Taking a knife to God’s word

jeremiah 36Last Sunday’s sermon was taken from Jeremiah 36 and you can listen to it here.

In the days of King Jehoiakim, Jeremiah sent his scribe to read to the people in the temple a message from God. Eventually, that message was brought to the King and his response was not too different from the response many people, both inside and outside of the Church, have today…he took a knife to it.  Whether people do this literally or figuratively, they cut out from their life words that they find offensive, insignificant, or of no use in their opinion.

As you read Jeremiah 36, you will notice that God sends a message to the people which might cause them to change their ways. This message is heard by some God-fearing men who then want the message read to the King. Jehoiakim, on the other hand, as he listened to the scroll being read to him, took a knife and, every so often, cut what had been read from the scroll and burned it. God told Jeremiah to have it rewritten and added more words to it-specifically condemnation of Jehoiakim.

So what can we learn from this? Here are a few lessons.

First, God is a merciful God who wants all to be saved. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17) and so God sent His word to the people and to the king with the hope that they would repent. If you read from 2 kings 22, you will see what happened when Jehoiakim’s father Josiah had God’s word read to him; he humbled himself and made reforms to cause the people to serve God. God’s word will lead us in the ways we should go, if we will only humble ourselves, listen and do.

Second, God’s word remains. Even though Jehoiakim cut and burned the scroll with God’s word on it, God had it rewritten. 1 Peter 1:22-25 tell us that God’s word lives forever. It is relevant and is able to save us. We can try to fight against it but there is no way to change it, it will either change us…or we will break ourselves against it.

Third, people today fight against what the Scriptures say and cut out or ignore God’s word. Here are somethings they do:

  •  Ignore God’s plan of salvation- Mk 16:15-16, Acts 2:38, 2 Thes 1:8
  • Ignore God’s plan for marriage-Eph 5:22-33
  • Ignore God’s plan for assembling with the saints- Heb 10:24-25
  • Ignore God’s plan for modesty- 1 tim 2:9-10

And many other passages people cut out of their life and ignore. However, God’s word is still there. Perhaps if we would spend more time reading it and doing it, our lives would be more at peace….Certainly, we would be more at peace with God.

 

Four mistakes in prayer

The sermon yesterday morning dealt with mistakes we sometimes make in prayer. You can listen to it here.

Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. It is a discipline that can not only bring us closer TO God but one that brings us closer to being LIKE God. Still, being human, there are times that we may pray in a way that is not appropriate. Sometimes it happens in our own weakness, other times, in our zeal for good things to happen. In no particular order, here are four mistakes we should avoid in prayer.

First, praying for our own selfish motivated reasons. In James 4:1-6, James chastises those who fight because they don’t receive, says they don’t receive because they don’t ask and then even when they ask…they don’t receive because they ask with wrong motives to spend it on their own lusts. Why would a Christian pray that God let him win the lottery when there is no reason a Christian should be gambling in the first place? Yes, we can ask for things we want but we need to check our motives. God is not mocked.

Second, we may ask that God intervene in the free will of another. God, who wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), is able to ‘force’ us to do His will but He created us in His image and gave us the opportunity to choose good or evil.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
(Deu 30:19)

So, in our desire to have others become Christians, praying that God would make this child or friend a Christian is something God won’t do against that individual’s will. A better prayer would be that God would guide/lead us to be sure that we do not put a stumbling block in the life of any individual. Still, be careful, God won’t make YOU do good either!

Third, we sometimes put God into our own conception of what He needs to do or not do. It goes like this “God, if you don’t want me to do this, then stop me!” (see the point on free will above) or “God, if you will do….XYZ by tomorrow at 2pm then I will know that you want me to do this or that”

You might say that Gideon (Judges 6) did this so “Why can’t I?” While it is true that God did respond to Gideon’s request to verify the message given to him by an angel, I would suggest that we would do better if we stopped trying to be Gideons and simply asked God for wisdom in the choices we are going to make, something He promises to give us. (james 1:5) And if God does send an angel to tell you that you take on a particular task, then maybe at that time, you might ask for an appropriate sign for verification.

Fourth, we can use prayer as a substitute for other spiritual activities. There is a time for prayer and there is a time for action. Jesus says that those who hear his words and DO them will be blessed. (Matthew 7:24-25) There are times when we need to get off our knees and do what is set before us to do.

This is especially true when it comes to studying the Scriptures. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s word, not by pray. (Rom 10:17) When the Bereans  wanted to verify Paul’s message of Jesus being the Christ, they did not pray to God about it, they searched the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11)

I have made some of these mistakes in my prayer life and I imagine you may have too but if we can recognize these mistakes, we can avoid them.

 

 

The Resurrection in the Old Testament

comfort one another(The sermon with this post can be heard here)

In the book of 2 Samuel 12, Nathan is sent to David by God to condemn him for his sin with Bathsheba. It is probably one of the most famous scandals in the Old Testament. In this chapter, David is told that he will be punished for the sin and one of the consequences was that the child which was the result of his affair would die.

The story shows us a few things about David that are worth noting.

First, David did admit that he had sinned. He did not do as we sometimes/often do-deny the sin. In this David shows his humility before God. David shows his heart and desire to be right with God.

Second, David pleads with God for the life of the child. David had an advantage that we do not have. (If you want to call it an advantage….) He knew that the child would die based on what God told him. Still, he fasts and prays and humbles himself for the 7 days in which the child was sick. Although God had said the child would die, David knew that God has relented from punishments in the past. (cf 2 1 Sam 21:14-15) So he sought the Lord’s favor.

Third, When the child had died, David accepted the situation and went on about his life. It is important to note however that David did this with two thoughts in mind: First, the past can not be changed. Two, there is a future for David with the child after death.

He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2Sa 12:22-23)

The concept of the resurrection is not so clearly laid out in the Old Testament as in the New Testament but it is clear that people living with the law of Moses believed in it.

Not only David here speaking of going to his son but in the Psalms, the sons of Korah speak of being bought back (redeemed) from the grave.

Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah. (Psa 49:14-15)

Also, we see of others who believed this.

Martha told Jesus about her dead brother Lazarus:  “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (Joh 11:24) and while we read of this account in a New Testament Gospel, Martha grew up in an Old Testament world. Yet, she believed.

Also, Paul standing before the counsel in offering his defense cried out “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” (Acts 23:6) It is true that Paul, as a Christian, believed in the resurrection and had even written about it by this time in First Thessalonians and First Corinthians. However, such a statement would mean nothing if the Pharisees did not hold a belief in the resurrection…a belief they would get from the Old Testament writings.

It is true that we have a better understanding and belief in it. After all, Jesus has already conquered death. They saw it dimly, we see it more clearly; They waited for the hope of Christ, we live believing He has already come…and will come again.  Death is never a happy event for those left behind yet I am pretty sure it is a happy time for those that pass on. Still, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, we know that Jesus will return with those who have passed on before and take us with him to dwell with Him forever more. ( I thes 4:13-18)

Comfort one another with these words.

Can you stop complaining?

The sermon for this post can be heard at this link

Last week we looked at a lesson based on the question of “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The actual answer Jesus gave was not as much what the young ruler needed to do as much as what he needed to give up.

In the sermon, I suggested that perhaps there would be something in our personality that we should give up. One of those personality traits that comes to mind is that of complaining.  Even if you don’t think of it as personality, it certainly is a habit many of us have.

Recently, my wife and I read a book (actually, it was an audiobook) entitiled, “A complaint free world” by Will Bowen. The major premise of which is a challenge to go 21 days without complaining. As he says in his book, and I found out in my own life, complaining is an action that is never to far away from us.

This got me to thinking…Do I complain? Honestly, yes I do. I don’t think of myself as a complainer but complaints still are verbalized by me. Complaints fall into the category of expressing discontent with someone or something, criticizing someone, or gossiping about another person.

When we read the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, we see admirable things: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control…..Apparently, Complaining does not make the cut. That’s right, complaining is not a fruit of the Spirit.

There are many reasons why we complain. Sometimes because we forget the blessings of God. Israel sure did this. (Psalm 78:10-20). Other times, we complain because we do not want conflict. That is, we fear that the person we have a complaint against will get mad (or more mad) at us if we bring it up.  We even complain to complete strangers just to start a relationship: “The weather is soooooooooooooo hot!”, we complain and viola! instant camaraderie.

There are many reasons why we complain but really, none of them are good reasons because they do not resolve the problem. Discussing the issue with the person who can resolve it is not complaining (as long as you don’t whine about it to them), it is taking steps to fix the issue. Telling the waiter that your dinner plate is the wrong one and asking them to fix it is not a complaint, assuming you use good manners and proper tone.

Can you go 21 days without complaining? It is a good question. I hope you will take the challenge with me.  I think that the book by Will Bowen will be worth the read.

 

What will hate do?

Hate! It is such a strong word. Wrath, a synonym to hate, often starts with something that offends us and then if not released will turn into a grudge and then enmity and hatred that can last for generations. (Click here to hear the sermon on what hate will do. ) anger

Esau’s descendants known as the country of Edom continued to allow an enmity between Edom and Israel to fester and continue. While the feud between Esau and Jacob appears to have ended, his descendants appear to have borne a grudge through the years and God was going to bring judgement on them for their perpetual hatred. (Ezekiel 35:1-5)

Sometimes we relish hatred in our hearts with other people. Hatred is not of the Spirit of God, it is of the worldly spirit.  Hatred keeps in the carnal nature, it leads to contentions, blinds us to its results, and is a step closer to murder.

Hatred affects the one hating more than the one hated. In the book of Esther you see that Haman was much more affected by his hatred of Mordecai than Mordecai was affected by it.

Rather than let hatred fester in our lives, we should practice other qualities: Restraint, Forgiveness, Love of enemies and becoming more like our Father in Heaven who sheds his blessings on the just and unjust.

 

 

What do I need to give up?

living sacrifice(Today’s sermon on this topic can be heard by clicking this link.) The question that the rich ruler asked Jesus was one that most of us ask as well: “What must I do…?” or as in Matthew’s account “What good deed must I do…?” (see Luke 18:18-23; Matthew 19:16-22) We all want to know what we can do. We all want to be sure that we are saved, that we will inherit eternal life. Here is Luke’s account of this discussion.

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
(Luk 18:18-23)

You will notice that Jesus answered his question but there were a couple of things missing. In the first place, He said nothing about honoring God. Still, we can assume that a Israelite would understand that serving God was a necessary part in obtaining eternal life, so Jesus did not mention the first 4 commandments at all. He also did not mention the 10th commandment of coveting.

He covered the action commandments dealing our fellow man. A list of things that would not be impossible to find in a person. You can almost hear the wheels turning in the rulers head. Don’t commit adultery (Check!), Don’t murder (Check!) Do not steal (I have plenty…so Check!) Do not bear false witness (Check!), Honor parents….(Check!!!) Hey, that’s good….mmm, wonder if I need to do anything else? Uh, Jesus….what else do I lack?

Again: What do i need to do? Now Jesus brings out the 10th commandment. And this time when Jesus told him what to do, it was more like Jesus was telling him what he would need to give up!  You see the 10th commandment “Do not covet” is now under consideration. This is not as much an action commandment as it is a heart and attitude commandment. It is easy to say “I don’t kill, steal, commit adultery, etc….” but to say ” I do not covet….” That is harder.

Notice that he had plenty of money. He was “extremely rich”. We tend to think of coveting as wanting something that someone else has….because we don’t have a way to get it. However, I suspect that if he had wanted the latest model of chariot that rolled out of the ACME chariot factory, he could have bought it. No, it seems clear that he was coveting his own possessions and things.

Jesus asked him to give up what he had and he was unwilling to do so. It is both a positive “Do this” and a negative “Remove this” It cut him very deeply. He went away sorrowful because he had great possessions (Matt 19:22)

What do you need to give up? You may not be a thief or murderer, you may not commit adultery or dishonor your parents but in the final analysis, what are you willing to give up to inherit eternal life?  We should remember that we are encouraged to give our lives as a “living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1-2. Sacrifices always involve giving something up.

Will you give up your old friends for Jesus? Will you give up your 60 inch HDTV with surround sound? Will you give up your iPhone? Will you give up the next upgrade of the iPhone? Will you give up your Nintendo, even if you haven’t caught all the Pokemon? Will you give up a couple more hours to read your Bible, visit someone who is sick, send a card or letter of encouragement? Will you give up the one thing you want most? What is that thing? It isn’t complicated….it’s just hard.

I would suggest that for many of us, the freedom to do what we want and to live the lifestyle we want is a big draw. We have nice computers, comfortable homes, can pick up prepared food, talk with family all over the world, and pretty much be our own person.

Another thing we might consider giving up is the type of personality that we have. Some people have a way of doing things and saying things which they justify by simply saying “That’s how I am!” If I am cranky, short tempered, a loner, a party person, or what ever other flaw in character that we might have which we simply relish having or don’t care enough about it to give it up.

The process of becoming a living sacrifice can be expressed by Paul in Gal 2:20 when he says that it is no longer Paul that lives but Christ living in him. In other words, when people say Paul, they actually saw how Christ would have acted in that situation.

When people talk with you and interact with you, do they hear and see Christ? They should.

If we had asked the question of Jesus, what answer would we have gotten?  It may be a different sacrifice for me than for you but it all comes down to this: If you want to inherit eternal life….what are you willing to give up?

 

 

7 Scriptures that encourage us to read the Bible everyday.

Bible cover

{Note: This post appeared three years ago and has been one of the most viewed posts on this page simply from search engine results. I repost it for those who have been reading after it came out. I hope it helps you mature in Christian service.}

If I were to ask you to describe the activities of a good Christian, you would no doubt mention actions such as praying and reading the Bible often. Of course, often for some people is every day, others several times a week, others read a chapter or two a day.

Today, and ever since the Gutenberg press was invented, we have truly been living in an age of feasting, if only we would come to the meal. The Bible is there and it is available for us to read, to meditate upon and to nourish us. There are many proverbial reasons that can be given to encourage us to read daily but what does the Bible say?

I will list 7 scriptures but want to hear from you what your favorite passages are.

  1. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Scriptures serves many purposes in our lives: Reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness but at the end of it, the man of God is thoroughly equipped for every good work by the Scriptures. Don’t be ill-equipped, Read!
  2. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 The King of Israel was instructed not just to write himself a copy of the law but to read from it every day. Leaders (ministers, elders, etc.) especially need the promise of this passage. Reading God’s word will keep us oriented, on the right path, and most of all, Humble!
  3. Amos 8:11 God warned of  a famine of His word among His people. He would take away the prophets and His words because they wouldn’t listen to Him. Today, we have great access to God’s word. If you don’t read it, you create your own famine. Who is worse off? The person who can read and doesn’t or the person who can’t read at all?
  4. Psalms 1  More than just reading God’s word, meditating on it is important. If you don’t wrestle with the application of it in your life, you may just think “Mmmm, nice thought” and go on with your life unchanged. Meditate and prosper!
  5. Acts 17:11 The process of learning is also a process of searching the Scriptures. We have so many people who will tell us what God wants of us but until we begin the process of examining their (teaching/motto/philosophy) with God’s word, we won’t be able to know if it is Godly or only sounds Godly.
  6. Psalms 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to God’s word.  When we pray “lead us not into temptation” many times God is saying ” I am trying to tell you but you won’t listen”. Reading God’s word instructs in both the ways of righteousness and the ways of error.
  7. Psalm 19:10-11 They are more valuable than gold and silver. When we truly bring the world of God into our lives and allow it to be written on our hearts, we find true wealth and contentment beyond the rat race of this world and its egotistical purposes.

So much more could be said on each of these passages. They are worthy of a blog post all their own and may yet get them.

Question: What Bible verse(s) help you draw the conclusion that Christians ought to read God’s word often…or even every day?

Doubting God

So many people live a life of doubting God. They doubt He exists. They doubt He acts. They doubt He cares. They doubt He will punish the ungodly. There are many more things in which people express doubts about God.doubting God

To the Christian however, there is no doubt that He exists and it is not a blind faith that they rely on. They do not doubt that He acts because they know that not only can and does God act, He does it in His time…not man’s. They do not doubt that He cares because God’s Son died for us to show that God loves us and God continues to walk with us showing that He does indeed care. They do not doubt He will punish the ungodly and those who do not obey the Gospel so not only do they strive to live a godly life but they warn those that they can.

When you doubt God, you doubt the one being who is able to help your life be better. The sermon this morning dealt with this topic. You can listen to it here.

Remember, you were slaves!

leaving EgyptSome things need to be remembered! In the Bible there are many times where God exhorts us to remember things that are of importance. Once such location is in the book of Deuteronomy. Five times in Deuteronomy, the Lord through Moses told Israel “Remember, you were slaves” as He gives them various commands  and requirements.

The first time (5:15) is in the context of keeping the Sabbath day. They were to remember that they were slaves, that it was who God brought them out and because of this, God commanded them to keep the Sabbath, a day to remember God and their relationship with Him.

The second time (15:15) in the context of how Israel was to treat their slaves and deal with the poor, God again says “you shall remember that you were a slave” therefore “I command you this today”.

Then, again, in three more passages (16:12; 24:18,22) God tells them to “Remember they were slaves” as he gives them commands regarding festivals, loaning to brothers, how to treat the poor brothers and how to treat strangers.

So how did Israel do with this exhortation? Did they remember? In the New Testament, John records this conversation between Jesus and the Jews:

Joh 8:30-34 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. (31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

Apparently, they did NOT remember that they were once slaves. Did that present a problem? Yes, it did. Here’s why:

In Matthew, Jesus tells us that first and second greatest commandments are the foundation for the whole law and the prophets.

Mat 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (37) And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I find it interesting that the foundation of all the commandments of the Law, all that the prophets said was Love. Love of God and Love of your neighbor as yourself”  So it should not surprise us that, in the above passages in Deuteronomy, God talks about how they are to honor Him and how they are to treat their fellow man. There is something about them having been slaves that ties to these commands.

I will suggest a few things that happened, or could happen, in forgetting that they were slaves:.

First, they did not honor God as they should: In Mt 15:3 Jesus says that they broke the commandments of God by their traditions. Imagine that! They had developed a tradition which they enforced on others but that violated a commandment of God. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus gives a parable of a rich man who was indeed rich but not towards God. His substance was not used for God’s honor nor to help his fellow man…God called him a Fool.

Second, they treated their fellow man with contempt. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans (Jn 4:7-9) and no doubt it was because they thought of them as unimportant people. They didn’t so well with the poor, tax collectors, and sinners either. Jesus also told a parable in Luke 18, for the specific reason that some considered themselves to be righteous and held others with contempt (18:9).

Third, they might not become a forgiving people. Chapter 18 in Matthew deals with forgiveness. Peter thought 7 times was a good thing, which seems to be more than most people would do.  Jesus points out that it is not limited and again, tells a parable emphasizing the need to forgive our brother. He ends it with the warning that: If we do not forgive our brother from our heart, that God will not forgive us.

Do not think for a second that the exhortation to Israel to “Remember that you were slaves” does not apply to us. Actually, I think it applies even more to us. Because while Israel was in physical bondage, we were in spiritual bondage and slavery.

Rom 6:17-20 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

It is when we remember that we were slaves to sin and freed through the blood of Christ and our obedience to the Gospel of Grace that we will be motivated to worship God in great gratitude for His Grace and sacrifice. We will also in compassion treat our fellow man with the love that they need realizing that God showed that same love to us. This allows us to preach the Gospel, with all of its warnings and exhortations, in compassion and kindness, motivated by the remembrance that we were once slaves of sin as they are now.

If we forget that we were once slaves, not only will we not Honor God and treat our fellow man with love, we may find ourselves once again enslaved by sin.

Remembering that we were slaves will help us to serve our God and fellow man.

 

 

What will Sin do?

Sin in all of its many manifestations is often downplayed. Often we do not give sin the credit that it merits. Sometimes we think of sin as being harmless but sin is anything but harmless.

Sin will take you farther than you plan to go.

Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay.

Sin will cost you more than you wanted to pay.

The lesson Sunday morning was taken from Judges 16 and Samson illustrates how sin can affect our lives. You can listen to it here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 772 other followers

%d bloggers like this: