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Showing posts from December, 2016

Bible Reading Plan for the New Year

I first read the Bible through in 1952-1953. It was the King James Version. I read four chapters in the Old Testament and two chapters in the New Testament a day. This took me through the Old Testament once and the New Testament two and half times in nine months. In 1970 or 1971, I switched to the RSV, and then in 1980-81 I switched to the NIV. I do not remember what my reading schedule was in those years.

For about ten years, I followed a strict schedule with YWAM. For the last seven years, I have been using Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s More Precious than Gold schedule. This program allows you to read the Bible in one or two years. The one-year plan starts with Genesis 1, Ezra 1, Matthew 1, and Acts 1 on January 1. It goes through the Old Testament once, the book of Psalms twice, and the New Testament twice during the year. I have used it with the NIV, with a Jewish Old Testament, the New English Bible New Testament, the Ronald Knox Roman Catholic translation, the New English Bible Old T…

Love Your Neighbor

"Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."'" (Matt. 22:37-39)

In these two commandments there are two objects of love: "the Lord your God" and "your neighbor." You are to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. That is the means.

In what way should you love your neighbor? The same way you love yourself. "Yourself" is an object already greatly loved by you and therefore is the standard by which you are to love your neighbor. Even those who have a low "self-worth" have great love for themselves. They are more concerned for themselves than they are for others; therefore, they are commanded to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

How can we obey the command to love? For a start, calculate how much time you think about yourself. S…

Clean on the Inside

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them." (Luke 6:32)

This kind of love is not a distinctively Christian trait. In fact, Jesus said that "even 'sinners' love those who love them." Many Christians love those who love them or love lovely people and think that they are showing Christian love by doing this, when, in fact, they are loving in a humanistic fashion. In other words, they love the same way every other human being loves.

There is a distinct love that only Christians have. They have it because they received it when it was given to them by the Lord.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) His love for us had nothing to do with our loveliness or our love for Him. It had to do with His nature and our need. When we share this love with others, it should have nothing to do with others' love for us or…

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Many of us know the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke. This Christmas season, read the Christmas story to your children from the Bible. You will find the story of the wise men and the star in Matthew 1:18-2:23 and the story of the shepherds and the angel in Luke 2:1-39. However, there are several other short accounts of this event. They are Colossians 1:13-20, Hebrews 1:1-4, Galatians 4:4-5, and Philippians 2:5-11.

Here is the seventh account:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.... He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive hi…

Keeping Fellowship

"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him." (Rom. 14:1-3)

Romans 14 is a chapter about attitudes towards other believers. The basic premise is that a believer belongs to God, and God receives him without looking down on him or condemning him, and, therefore, we should also receive him in the same way. This is saying that there is something more important than "being right."

God allows us to think we are right; verse 5 says, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." He allows us to think differently, but He does not allow us to break fellowship because we think differently.

Please read the rest of Romans 14. You will notice that th…

Giving

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” (2 Cor. 8:1-5)

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12)

We do not normally think of “severe tests of affliction” and “abundance of joy” going together. Nor do we think that “extreme poverty” normally “overflows in a wealth of liberality.” There are other unusual expressions in this passage, like “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the s…

Merry Christmas!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 9-14)This is the Christmas story according to …

Forgiveness

“The LORD said to Moses: ‘If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do—when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering.’” (Lev. 6:1-5)

The quotation is followed by the requirement of the guilt offering and then this wonderful promise: “In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty” (Lev. 6:7).

Two things were necessary for forgiveness to be given and received: 1) restitution and…

Restitution

One way to may "payments" on our debt of love is through restitution.

In 1932 when I was in kindergarten, I was walking home with a friend after school one day, and he told me that he would teach me how to steal a cookie. He was to stop at the corner store on the way home to buy a pound of hamburger. When he ordered the hamburger, the owner of the store would go to the back room to grind and wrap it. While the owner was doing that, my friend would go to the cookie display and open a small glass door over a bin of cookies. He would remove two chocolate marshmallow cookies, give one to me, and put the other in his own pocket. He would pay the merchant for the hamburger, and we would leave the store. Sure enough, it went just as planned.

The corner store was two blocks from my home. In the first block, each of us ate our cookie. In the second block, I could feel the chocolate and marshmallow around my mouth. I licked my lips and rubbed my face. I knew my mother would see my mo…

From the Editor: Debt

From The Hammer magazine, Vol. III No. III

“Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8)

We all know what it is to have bills. Bills, bills, bills coming persistently in the mail is part of life. Scripture tells us to take care of these debts promptly. When one comes due, it should be paid in full.

But there is one debt that we can never properly pay off, one debt that is incessantly overdue and underpaid. We cannot save up for it. We must pay more than our tight budget allows each month, each week, each day. That debt is the continuing love due to our fellow creatures. It is the debt that remains outstanding day after day, month after month, year after year.

In and of ourselves we lack the resources to pay this continuous debt. But if we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:8), we have access to all the riches of God’s grace and love.

Perhaps we wish the Holy S…

From the Editor: Practical Christianity

From The Hammer magazine, Vol. III No. II.

Christianity is intensely practical. We must live it out in our relationships with people and our response to God. We must not be merely hearers and talkers but doers (James 1:22).

Often it seems that the eager new Christian is anxious to make his Christianity practical by allowing God to revamp the old attitudes and behaviors, but later he begins to get complacent and looks for something “more.” It is as though the old, simple truths that changed his life aren’t good enough anymore. We look for something more complicated, something “deeper.” We fail to apply what we knew at the beginning.

A child learns to walk by putting one foot in front of the other. As adults, we are still applying the same principle. We still put one foot in front of the other. We didn’t have to learn more complicated methods of getting where we wanted to go. It is the same with Christianity. As we mature, we must continue to apply the same truths that we began with, no…

Witness in the Spirit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." (Gal. 5:22)

"He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord." (Acts 11:24)

Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit. He was also a good man. This not surprising, since the fruit of the Spirit is goodness. The text says that a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Barnabas was in a witnessing, evangelizing situation. Goodness is a necessary characteristic of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. It is also a necessary characteristic of effective witnessing.

To witness the content of the good news without being good is to contradict with our life what we are saying with our mouth.

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6)

If we are going to talk good news, we must walk good news. Witnessing in the Holy Spirit is assurance that there will be no contradiction between our walk …

From the Editor: Compassion

Letter from the Editor, Hammer Magazine, Vol. 3 No. 1, 1984

Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. (Matt. 24:17-20)

Although I have always noticed this passage and Christ’s reference to pregnant women and nursing mothers, I never stopped to think much about it. Only recently did I see something of the gracious character of our Lord in this statement.

How many of us, in the midst of a discourse such as this, would mention the difficulty of pregnant women and nursing mothers? Especially, how many men would refer to it while addressing a group of men (Jesus was addressing His disciples)?

Jesus shows a great deal of empathy and compassion in this brief statement. A pregnant or nursing mother can relate to the difficulty and stress of the moment Jesus des…

Fixed

This was written by my wife Bessie.

“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” (Psalm 57:7)

Sometimes when I hear or read a great truth from the Scriptures, my first reaction is “Oh, I want that to be true in my life!” The second reaction is, “But how?” I will deal here with this second reaction.

The quotation above is from the King James Version but is rendered my heart is steadfast both in the RSV and NIV. I like the strength of the KJV because “fixed” suggests a locked-in position, a trusting regardless of circumstances. We read in the caption that David had written this psalm when he fled from Saul into the cave.

A “fixed heart” assumes a confidence in the Lord. It assumes a mind that disregards the circumstances. The impossibility of the situation only drove David to reliance on the Lord to the extent that he said, “I will sing and make music” (Psalm 57:7b).

In Psalm 25:15, David expressed this in different words: “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my fee…

Our Hope in Adversity

A post for the Christmas season written by Chris Vlachos, who ran CCM's bookstore in Provo, UT.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manager, because there was no room in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

In this passage, we see a simple but striking account of God’s hand providentially working in the affairs of men to bring to pass His ultimate and glorio…