Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2020

Pray for Workers

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38) A few words stand out to me: • crowds • compassion • harassed and helpless • plentiful harvest • few workers • ask the Lord Some of us have seen the crowds, but with anger. Others have seen the crowds with compassion, but haven’t seen the harvest. We see how few the workers are and despair. Let us ask the Lord for the workers. He will send them. This post coordinates with today's reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge . If you are not in a daily reading plan, please jump on in. We would love to have you reading with us.

Responding to Insults Biblically

“ Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). We know this applies to us today because the great commission says, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We are to be taught to obey, and we in turn are to teach people to obey. The command here is to “rejoice and be glad.” My personal experience in contact with other Christians is probably wider than most Christians, but still limited. Keeping this in mind, I know very few Christians who count themselves blessed when they are insulted and falsely accused of evil because of their stand for Jesus Christ. I do know Christians who get angry and want to fight back. Let us make decisions now that will determine right actions if and when this occurs. Decide ahead of time that you are going to respond w

Stopping Our Ears to the Lord

And now, go, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness for ever. For they are a rebellious people, lying sons, sons who will not hear the instruction of the Lord: who say to the seers, “See not”; and to the prophets, “Prophesy not to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no More of the Holy One of Israel.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant: and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel which is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern” (Isaiah 30:8-14). The first thing I notice is t

Merry Christmas!

 

Reasons for Unbelief (in Christians and Non-Christians)

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son" (John 3:18). "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him" (John 3:36). "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). Unbelief is a great sin. It applies to t hose who have heard the gospel and not believed; t hose who have not heard the gospel; and t hose who heard, believed, and turned away from God. The last includes many genuine Christians. Unbelief is understandable in those who have not heard the gospel (although is it still inexcusable—see Romans 1:20) because it is the gospel that causes belief. Unbelief in Christians is very difficult to understand. One explanation may be that, like the Galatians, they do not remember how they

Unity in the Spirit

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). "There is one body and one Spirit ¾ just as you were called to one hope when you were called ¾ one Lord, one faith, one baptism…" (Ephesians 4:4-5). There is unity in the Spirit. We become part of it the instant we are born again. We cannot establish this unity, because it already exists. We are to make every effort to keep it. Here are few of the ways we can destroy this unity: ·        Become men -followers. (1 Corinthians 1 and 3) ·        Seek followers for ourselves . (Acts 20:30) ·        Say one of the following: o    “ We have the best church government.” o    “ We have the best form of worship.” o    “ We have the best doctrine.” o    “ Our teaching on holiness is the right teaching.” o    “The meaning and form of our church’s sacraments/ordinances are most biblical.” o    “ Our view of the gifts of the Spirit is the biblical view.” o    “ We are the tr

Persecuted Because of Truth

“And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.’ So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied” (Luke 23:2-3). The accusation against Jesus was a combination of truth and falsehood. Jesus did not oppose paying taxes to Caesar, nor did He subvert the nation. However, He was the Christ, the king . Pilate picked up on the truth, and Jesus confirmed it. Jesus was crucified because of truth, not because of lies. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). Persecution against Christians may be justified by lies, but it happens because of the truth. This post coordinates with today's reading in the To the

Empowered to Be Holy

  When John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied concerning Jesus: Praise the Lord, the God of Israel , because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75) Christ came to rescue us from our enemies and to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness. Isn’t it wonderful that He gives us the power us to be holy all our days? *Excerpted from Being Christian . To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore . 

Two Kinds of Wisdom

"Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" (James 3:15-17). There are two kinds of wisdom: ·   The wisdom of men, the world, and this age o    Origin: earthly, of the devil o    Character: bitter envy, jealous, unspiritual, selfishly ambitious, boastful, denying the truth, causing disorder, full of evil practice, eloquent, “wise,” and persuasive ·   God’s wisdom o    Origin: heaven. o    Character: pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, bearing good fruit, impartial, sincere, simple, powerful, preaching the cross, humble, spiritual, not known by the world, communicated by the Spirit of God, foolishness to those who are perishing, admonishing and teachin

Wisdom: Why Don't Christians Have It?

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:5-7). This is a comprehensive statement. According to this, all Christians can and should be wise through a generous amount of God-given wisdom. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). Wisdom comes with the new birth. The problem is that not all Christians seem to have it. Why is this? Here a few possible explanations: ·   They do not think that they lack wisdom, so they do not ask God for it. ·   They know that they lack wisdom but still do not ask for it. ·   They know they lack wisdom but do not ask in faith bec

Kings & Citizens

  Have you ever noticed that the New Testament gives no instruction to governors or kings on how to treat the citizens? There are instructions to the Christian masters, husbands, and fathers and instructions to Christian slaves, wives, children, and citizens. In Deuteronomy 17, God gave this instruction to Israel: "When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, 'Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,' be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and go

Righteousness & Peace, Part 2

  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Romans 5:1) Righteousness is by faith (see Romans 4), but it is God who makes us righteous. When that happens, we have peace with Him. "The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever" (Isaiah 32:17). Righteousness precedes peace. Humanists (and many Christians, too) make peace primary. They want peace at any price. God keeps them in the right order: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving , considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" (James 3:17). Do you see the order? First “ pure ,” then “peace-loving.” Let’s look at God’s view of righteousness and peace in the Bible: ·        Sodom : "Then he said, 'May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?

Righteousness & Peace, Part 1: Salt & Light or Sodom & Gomorrah

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (Matthew 5:13)   God’s kind of righteousness has a positive effect on society. Salt that is not salty is good for nothing. Similarly, light that is hidden is not light. Men do not praise God for our bad deeds. Two events in biblical history will serve to illustrate this truth. The first was the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18-19), and the second was Israel ’s minor defeat at Ai (Joshua 6-7). God had promised the safety of the very wicked city of Sodom if ten righteous people were found in it. At Ai, God allowed the defeat of a righteous nation because there was one unrighteous man in the camp. Thirty-six men were killed because of that man’s sin. These are opposite effects of the same principle. God will spare a wicked city if there is an adequate righteous witness in it. However, God will not give

The Testimony of Your Conscience

  In the Bible various consciences are described as clear, weak, evil, defiled, seared, corrupted, witnessing, testifying, good, and cleansed. It would be easy to draw the conclusion that a good, clear, and cleansed conscience reflects God’s absolute moral law, and that if you follow your conscience you will not be guilty. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes it is up for question. Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12) In this verse, Paul says he is innocent because his conscience testifies for him. However, he also says in the fourth chapter that a clear conscience does not necessarily guarantee innocence: My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appoi

Bitterness: A Different Kind of Pandemic

  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30-32) Although it is not a physical sickness, bitterness is probably the most debilitating disease there is. It saps the joy out of life like a parasite drains the blood from an otherwise healthy creature. Bitterness can also cause physical illness when it is kept in. In order to help diagnose this disease, let me tell you some of its symptoms. First, bitter people normally use the word “bitter” either in defense or admission when the tender area is brought to their attention. They say, “I’m not bitter!” or “Of course I’m bitter!” People who are not bitter do not usually use the word. Second, bitterness remembers details very well. You have had thousands of conversations, and m

Humility

  Humility is the greatest virtue in the Bible. The way up is down. The way down is up. Contradiction, paradox, or simple truth? In the book of Luke, Jesus told two different stories after observing egocentric behavior. Both conclusions read the same: " For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11, 18:14b). The first story was about trying to get the place of honor at a wedding. The second was about two men, a Pharisee and a tax collector, who stood next to each other praying in the temple. The first thanked God that he was not a robber, evildoer, or adulterer, and that he tithed regularly and fasted twice a week. He also thanked God that he was “not like other men…or even like this tax collector.” Jesus did not say that the first man’s statements were not true, so what did he do wrong? He exalted himself. The second man was bad, and he admitted it. What he said about himself was true, so what did he do right? He

Slow to Anger and Quick to Forgive

"And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness'” (Exodus 34:6). "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, 'O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.' But the LORD replied, 'Have you any right to be angry?'" (Jonah 4:1-4). It is good that God does not have a short fuse, or we would all be toast. Jonah was angry with God for having this kind of character. Psalm 103 quotes the passage from Exodus, but with an addition: "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbo

Aspiring to Paul’s Prayer Life

There are many things in the life of the Apostle and his associates I can identify with. However there is one aspect I would like to identify with more. It is their life of prayer. “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12-13). "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving tha

Using God’s Calories

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29). Paul labored and struggled to accomplish the task assigned to him. He did not, however, labor and struggle with his own energy. It was God’s energy which powerfully worked in him. This is like working all day digging ditches or stacking hay but using someone else’s calories and blood sugar. The someone else gets tired while you do the labor. We would like to do it that way. We want to labor and struggle using God’s calories and blood sugar—“all His energy which so powerfully works in me”—and God doesn’t get tired! This post coordinates with tomorrow's reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge . If you are not in a daily reading plan, please join us. We would love to have you reading with us.

When Your Brother Sins Against You: God's Teaching on Reconciliation

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over" (Matthew 18:15). These two paragraphs both involve estrangements between you and your brother. In the first passage, the estrangement is your fault (or at the very least your brother thinks it is), because “your brother has something against you.” When you attempt to draw near to God, you find you cannot until you are reconciled. The initiative for reconciliation rests on you. In the second passage, the estrangement is your brother’s fault. He has sinned against you. But the initiative still rests with you. The responsibility to reconcile is yours in both cases. In t

Coveting Your Own Stuff

If I purchase what I covet, I am no longer coveting my neighbor’s stuff. It is mine. "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”' 'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these I have kept since I was a boy.' Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were

Coveting Your Neighbor’s Stuff (Keep Your Eyes Off That Donkey)

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17). Coveting often precedes purchasing, borrowing, stealing, and cheating. The success of free enterprise and capitalism is largely based upon it. God is not opposed to free enterprise or capitalism, but He is opposed to coveting. This commandment to not covet is very close to the First and Second Commandments: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exodu

Ready or Not?

  "Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people… 'So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us'” (Acts 10:27, 33). "The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking officers and the leading men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in" (Acts 25:23). Two different audiences gathered to hear the Gospel in these chapters. There was a great difference in the makeup of the audiences. The first was a family, servants, and soldiers; the second was a collection of self-important people. The first group wanted to know God. The second group was curious. One hundred percent of the first group was converted as soon as they heard the gospel. To our knowledge, none of the second group responded. This post coordinates with today's reading in the To

Taking Up Your Cross Daily

  "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God' ” (Luke 9:23-27).   “Take up your cross.” The cross is not an unbearable task, a thorn in the flesh, or something unpleasant. The cross is an instrument of shameful, painful execution. Taking up your cross is voluntary capital punishment. It is a choice we must make. It is willingness to die in shame for the sake of Jesus. We could get out of dying if we were ashamed of Christ, but we would lose our li

Public Prayer

The time and place of public prayer does not seem to be commanded in Scripture, but times and places do occur in Scripture. “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon” (Acts 3:1). One day makes it look like there was daily prayer at three in the afternoon. There is no indication that it was limited to the Sabbath. Here is another occurrence in Acts 16: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer…. Once when we were going to the place of prayer…. She kept this up for many days” (Acts 16:13, 16, 18). This sounds like they went to the place of prayer daily, including the Sabbath. In the first Scripture, the place was the temple in Jerusalem. The second was a riverside in Macedonia. In these two recorded instances, something wonderful happened. In the first, a crippled man was healed, and two thousand people were converted. In the second, Lydia and her household be

In Remembrance

Making Restitution: Special Cases

When it comes to stealing, the cost to the thief is the value of the stolen goods, plus 20%. That is a high rate of interest, but it is not the highest rate. "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep." (Exodus 22:1) The restitution rate is 500% for oxen, 400% for sheep. Why the difference, and why so much? The Bible does not tell us why, but here is a possible reason: Oxen and sheep are alive; they reproduce, pull the plow, provide meat, leather, milk, and wool. When the sheep and oxen are stolen, it is as if all these things are stolen, too. We see two examples of this in Scripture. First, there is David’s reply to the prophet Nathan: "He must pay for that lamb four times over , because he did such a thing and had no pity." (2 Samuel 12:6) The second is Zacchaeus’ statement to Jesus: "But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord! Her

Once There Was A Man Who Robbed A Bank...

  Once there was a man who robbed a bank. I will not go into details, but the result was $100,000 in his briefcase. Five minutes later, he was walking down the street with the briefcase (and the $100,000) when he encountered an evangelist preaching on the street. He stopped to listen to the gospel proclaimed in love and power. He was convicted and converted. In his new-found joy, he talked with the evangelist and asked him what all this joy meant. The evangelist explained to the man that his sins had been forgiven. “All of them?” he asked. “Yes, all of them,” answered the evangelist. “Oh boy, now I can enjoy this $100,000!” “What $100,000?” “The $100,000 that I just removed from the bank over there.” “OK, let’s take it back.” The story is fiction, but the principle is true. Being forgiven does not mean you get to keep the money. You may think that is obvious. There are two reasons it is obvious in the story:             1. It was $100,000 (grand larceny).             2. It was ten minu

When Is It OK to Take Offense?

  I received this question from a reader of How to Be Free from Bitterness . It may apply to some of you as well. "Generally speaking, should we continuously place ourselves in the company of those who repeatedly offend us?" This question involves at least two issues. They have to do with the kind of person you are. 1.        Do you take offense easily, even when someone has no intent to offend? 2.        Do you not take offense easily, even when someone wants to offend? If you are the first, the solution lies with you , not with the offender. The best way to keep from being hurt is to stay vulnerable, like a pillow. Do not try to build a fence around yourself. That is the way to get hurt more. That is the way to become hard-hearted and cynical. A fence (or wall) is a means of resistance, which means there will be a collision, which means hurt. If you avoid the temptation to take offense by staying away from people who repeatedly offend you, it may mean staying