Monthly Archives: May 2013

When Daddies Cry

Growing up as a boy, the most embarrassing thing to have happen was for someone to see you cry. Many boys are taught that it is wrong to cry, or that they are sissies if they do so. Nevertheless, crying is a part of the emotional spectrum that is found in each of us. While, unlike mommies, we do not cry at everything that comes down the pike, there are things that affect us (or at least most of us) so deeply as fathers that it brings tears to the eyes as it tears at our hearts.  Let me tell you some of the things that make daddies cry.

Daddies cry when they lose a child. A daddy’s job is to protect and watch over his child and there is nothing that affects a true father more than the helplessness of losing a child; especially when there is knowledge that nothing you could have done would change the outcome. My wife and I have had two miscarriages; with each of them there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the situation. However, already having one son, the emotional toll of not being able to keep safe one of my children brought many tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine, and I pray I never find out in reality, the levels of anguish that goes through a father’s heart when a child he has taught, loved, and for which he has provided leaves this life.

Daddies cry when they see acts of great courage. There are two avenues in this area that often bring tears to the eyes of fathers. One is when we see other fathers act courageously to protect or defend their children. It brings home to us our responsibility and the equal desire we have to do the same for our children. The other area is when we see that courage exhibited in one of our children. The ability to overcome great obstacles, to truly and thoroughly devote themselves to great tasks, to bring out the best in themselves and others with their examples causes tears of thankfulness and pride in them for utilizing what they have been taught in such great ways.

Daddies cry when they fail. Sometimes the failures are perceived and not actual; but for any father who takes his responsibilities to provide for his family and raise his children in the principles of God’s Word seriously, there is nothing more emotionally challenging than the feeling that you have failed in some aspect of your responsibilities. On more than one occasion I have been brought to tears at the recognition of shortcomings in my life in these areas; and I have been present on occasions when other fathers have fallen into tears for the very same reasons. When we take our job seriously the feelings of failure affect us tremendously.

So, what’s the point? Daddies cry, big deal, right? Consider who we are. Mankind is the creation of God, created in his image, with his likeness and range of emotion. We also find our God being described in the terms of masculinity, which I believe follows through to the way we are made as men: with a strong hand before us, great responsibilities, and great expectations on our shoulders.

I am also convinced that we see in the Scriptures the same levels of emotion in God that we see in fathers today. No, God is not physical in that he sheds tears as we do, but he bears the same emotions that would bring tears to his eyes if he were.

In Genesis 6, when all of the people of the world except one have turned away from him, Scripture says that it “repented” God that he had ever made man. The word translated “repented” means to make sorry, to bring sorrow, to change the mind, or to comfort. While there are many instances where this word is used mainly to show a change of mind, there are also some instances which show anguish at the actions of another. This is one of those times for God. He created these people, looked out for them, cared for them, and they turned from him and everything he had given them.

In First Samuel 15, Saul’s refusal to do God’s will caused God to tell Saul that he was going to be replacing him as king and that he would not “repent” (change his mind) from that choice (Vs. 29). Nevertheless, in the final verse of the chapter it states that it repented the Lord that he had ever made Saul king. Saul was God’s hand-picked choice to be captain over Israel, and he had gone from a man of humility and trust in God to a rebellious king who brazenly rebelled against him because of the fear of others; and it made God sorrowful.

I also believe you see the emotions of God exhibited when Jesus was on the cross. As there is darkness across the land while the Lord is on the cross, I believe we see the emotions of God being exhibited before man. There is sorrow at all that Jesus has to bear, and at the fact that nothing will ever be the same in the relationship between the Father and the Son again (a full discussion of this principle from Scripture should be left for another time).

We see in the emotions of earthly fathers the mirror of the emotions of God; and it is interesting to see that what makes many fathers cry are the exact same things that bring those strong emotions to the forefront with our Father in Heaven. Understanding this should help us understand God better; and it should also cause us to love him more and serve him with greater zeal.

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What Would You Think of Me?

Imagine I called you today and told you I was coming to your house with some friends of mine; however, I also told you that after we arrived, over the next few hours, they would curse about 25 times, including at least 6 occasions of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Additionally, a number of the girls would be walking around very scantily dressed, and there would be discussions in front of your children, parents, and whoever else is present about sex between unmarried people. Would we be welcome in your home?

What if I called and told you I was taking you to a get-together as my guest and it will cost the equivalent of a good meal to get in the door. However, once we get inside you will be bombarded with cursing on almost 50 different occasions, and you will be walking through a room with three scarcely covered individuals in bed together in a sexually implicit situation. Would you go? Maybe an even more important question is: what would you think of me for going?

Now what if I told you that the first instance describes the things found in Iron Man 3 and the second one describes the new Star Trek movie: Into Darkness? If I were to submit either of these settings to you individually you would be appalled, call into question my influence and Christianity, and tell me how you and God expect more of me; and you would be correct. So why do we not exercise the same values when it comes to our own entertainment? We invite them into our home, or worse yet, spend the money with which we have been blessed to slap God in the face with what we find enjoyable.

It is especially difficult to understand the persistence of Christians in these actions when there are such wonderful inventions as Clearplay DVD players that will filter those things from said films and make them what they should have been in the beginning: clean entertainment. Yet we are willing to continually subject ourselves to such because we are too impatient and caught up in the world to wait for a means of appropriate viewing; and then we compound our errors of influence by talking about how great these movies are and recommending them to others.

We have often heard the words of Philippians 4:8 in regard to such things as this, but it has often seemed to be too abstract for some to grasp. Therefore, consider the words of Solomon when he wrote: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not… My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood” (Pro. 1:10, 15-16). Notice, he does not state that the way of sinners does not entice or is not appealing, but pleads with his son not to walk the path with them.

In another passage he writes: “For wisdom shall enter into thy heart, And knowledge shall be pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall watch over thee; Understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of evil, From the men that speak perverse things; Who forsake the paths of uprightness, To walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice to do evil, And delight in the perverseness of evil; Who are crooked in their ways, And wayward in their paths” (Pro. 2:10-15). Are we walking according to wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; or are we following the paths of the unrighteous and their perversity under the excuses of our own entertainment?

If we are truly concerned about our influence, Christianity, and relationship with God: these things will cause us to stop and think about what we are doing before we next take that trip to the theater. I know that I have made many mistakes in this regard in times past, and my wife and I have had to work diligently to keep from making the same mistakes again. There are websites such as kids-in-mind.com and dove.org that give invaluable information in making such decisions.

However, if seeing these things has no impact on us and does not even give us a moment of pause in our decision making, is God’s Word really having any impact on our lives? Or do we only allow it to impact our lives where and when we want?

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3 Thoughts from Yesterday’s Disaster

Following the tragic tornado damage in Moore, OK and other areas of the plains over the last few days, many in our region have been reminded of the tornadoes that came through Smithville, MS, Tuscaloosa, AL, and other areas of the region two years ago. It is a forceful reminder of the fragility of life and the need for focus on eternal things. Therefore, today’s article centers upon three distinct thoughts that have come to my mind frequently in the last 24 hours.

1. We have no guarantees on the length of our lives. “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jam. 4:13-14)

2. Do not place your trust in the physical things of this world. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mat. 6:19-21)

3. As much as some people believe it to be so, God did not bring this destruction as judgment upon these people, nor did he “take” those who died away from us because it was “their time.” God allows nature to work, and sometimes the actions of nature affect us in horrific ways. Consider two passages of Scripture that bear this out: “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5); “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:2-3).

Pray for those who are having to endure this tragedy, help them if you can; and in all things give glory to God for his love, concern, and care in all times of life (both good and bad).

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Did Peter Order Baptism “Because of” Remission of Sins?

The English language is a notoriously difficult one. As a matter of fact, some have said that the only true rule in English is that there is an exception to every rule. Others have argued that if one can learn the English language, nearly any other language is simple by comparison. We can say one word in our language and have it mean five completely different things. In our time, we have misused the language to the point that people look at you as odd if you actually utilize it correctly.

Therefore, we should all be eternally grateful that the New Testament was not originally written in English, but in Greek. Because, as imprecise as English is, the Greek is equally precise. If the Bible had originated in English, it would be truly confusing because of the myriad meanings we have placed within some of the simplest terms. However, in the Greek such confusion is not found. Yes, even in the Greek there are passages that are difficult to apply within the context; but the problems of grasping the actual statement of the passage is generally rather simple.

Let me give you an example. There are a number of religious groups who teach that the rendering of Peter’s statement: “for the remission of sins,” in  Acts 2:38 means, “because of the remission of sins.” They argue that the word “for” can mean “because of,” or “in order to,” and thus they choose to render it as an order from Peter to baptize because those hearing have already been saved.

However, this is where the clarity of the Greek language becomes invaluable. If the Scriptures were given in English, the aforementioned interpreters would be correct, the interpretation could go either way; but they were not. In the original language, the term that is used in Acts 2:38 is the Greek word eis. It is a preposition that is universally understood to have only one meaning or usage. It means: “into,” “toward,” “to,” or “for” (in order to). It is a directional preposition pointing toward or into something else. Therefore, Peter’s statement cannot mean “because of” the remission of sins. Instead it has to mean, from the original language, that those to whom he was preaching had to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ “into” the remission of sins.

Additionally, it is interesting to note that if he had wanted to communicate that their sins had already been forgiven, it would have been quite simple. All he would have had to do is use the preposition dia. In its accusative form it means, quite simply, “because of” and it is utilized in such a manner in passages such as Mark 15:10 and many others. Therefore, it is impossible for the interpretation given by some to be the one Peter utilized or intended. The Scriptures are clear.

It is for this reason, and many other examples like it, that many preachers stress a knowledge and understanding of the principles of the Greek language. Where English muddies the waters, Greek gives clarity. This does not mean that one has to know Greek to be saved, or that one cannot understand the Bible without knowing Greek. Nevertheless, it does mean that a rudimentary knowledge of precise attributes of the Greek language can keep one from falling into the pits of misunderstanding that so many in the religious world have found.

God be thanked that the Scriptures did not originate in English, but were given in a language that was precise and clear; giving us a means to be able to state with confidence what God wants us to do and the reasons for it.

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Do You Proskuneo?

When was the last time you got down on your knees and prayed? Notice: I did not ask when was the last time you prayed, but when was the last time you got down on your knees to do it?

We live in a society that carries the attitude: “I am free, I don’t bow to anyone.” Many people shudder at the thought of diminishing oneself by such an action as bowing the knee. However, when you examine the Scriptures something very interesting is found.

The word which is translated “worship” in the New Testament is the Greek word “proskuneo.” We have often cheapened the term “worship” to mean “a time to come together and perform actions toward God.” That is not even close to what the term means. The original term, as used in the New Testament, means literally, “to kiss the hand toward one.” It carried with it the meaning of prostrating (bowing on one’s knees) oneself to another in honor, reverence, and submission. When the Bible speaks of “worship” it is speaking about the attitude and actions by which I show honor, reverence, and submission to God. Those things are not limited to the couple of hours each week where we come together and sit in pews, nor should they be confined to the walls of a building in which we gather.

Please understand, not everything we do is worship. Everything we do in life is not intended to be, nor should it be, an act of obeisance toward God. We do all things to his glory and strive to do all things according to his will, but that does not make all things worship.

That being said, we need to learn how to worship God again. Not just to sing a few songs, say a few prayers and listen to a few words; but how to truly prostrate ourselves before God. The statement of prostrating oneself toward God is not arbitrary nor metaphorical in the Scriptures. Take some time and consider the passages that speak of men (Old and New Testament) bowing down before God, bowing the knee to God, falling on their face before God, and so on. They did not simply do so in their heart, but in their physical presence before him.

Have you ever considered the way we approach God? In our society today, it is considered a shame to bow before anyone: so we sit and slightly bow our heads, some will stand and look to the sky as though to look God in the eyes, but rarely (if ever) do we bow as the servant before the master.

It has been my experience that the times when I have felt I needed God the most, I hit my knees the fastest. In times of pain at the suffering of a loved one, the loss of a child, or the agony of a sin; the only place that seemed appropriate was on my knees. So why do we not stay there? Daniel got on his knees to pray three times a day (Dan. 6:10). Why don’t we? Is it because that is not the way we’ve been taught to pray anymore; is it because we feel silly or ashamed doing so; or is it because our bodies are actually saying what our heart is feeling?

In my service to God, I am not made equal with God. I do not stand before him as an equal, I bow before him as a servant. However, do my actions match my words? Do I really consider myself a servant of God’s or is that just a title I wear. Do the actions of my body and the intentions of my heart match the statements of my mouth?

Consider one last Scripture as you think about your attitude and approach to “worshiping” God. Take the word “worship” and substitute “bow the knee,” or “prostrate.” Now read John 4:23-24: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true prostraters will prostrate before the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to prostrate themselves before him. God is a spirit: and they that prostrate themselves before him must prostrate themselves in spirit and in truth.”

Are you truly, fully, and without reservation bowing yourself, body and spirit, and reverence and service to God? Understanding what God meant when he said this can have one of the greatest levels of impact on your relationship with God if you will seriously consider it and apply it. You will be amazed at the difference it provides.

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You were made that way?

Solomon wrote: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecc. 7:29). Men are very good at trying to blame God for the situations in which they find themselves. From, “God made me this way” to, “If God did not want me to be this way he would not bless me,” man has tried to excuse his way out of the judgments of God by somehow making it the Creator’s fault.

However, Solomon’s inspired observation is well made. God made man upright (righteous, good, acceptable). He described his creation at the conclusion of his work as “very good” (Gen. 1:31). God made humanity in his image, one that was just and righteous, but with the ability to make decisions of their own that would shape their steps.

God did not create man with sin, nor does a man begin with sin; Solomon’s concluding point is that man taints God’s creation with sin by his many inventions (devices). These devices may be physical devices for pleasure, mental devices of deviousness, or many other forms of invention available to the minds and hands of men.

Man is not sinful by nature (by creation), he becomes that way when his choices follow after his own devices. People often talk about a certain sin being the “natural reaction” because of the way God made us. This argument will be used with such emotions as anger, desire, love, and frustration. Friends, this idea is a lie.

We are made in the image of God and the emotions that we have as a part of that creation are not sinful in and of themselves; it is what we do with them that can make them sinful. Sin is not the natural reaction to emotions, it is the carnal use of those emotions: there is a vast difference. What is natural (the emotions with which we are made) and carnal (the physical actions we take) are quite different. The former is given by God, the latter is utilized with the devices of men.

Let us never forget that we are made in the image of God, with the same range of emotions and feelings that he has; but we are also made upright, acceptable in his sight and righteous before him. There is no child born with the burden of sin already weighing over his or her life, otherwise the statements such as Solomon’s in this passage are lies.

When we sin, it is not because God made us that way, it is because we followed our own inventions in carnal reactions to the emotions we have been given. Let us overcome the inventions of men, to serve God with eyes trained on the spiritual not the carnal; that we may use his wonderful creation as it was intended.

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To whom was the New Testament Written?

It is often easy for Christians to think about the Bible as being a book mainly for non-Christians to learn about the truth; but that is a bit of a misguided concept. When you look at the Scriptures from the standpoint of intent and audience, the overwhelming majority are written to and for Christians. Consider the breakdown of the New Testament for a moment.

There are a total of 3 books of the New Testament that were written specifically to non-Christians: Matthew (to the Jews), Mark (to the Romans), and John (to all men in combating the Gnostic doctrines). Every other book of the New Testament was written to Christians.

Of the remaining 24 books in the New Testament, 8 are written to individuals who are already Christians: Luke, Acts, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 2 & 3 John.

The other 16 books are written to congregations or groups of Christians that are trying to serve God; they deal with problems and give encouragement that help them to prevail in their Christian walk. These include: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John, Jude and Revelation.

Therefore, we need to recognize that the majority of the New Testament was not given to the non-Christian to convince him of the need for salvation. It was written to the body of Christ to teach them how to remain faithful, how to live acceptably, and how to effectively reach out with the Gospel. If more people understood this little principle of approaching the Scriptures, many of those “problem passages” would become much easier to understand.

This principle of Scripture should also give a great point of emphasis to Christians. Becoming a Christian is not the end of the road, it is only the beginning. It is the start of a life-long journey in service to God. It is nothing more than the reading of the first chapter in a book. Therefore, we need to make sure we place as much importance on the bulk of Scriptures written to us after we are Christians as we do the Scriptures written to those who have not yet obeyed the Gospel.

God knew how much help Christians would need to remain faithful and serve him fully. Therefore, he gave Christians the greatest resource library we could ever have, filled with all the information we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Let us ever remember what the Bible is, how it was intended to be used, and utilize it to fulfill our greatest potential in the service of God.

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