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Showing posts from May, 2020

Taking the Long View

"They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor" (Habakkuk 1:7).

This is speaking of the Babylonians. In the previous verse, God said that He was “raising up the Babylonians.” This was in answer to Habakkuk’s complaint that God did not listen and tolerated wrong (vv. 2-3). God was going to punish evil nations with an evil nation.

Habakkuk further complains: "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Habakkuk 1:13).

God gave several answers to these questions in Habakkuk 2:2-12, but in verse 13 He gives a comprehensive answer: "Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the se…

Bessie's Favorite Chapter

This was my wife Bessie's favorite chapter in the Old Testament, and close to being my favorite.

Isaiah 58

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for…

The Church Needs Solid Food - Are You Drinking Your Milk?

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3: 1-4).

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3).

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an …

Seeing Things As God Sees

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. (Acts 17:16)

When Paul arrived in Athens, his reaction was not awe at the beauty of the Parthenon; it was distress over the people’s idolatry.

You may have been to parts of the world where there are magnificent minarets, Shinto gates and shrines, and beautifully carved statues housed in ornate temples. Do we think like the Apostle Paul when we see these things? If not, is it because he saw them as God sees them and we see them like the rest of mankind? May God help us to be distressed over the worship of false gods.

In vain with lavish kindness
the gifts of God are strown
The heathen in his blindness
bows down to wood and stone.

—Reginald Heber, 1783-1826

Psalm 96

The 96th Psalm is one of my favorite Psalms. It is God-centered, joyous, worshipful for the right reasons, and all nations, nature, and the heavens enter into that worship.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peo…

Bad Theology Corrupts Good Character

You have probably heard this saying: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Perhaps you also know the truth taught in Romans 1:18-32, which is basically, “Bad theology corrupts good character.” Even though we know both of these truths, we can still wonder when some Christians end up in immoral situations. The wonder is increased when the Christian involved has emphasized “good company” (nearly to the point of legalism) and “sound doctrine” (to the point of arguing with all who differ).

I spend a good portion of my time with Christians who have fallen into major sin. Some of them turned out not to be Christians; that is a topic for another time. However, some of them were Christians. I have spent many hours listening to them. As they recounted the details of the sins they fell into, I could see that they had not kept bad company and that their theology appeared to be sound. Yet how could I account for their sin? After more que…

Seeing God

When the Ten Commandments were first given, they were not given in pageantry. They were given in terrifying, first-person reality, three months after the Israelites left Egypt (Exodus 19). Thirty-nine years later, Moses recalled the events surrounding their declaration:

Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. (Deuteronomy 4:12)

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully… (Deuteronomy 4:15)

You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35)

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:39)
There are two reasons we are not to make images of God:

• He is not like any of His physical creation, so no creation can physically be like Him.
• He is not like any other god, because the…

A Little Simplicity

“Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:1-3).

St. Paul was concerned about people deceiving other people away from the simplicity that is in Christ. All (or at least most) denominations of the Christian church have made salvation in Christ a little more complicated.

Rather than draw attention to all of these complications, I thought I would go through the Gospel with simple, biblical words.

God
God is.
God is love.
God so loved the world.
The world was the object of His love.
The expression of His love is giving.
What He gave was His only-begotten Son.
He gave what was most valuable to Him.
Sin came into the world through man.
All men have sinned.
The…

Earthen Vessels (by Bessie Wilson)

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7).

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7. Looking at the passage before this, we see Paul has likened the light of the gospel coming into the heart to the light of creation. “For it is the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v. 6). This is light with a purpose. The face of Christ is illumined to us, not in visions necessarily, but in our coming to recognize that the Christ of the Gospels is indeed the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour. This then is our treasure, the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as He comes to make His home in our hearts.

Paul says “earthen vessels,” and this represents our bodies, or more specifically our whole lives. When I was a missionary in Japan, I was amazed at the …

Evidence of Being Filled with the Spirit

"And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33 NKJV).

Two things strike me as I read this sentence. One is “great power” and the other is “great grace.” It is possible to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus without great power, and it is possible to have a body of believers who do not have great grace resting upon them.

Something special preceded that statement of grace in Acts: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" (Acts 4:32).

People were not attached to their possessions, and they were of one heart. Is this why there was great power and great grace? No. This was evidence of that power and grace. Here is the reason for it: "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God bold…

Tell Us Pleasant Things

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” (Isaiah 30:8-14)
Notice the unwillingness of the people to listen to the truth even though they k…

Difficult to Sneak By

Illustrations are an effective way of teaching. They stick in the mind. They also make it difficult to sneak by or ignore a strong command.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and…

Listen Up

The second and third chapters of the book of Revelation bear reading and rereading. There is one sentence that occurs seven times:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This is written to people in the singular. These people are to listen to what the Spirit says to the plural churches. In other words, I, as an individual, am to pay attention to what God has written to all seven churches.

Notice that there are two groups of people in Sardis who will be dressed in white: those who did not soil their garments, and those who overcame.


Join the #keepthefeast Bible Reading Challenge here. This post coordinates with today's reading.
Written June 1990.

Truth

Truth is truth whether or not it is taught or believed. Believing the truth does not make it true.

There is a truth called the law of gravity. It existed long before it was formulated as a scientific law. Objects will not stop falling to earth if someone refuses to believe in gravity. Gravity does not care if anyone believes it. It just is.

There is one self-evident truth greater than all the others, and that is God:

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good" (Psalm 53:1).

Believing in God does not make Him God, but not believing in Him has dire consequences.

"The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal li…

Discerning Satan

"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

Whoever the "lawless one" is, or will be, he is identifiable in that his coming will be in accordance of the work of Satan. His characteristics are then spelled out: counterfeit miracles, signs, wonders—every sort of evil that deceives.

Satan has always worked this way and is working this way now. His first three works (miracles, signs, and wonders) look good to almost everyone, and the fourth (every sort of evil) doesn't look bad because by his very nature Satan is deceptive. Jesus …

Fathers: Encouraging Your Children

“Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory…” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

It seems to be a given from the Scripture that fathers encourage and comfort their children. It is part of common grace. However, in many cases fathers are not doing that.

Here is a quotation from George MacDonald: “Like many Scots, while Phemy was his one joy, he seldom showed her sign of affection, seldom made her feel, and never sought to make her feel how he loved her” (Heather and Snow, p. 64).

Unhappily, in thirty-two years of ministering to high school and college-age people, I have found that MacDonald’s words are an accurate description of many father-child relationships. If you are a father, please do not let it describe you.


Join the #keepthefeast Bible Reading Challenge here. This post coordinates with today's reading.
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