to understand so that we do not make the same mistakes they did. Their devotion to the Law is admirable, but their willingness to pile their own laws upon God’s caused great problems to their relationship with God. There is a great deal to respect about the Pharisees, but there is also a strong warning to Christians; we must ever be cautious that, in our zeal for God’s Word, we do not become like the Pharisees and begin making our own laws and ideas equal to the laws of God.

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When it is Acceptable to Lie

In our relativistic society we are constantly bombarded by those, even among the religious, who proclaim that lying is not such a big deal; and it is certainly acceptable in certain situations and for certain purposes. Men have often brought forth hypothetical situations in which the only “option that makes sense” is lying, but though such a perception might be there, the reality is much different.

Nevertheless, let us consider for a moment that such arguments may be correct. There are times where it would be acceptable to lie. Consider some of those occasions with me.

It is acceptable to lie… when personal selfishness overrides concern for the souls of others. This attitude says, “What I need is most important and it does not matter what my actions may cause others to do.” Such was the attitude of Abraham when he and Sarah went to Egypt and he asked her to claim she was his sister, not his wife (Gen. 12:11-13). Abraham was afraid of losing his life because someone might desire his wife and was willing to do whatever it took to remain in good health. However, his actions did not take into account the impact his lies would have on the souls of others. If God had not stepped in, Abraham would have allowed another man to commit adultery with his wife, all for the sake of a perceived problem that was not even a reality. Abraham’s selfishness caused him to ignore the well-being of others for the sake of his own insecurities. When people put themselves first, they often find lying an acceptable solution, even if it is to the detriment of others.

It is acceptable to lie… when physical health usurps spiritual health. This occasion is often seen when one is more worried about losing their life than losing their soul. David exemplified this attitude when he came to Ahimelech the Priest in the city of Nob (1 Sam. 21). David was on the run from Saul after the events that brought the king’s jealousy down upon David’s head. Instead of seeking help with honesty and sincerity, David lied to Ahimelech and told him he was on an errand from Saul and needed provisions (1 Sam. 21:1-3). Because of David’s lies, Ahimelech could not make an informed decision and helped David, receiving for his actions his own condemnation and execution at the hand of Saul (1 Sam. 22:17-19). David’s lies were told out of fear for his physical life, but they failed to take into account the effect they would have, not just on Ahimelech and his people, but also on his own relationship with God. When David hears what has happened, he knows he is to blame, and recognizes the consequences his actions brought upon the people of Nob. Many would lie to save their own lives, only to put in jeopardy their own souls and the lives of others; but when living is all that matters, lies are always acceptable.

It is acceptable to lie… when treasures on earth are deemed more valuable than treasure in heaven. This mentality focuses on one’s ability to retain physical possessions. Ananias and Sapphira certainly serve as a model example of this characteristic. They wanted to keep some of the wealth from the property they sold for themselves (Acts 5:1-2). This was neither wrong nor condemned. The problem came when they lied to man and God about what they had given to the apostles. Their desire for treasures on earth, coupled with the desire for notoriety, caused them to lie to try and receive physical abundance and recognition. Unfortunately their desire for the physical treasures of men’s riches and men’s praise caused them to forget the loss of eternal treasure they would endure, but the judgment and consequences were swift and eternal. Is not this what people do when they cheat on their taxes and lie to get out of paying debts? The focus becomes wholly about physical wealth, never about the consequences spiritually.

In reality, the only time man finds it acceptable to lie is when he has become too focused on this earth and its goods. Every time an individual tries to speak of an acceptable occasion for lying, he shows by word and deed that his focus is only on the physical, never the spiritual.

God has been adamant that liars will not be found acceptable, nor will they receive the eternal rewards of Heaven (Rev. 21:8). Therefore, no matter what man may say, Christians must recognize that the number of occasions that will occur in life where lying is acceptable will equal the number of occasions where we have no choice but to lie: namely, zero.

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The Importance of Knowing the Context

It is one of the things least often considered when it comes to the Bible, yet it is also one of the most important tools necessary to its understanding. The use of context is vital if one desires to truly understand the message the Lord is seeking to deliver in any given passage.

It has often been said, “A text, taken out of its context, becomes a pretext.” Man can make anyone say anything when they disregard the context in which it is being said. One can see this type of ignorance (willful or otherwise) protrude from the bushes of almost every aspect of life; whether it is journalists looking for a story, politicians looking for a punch line, members of an argument trying to get an upper hand, or people trying to make arguments in religion. It is readily evident that if the context is ignored, the meaning can be greatly skewed.

However, because God is the author of the Scriptures, he has laid before us both what he wants us to know and what he wants us to understand. There is a vast difference between knowledge of what someone has said and understanding of what was intended by that statement. Therein lays the difference in an individual knowing the Bible in a general way, and understanding the things taught in a specific way.

Consider some areas in which men have perverted the context of a passage and thus completely changed its meaning. In First Corinthians 2 Paul writes, “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Many people read this passage of Scripture and make application to Heaven. Therefore, as their thinking goes, we cannot have any true understanding of Heaven. Unfortunately, such an application refuses to take into account the context because this passage is dealing with the revelation of the Word of God. Paul is emphasizing the fact that without the Holy Spirit’s revelation, man would not know anything about God because eye has not seen Him, nor ear heard Him (1 Cor. 2:7-13). If it were not for God’s revelation, man would know nothing of salvation, Heaven, Hell, eternity, the Day of Judgment, and many other spiritual revelations made in Scripture. This beautiful passage is intended to give us confidence in the revelation of God, but we greatly diminish the individual’s ability to understand it when we take it out of its context.

Another such passage which is commonly taken out of context is the King James Version’s rendering of Isaiah 14:12. From this passage “everyone” knows that Satan’s name is Lucifer and that he was a fallen angel from Heaven… or so it is told. Unfortunately, such a rendering requires an individual to completely ignore the context. When one examines the context, he will find that this statement is made, not concerning Satan, but concerning the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:4). Combine that with the fact that this term translated “Lucifer” would, from the original Hebrew, be better translated “day-star” as it is in most other translations, and it removes any possible reference to Satan. Instead, it is a portion of a proverb Isaiah was commanded to give against the king of Babylon, not a depiction of who Satan is and from whence he originated.

The Bible truly is the most beautiful book ever authored, because this book was authored by none other but our Creator; but for it to be understood as it should be, careful consideration must always be made to, as a classmate of mine once said, “the verses that came before it, and the verses that will come after it.” If we would take this approach, we could not only know what God intended, but all men would understand the Bible alike.

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