Monthly Archives: January 2015

Listen to Me!

“And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness–look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”” (John 3:26-30, ESV)

The apostle John records a discussion that takes place between John the Immerser and those who have been following him. They have noticed that since Jesus has come on the scene all men have been going to hear him and not John. They want to know how John feels about that. John says that he is nothing more than the friend of the bridegroom, therefore, when the bridegroom (Jesus) speaks he rejoices.

John understood that his role was not about him, but about bringing others to Jesus by being his introductory voice. It is very much the same with us today. Whether we are preachers, teachers, or simply those who talk to others about Jesus – we are nothing more than friends of the bridegroom. We should be far less worried about whether or not people are listening to, “what I have to say” and more worried about whether they listen to what he has to say.

Until we recognize, as John did, that we must decrease and he must increase as the influence in what we say and how we say it, we will not be as effective as we should be in leading others to him. So before someone bemoans the fact that people will not listen to what he/she has to say, step back and ask why it matters: is it because we want others to hear Christ, or because we want everyone to hear us?

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Whose House are we Building?

“Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.”” (Haggai 1:3-9, ESV)

The year is 520 B.C.. The children of Israel have been back from captivity for 16 years. When Haggai speaks they have had time to rebuild their homes, reset their fields, restart their lives, and return to a semblance of “normal.” There is only one problem: in all of their work they have neglected the house of God. For 16 years there has not been a stitch of work done to build up God’s house. So God sends Haggai to tell them to consider their ways and take care of all of their obligations.

Sometimes it is easy for us to be like the Israelites of those days. We spend our time working on making our houses homes, taking care of our families, and trying to give our children the best lives they can possibly have. In doing so, it is often easy to leave the Lord’s house (the church) behind. We state that we are too busy to build up and strengthen the Lord’s house; someone else will have to take care of that. Unfortunately, most of the time when everyone waits for someone else to do it: nobody does it.

Are we remembering to work on the house of God? Are we working on strengthening our brethren and teaching to bring others into the house of God, or are we too busy? If we have made that claim as an excuse for not working for God, it is time to “consider our ways.”

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Seeking Open Doors

“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:2-4, NKJV)

In the days of social media, it is easy for us to find opportunities to talk about whatever interests us. People easily find hours to devote to talking about their favorite political issues, sports teams, emotional events or whatever else piques their interest.

As Christians, our first priority is supposed to be the teaching of the Gospel. Paul asked his brethren to pray for him that he might have boldness (Eph. 6:19) and open doors to teach the word of God. Is that our prayer today? Are we trying to find ways to reach out with God’s Word, both in teaching the lost and strengthening the righteous? It is easy to use technology for the “fun stuff” it provides, but if we are not using it to discuss those things that should be of the greatest interest to us (the things of God) then we are not using our assets to their full potential.

This does not mean that one should waste their time on endless arguments over fruitless contrivances; nor does it mean one should simply be going around telling everyone else that they are wrong. Nevertheless, it should be obvious to anyone who we are, what we believe, and why those things are important to our lives and the lives of those around us. May God grant you boldness and open doors to serve him.

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“I Waited Patiently for the Lord”

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth — praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works which you have done; and your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to you in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” (Psalm 40:1-5, NKJV)

Our society is one of instant gratification. We have apps for everything, drive-thru lanes everywhere, and if it was posted an hour ago and we don’t know about it we are considered behind the times.

Unfortunately, people try to take the same mentality with God. When they ask God for something they expect an immediate, visible impact to be thrust down from Heaven for all to see. Yet David emphasizes in these verses the necessity of waiting patiently for the Lord. God is not bound by our time-tables, nor does he answer at our whims. He knows what is best and he works and blesses accordingly. Knowing that he is there and seeing his blessings in our lives should stir up the same great emotions of praise and thanksgiving that David offers here. It should also force us to recognize that, as children of God, we may not always recognize the course that God’s providence takes in answering our prayers and impacting our lives, but there is no doubt it is there.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Keep your trust and faith in him; and you, like David, will not be able to count the times and ways the Lord sees to your needs.

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An Impartial Gospel

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:1-5, ESV)

Sometimes it is possible for Christians to be more concerned with what people can offer the church than what Christ can offer the soul. They will spend their time trying to woo the wealthy or prestigious people in the community and refuse to spread the Gospel to all men.

It is interesting that during Jesus’ teaching it was the poor, down-trodden, and broken that came to him constantly. It was the wealthy and powerful that feared and hated him.

We must always remember that the Gospel is for ALL. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, well-known or unknown. Therefore, we cannot show partiality in the way that we spread the Gospel or in the way that we treat others. The Lord loves each and every soul equally, and so should we.

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What an Ox-cart Teaches about Ignorance and Assumptions in Religion

“So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were rejoicing before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.” (1 Chronicles 13:5-10, ESV)

People in the religious world today often promote the idea that it isn’t so much what you do that matters in religion, it is what your intent is behind it that matters. In other words, as long as you are doing it to glorify God, it will be okay.

In this passage, David learned a very valuable lesson in that department. David assumed that the use of a new cart (built especially for this task) would be sufficient to bring the ark the few miles it was to journey to Jerusalem. David had not ignored God’s Word, he simply did not know that God had commanded the ark to be moved a certain way. He was violating God’s Word out of ignorance. In spite of David’s good intentions, and their celebrations before God as they begin to bring the ark on the journey, David’s mistake in judgment is going to cost a man his life. Uzzah and David were only seeking to glorify God, but both unwittingly violated the commands of God in the process and the results were dire.

It is not enough for us to think that something is fun, enjoyable, or a good idea and therefore God will accept it. We must first look to God’s Word to see what he has commanded and what he will find acceptable. Failing to do so sets us up for the same jolt of reality that David and Uzzah received: it’s not just the intent behind the action that matters, but whether the action itself is what God wants that counts. Let us learn from David and Uzzah and not repeat their mistakes.

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What Jesus said about Hypocrisy

“In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:1-5, ESV)

We hear a lot from people regarding religion and hypocrisy. It is true that there are those who are religious people who are hypocrites. There are also a lot of non-religious people who are hypocrites. While the definition of a hypocrite is often far too broad, the word means: to present one face when you really wear another.

Jesus talks about the need to understand that, no matter what face we show to those around us, God knows our true face. God knows the one we show in the dark when we think nobody else can see. He knows the things that we say behind people’s backs that are the opposite of what we politely say to their faces. He will judge us for those things; nothing will remain secret.

We must work diligently in our lives to ensure that we are truly the people of God that we want others to think we are. Masks will not work, neither will lies and deception. They will not fool God. The only way we will succeed before God is to genuinely be what God desires in his servants. Anything less will fail.

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A Short Thought about Doing Good

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”–when you have it with you. Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.” (Proverbs 3:27-29, ESV)

The ability to do good is available to all of us. It sits before us every day in our interactions with others at work, around town or within our families. Are we utilizing what we have before us? It does not have to be involved in any way with money. It may be an act of kindness, a word of graciousness, a task of humble service. Let us be looking for opportunities to do good. It is within our power each day and it will bless the lives of all those around us.

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James’ Discussion of Faith and Works in its Context

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14-26, KJV)

We see Christians often take this passage as a proof-text against the doctrine of faith-only salvation. However, while there is a means of making such a case from this passage, that is not the purpose for which the writer includes this section.

You see, James is writing to Christians, to those who are already members of the body of Christ. So take a moment and consider the exact question that James is asking. If God asked you to prove your faith by your deeds right now, could you do it? As a Christian, you claim belief in God, faith in his word, and dedication to his cause: can you prove it? Do the things found in your life indicate in any way that you are different from the rest of the world, or that you love your brethren like your own family? Your words are not enough, a man requires more to be justified before God than words from a pew. What does your life say? Christians, how would you answer? Is your faith alive or dead?

As a final note, there is a case that can be made from this passage against faith only and it is this: if a Christian cannot be justified before God with only the words of his faith, how can a non-Christian?

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A Lesson from the Prophet that Hated his Success

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
But is displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 3:10-4:3, NKJV)

Jonah was among the most unhappy successful people ever! He had converted an entire city by his preaching and brought them repenting in sackcloth and ashes. There was only one problem: the people were residents of the capital city of one of Israel’s greatest enemies. Jonah is so angry and embarrassed by his success that he wishes God would just kill him instead of making him return to Israel with such news.

As pathetic as Jonah’s attitude sounds, and as easy as it may be for us to rebuke his response, it is quite possible for us to be the same way. Have you ever seen someone come forward repenting of sin and heard another whisper, “They didn’t really mean it,” because they don’t want to accept it? How about the person that refuses to tell someone who has wronged them about the Gospel? Or the person who rejoices at the death of an unsaved individual stating that they got what they deserved? Yes, it is very easy for us to be just like Jonah. Instead, let us pray that we become more like God, who is gracious, merciful, loving, and long-suffering.

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