Monthly Archives: June 2012

Reading without Verses

As we read the Bible it is easy to get too caught up in the divisions of chapters and verses which were not originally in the texts of Scripture, thereby missing the big picture of what is being communicated. Though the divisions into chapters and verses are intended to help reference and remember the things stated, the focus of the text is often lost because of the breaking of thoughts, conversations, and even individual statements of Scripture.

Therefore, it is of great value to take the time to read passages of Scripture without the “aids” of chapters and verses, and thereby retain the flow of the message as intended. Some of the greatest areas of advantage for such an approach is seen in the sermons of Scripture. The power and beauty of the lessons presented by Jesus, the apostles, and others are magnified when examined in their entirety, without hindrance.

For the purposes of this article, consider Paul’s sermon in Antioch as recorded in Acts 13. The inclusion of history, multiple Old Testament Scripture references, and application to the people of his day makes this sermon a very powerful one when uncluttered from the barriers often placed within our consideration. Notice his words (quoted from the ESV):

So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.'”

Consider all of the meat of Old Testament history and New Testament application that Paul inserts into this brief lesson; yet much of it often goes unconsidered due to the intrusion of too many aids and dissections of text intended to consider every nuance.

Let us never get so caught up in one verse, phrase, or word that we neglect to take the time to consider its context as a whole and the beauty of the information as it was originally presented. The value of taking such time will bless our studies and our lives.

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Poem: A Life Without Fear

I do not fear the things of this life,

What could possibly happen with my kids and my wife.

My strength and confidence rests in the Lord,

And in all of the blessings his protections afford.

 

“God has not given us the spirit of fear,”

Wrote Paul to Timothy when his end was near.

But rather, of strength, love, and self-control,

To be able to handle all this life will hold.

 

Therefore, it is wasteful to worry and fear,

When instead we should thankfully know God is near.

He watches over the flowers and doves,

How much more does He care for the people He loves?

 

Man without God is always afraid

Of what disaster is coming and what cost must be paid.

The servant of God remembers His command

To put our faith and trust in His loving hand.

 

As I live each day of this turbulent life,

Striving to lead my children and wife,

To serve the Lord with each passing day

And ever have faith He will lead the way.

 

I do not fear the troubles this life often brings,

Of physical struggles and temporal things.

I instead resolve fully to live every day,

Obeying and trusting, never ceasing to pray.

 

My friend, please remember this life is not the end,

It is only the means to see around the next bend.

Therefore, to spend life in fear and dismay

Will leave us short-sighted and we’ll fall from the way.

 

But with the strength and courage our Lord provides

We can endure anything without breaking stride.

With our eye on the mark and our feet on the course

We can live without fear and acknowledge the Source.

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Dirty Feet

Last night my son fell asleep on the couch after a long day without a nap. As I was looking at him, I noticed his feet were dirty. This is nothing new at our house. Yes, my children have shoes and use them often, but they also fully enjoy running around in the grass and dirt in their bare feet. Yesterday, my sons had played outside at home, helped their mother with yard work, and played at a friend’s house; all in all it was a full day for a 3-year-old child.

As I was watching my son last night I began to consider what those dirty feet would tell about a person. Dirty feet are a sign of roads being travelled. In days gone by, most people did not wear shoes, and even today sandals are still considered a preferred covering for many feet. You could always tell who had been travelling and how far by the amount of dirt and dust covering the traveler’s feet. It showed that the individual was not one to stay still, but was on the move.

Dirty feet are also a sign of work that has been done. It doesn’t take having one’s feet uncovered for them to become dirty in the course of a day’s work. When an individual has been working, whether it is in the field, the yard, or wherever in the great outdoors time is spent, dirty feet are a given. It is a sign of effort and time put into the pursuit in question.

Someone may be thinking that this discussion of one’s dirty feet is interesting, if mildly repulsive, but what does it have to do with spiritual matters? Spiritually speaking, there is something to be said for the individual with dirty spiritual feet. You see, dirty feet imply action being taken. A person’s feet do not become dirty from sitting around doing nothing, only from activity and work do they become cached with the dust and grime of the soil around them. Likewise, the Christian’s feet should be spiritually dirty from fulfilling the work of Christ. The residue of time and effort spent spreading the Gospel and helping their fellow Christians in whatever way possible should be as readily evident as dirty feet.

Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isa. 52:7). Paul would quote this passage in Romans 10:15 when speaking of those who go forth proclaiming the Gospel.

Christians should have dirty feet, even if only metaphorically. Feet that are dirty from travelling roads near and far with the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ; feet that are dirty from daily work striving to help fulfill the needs of others whether they be physical or spiritual; feet that are dirty from taking care of the needs of their own family.

Jesus would speak to his disciples of the necessity to “shake off the dust of your feet” (Mat. 10:14), and move on because one has ignored the Gospel or does not want help. In the days where sandals were the common footwear this was a sign of shame for one who has ignored truth, showing that no more time would be wasted on the person who is disinterested. It is certainly true that as one proclaims the Gospel, not all efforts will be successful; not all of those taught will be converted. There will be times where you must metaphorically “shake the dust off your feet” and move on; but if you have not dirtied your feet with effort, there will be nothing to shake off.

Are your feet dirty from serving the master? Do the efforts of your life show a dedication to the work and service of the King; or are they still clean because you have not yet left the house in your master’s service? As Christians, let us not be ashamed of dirty feet.

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The Mother of Proverbs

The book of Proverbs uses the term “mother” 14 times; 13 of these occasions deal with the principles of the mother’s relationship with her child and vice versa. There are a number of different emphases in these passages, therefore, let us seek to bring out a few of them.

A mother is a lawgiver. This is one of the first two principles every child learns (the other, of course, being that mommy loves you!). Solomon wrote: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Pro. 1:8); and again, “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Pro. 6:20).

Mothers are responsible (though not solely so) for pointing their children in the right direction. If they fail, it is unlikely there will be anyone to step up and take their place as a positive influence. Solomon emphasized it in this manner, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Pro. 29:15). They, along with fathers, are the moral compasses which must guide their children to the safety provided in Christ. How beautiful it is when such is accomplished in the heart of a child. Solomon emphasizes this when he writes, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice” (Pro. 23:23-25). Therefore, it is important for mothers to lay forth righteous laws which will guide and strengthen their children in Christ.

A mother is to be loved. This should be a statement which does not need much explanation. However, there are some who seemingly feel that the mother is simply the slave of the house with no feeling or care for her. Such an individual is truly lacking in wisdom. Solomon wrote: “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother” (Pro. 15:20), and “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old” (Pro. 23:22). Children are to love their mothers, not despise them.

A mother is to be respected. It is impossible for a child to truly love his/her mother without a healthy respect for her. Solomon described the necessity of respect in this manner: “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (Pro. 30:17). There is no mincing of words in such a description; rather, Solomon is showing how despicable such an attitude is. He would also state: “He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach” (Pro. 19:26). It is impossible to show the proper respect when one is causing such shame to his/her family. We must be ones who are concerned with the reputation we carry and the way we treat our families. For if we are not willing to show them the respect due, how can we think we will be able to lay before God the respect he deserves? Truly, godly mothers are to be respected: both for their role and work within the home and for their work in the kingdom of God as well.

All of these things and more are given in Scripture as instruction concerning mothers. Let us be truly thankful for godly mothers; for the work they do and the love they show for their children. May it ever be our prayer that God will continue to bless us with mothers who seek after his will and will train their children to seek after it.

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The Christian’s Daily Prayer List

Most congregations have as a part of their bulletins a prayer list; a list of people requesting the prayers of the church for different ailments or problems in their lives. These are valuable tools to help the Christian to remember those for whom they need to pray. That being said, I believe there is a larger prayer list that the Christian needs to consider.

As one studies the Bible, there are many different prayers and occasions for prayer described. Consideration should be given to the many different types of prayers and the many different things about which Christians need to go to God consistently.

It is unfortunate that many Christians only seem to find time for prayer before a meal and in times of direct need, but such limited confines should not constrict the prayer life of the Christian. Consider a daily checklist of things for which we should pray to God continuously.

3 things with which we must pray:

Pray with reverence – showing God the respect due the our Father and the honor due our Protector.

Pray with thanksgiving – showing recognition of the blessings bestowed and the love and mercy extended.

Pray with confidence and boldness – understanding that as a child of God your prayers will not be ignored or considered unimportant before our Father.

Things for which we should pray:

Family needs:

for one’s spouse

for one’s children

for our daily bread

for right decisions and directions

Personal needs:

for strength

for courage

for patience

for one’s enemies

for growth in knowledge and action

for forgiveness of sins by repentance

for help

for health

Spiritual needs:

for unity in the Lord’s church

for preachers and teachers

for elders

for growth in all facets of the church’s work

for boldness and open doors

for the erring to return to the way of truth

Societal needs:

for government to be wise and righteous

for the lost to obey the Gospel

for righteous influence to spread the Gospel

The Christian should be praying for each of these things on a daily basis. Someone might contend that doing so would require a great deal of time; such it would and should. As Christians it should be considered a privilege, not a chore, to be able to go to God about anything and everything each day. It should be something on which we are focused in life, not simply reminded to do in times of trouble.

If we take the time each day to pray for all of these things at various times according to their various needs our lives will be more focused on God and his will, our blessings will become more apparent, our relationship with God will grow, and our peace in this life will expand exponentially.

May we always be those that, “pray without ceasing” (1 The. 5:17).

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Better than a Fairy Tale

Children love stories. They may be in book form, television form, or oral form, but they love to hear and see exciting and adventurous stories that tell them about great and wonderful things. Oftentimes those stories are fairy tales; they are not true but are intended to be entertaining and enlightening in the development of character. However, there are some stories that are better than fairy tales; they are the ones we should be telling our children every night. They are stories of adventure, intrigue, honor, and fame; and best of all: they are all true. They are accounts that Hollywood, with all its plotting, could never match; they are the storylines that writers dream of putting together, yet they really happened and are right at our fingertips.

Consider the rags to riches story of a young woman in a foreign land who was selected from among the most beautiful women in the country to be the next queen. As she takes her place in the king’s court it is discovered that one’s of the king’s most trusted advisors has plotted to kill all of the queen’s native people in one massive stroke. The queen then has to put her own life on the line to reverse the plot and bring those responsible to justice. Sound like a story you would like to hear? It is the account of Esther.

Consider the coming-of-age story of a young man despised by his brothers. After the divide between them grows to a certain point the brothers decide to get rid of their troublesome younger brother and sell him into slavery. The young man has to survive in a foreign country as a slave. He will work his way up to the highest position in his master’s house before false accusations land him in prison for a crime he did not commit. Then, because of his leadership and faith, he is brought out of the dungeons by the king and given a life of prominence and wealth as the second-in-command of a nation. Sound like a page-turner? It is the account of Joseph.

Consider the story of the hero; the young man who saves a nation by defeating the champion of their enemies. But with fame comes consequence and as the young man’s fame grows the king becomes jealous and angry at his popularity. The king plots to kill the young man, sending him running for his life. In the wilderness, he gathers a band of men and fights the enemies of his nation while trying to elude the leader who seeks his life. In due time, the young man will receive the throne himself, and will become known as the greatest ruler his people ever had. Though the story sounds familiar, it is not Robin Hood, it is the account of David.

We could go on and on about the engaging accounts of Daniel, Nehemiah, Josiah, Elijah, Peter, Paul, Timothy, and many others. As parents, our responsibility is to teach the Lord’s commands diligently to our children every day and in every way (Deu. 6:6-8). Part of that is showing, through these accounts, the lives of people who have served God. They were not perfect and made many mistakes, but they serve as examples of the types of people God desires us to be; and what our children can be if they put God first.

The next time your kids want a story, don’t open up that book of fairy tales, talk to them about superheroes, or turn on some movie production: open the Bible. Show them the lives, in all their vivid glory, of the most memorable individuals ever to have walked the face of the earth. Show them that heroes are not just found in fictional stories of man’s mind, but that pure hearts and righteous deeds can make anyone a hero. As you teach them these accounts, you will find that they will be the stories they remember for the rest of their lives; and who knows, you may learn a few things too.

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